May 9, 2013 at 1:57 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Around the world, May 17 recognized as ‘gay day’
Albania, IDAHO, International Day Against Homophobia, Pink Embassy, Vote Diversity, gay news, Washington Blade

LGBT rights groups in Albania plan to commemorate IDAHO. (Photo courtesy of Amarildo Fecanji/PINK Embassy)

LGBT rights advocates in more than 100 countries around the world will commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia on May 17 with a series of marches, workshops, performances and other events.

Identoba, an LGBT advocacy group in Georgia, is planning a flash mob in front of the country’s old Parliament building in the country’s capital, Tbilisi, on May 17 during which participants will make a rainbow flag with their T-shirts. Botswanan playwright and activist Kalvin K. Kol-Kes is staging his play “BUTCHered” inspired by Mart Crowley’s “Boys in the Band” that focuses on a group of friends who are predominantly lesbian.

Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX) has scheduled a series of events across Cuba to commemorate IDAHO. Nicaraguan advocacy groups will march through the streets of Managua, the country’s capital, on May 17 to demand respect and what organizers describe as “dignified treatment” for LGBT people.

Washington National Cathedral in D.C. on May 17 will host a screening of the film “God Loves Uganda” and a panel discussion on the state of LGBT rights in the East African country. Thousands of people are expected to take part in a march for LGBT rights in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on the same day.

Zaque, an LGBT youth group in the Australian city of Ballarat in the country’s Victoria state will hold a number of events to commemorate IDAHO. These include the launch of a new iPhone app.

“For the young people of Zaque, IDAHO is important because it is a day for them to stand up and be proud and say that homophobia is not OK,” Ballarat City Councilor Belinda Coates told the Washington Blade. “It’s a celebration of who they are and allows them to be leaders and educators within the community.”

The Albanian LGBT advocacy group PINK Embassy will hold its second annual diversity festival in Tirana, the country’s capital that will feature exhibits with messages and posters the group’s general manager, Amarildo Fecanji, described to the Blade as a “short resume of what has been achieved so far.”

Fecanji’s group will also host panels that will examine media coverage of LGBT-specific issues and how they factor into Albanian politics and gay youth. Pink Embassy and other human rights organizations will also stage a diversity fair in the center of Tirana.

“Slowly but steadily May 17 is coming to be recognized as the gay day,” Fecanji told the Blade when asked how he feels IDAHO bolsters his group’s advocacy efforts in the southeastern European country. “That for people is an opportunity for society to sort of come together.”

IDAHO first took place on May 17, 2005, to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. Organizers have subsequently added transphobia and biphobia to their mission.

This year’s IDAHO takes place against the backdrop of the recent extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples in France, New Zealand, Uruguay and several Brazilian states that include Rio de Janeiro. Gays and lesbians can also now legally tie the knot in nine U.S. states and D.C. and will soon be able to do so in Delaware and Rhode Island.

Canadian and Dutch lawmakers earlier this year approved a transgender rights bills, but anti-LGBT discrimination and violence remain pervasive throughout the world.

A report by the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Transgender Women (REDLACTRANS) released earlier this year notes 61 trans women in Colombia have been reported murdered between 2005-2011. Honduran advocate José Pepe Palacios told the Blade in February while he was in the United States that at least 89 LGBT people in the Central American country have been murdered since the 2009 coup that ousted José Manuel Zelaya.

The State Department in recent years has also spoken out against anti-LGBT violence in Jamaica, Uganda, Zimbabwe and other countries.

Identoba founder Irakli Vacharadze told the Blade violence against LGBT Georgians remains a serious concern. His group’s flash mob will last only 20 minutes because he said “it’s hard to guarantee” the security of those who will take part.

A group of men last week attacked a handful of people who protested the release of a video that showed men having sex with other men.

“This is the discourse in Georgia right now,” Vacharadze told the Blade from Tbilisi. “It’s so, so ugly that you can’t rationally, reasonably argue with that. It’s basically a fist coming in your face when you’re displaying your belongingness to the community.”

Vacharadze and other activists feel IDAHO only strengthens their advocacy efforts in spite of the threats they continue to face.

Kalvin K. Kol-Kes, IDAHO, gay news, Washington Blade, BUTCHered

Kalvin K. Kol-Kes plans to stage a short play called “BUTCHered” to commemorate IDAHO in Botswana. (Photo courtesy of Kalvin K. Kol-Kes)

“I’m very happy with a day like May 17,” Kol-Kes told the Blade last Friday from the Botswanan capital of Gaborone. “It gives you a point when you can actively state something.”

Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force noted the march in the Puerto Rican capital on May 17 will coincide with the debate over three bills that would extend adoption rights to gays and lesbians; add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the island’s domestic violence laws and ban anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.

A hearing on the adoption bill is scheduled to take place in the Puerto Rico Senate hours before the march.

“We are in a historic moment and this day will help in the education of our people about the need achieve equality,” Serrano said.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

  • "International Day Against Homophobia" is NOT the same as Gay Day!

  • Homosexuality is not deserving of the approbation of man. We can not overlook condemning those, who, through their own bad use of their faculties, are vicious to the good and perfection of the human system.

  • Great coverage! I love that this has taken off so extensively around the world. I hope it catches on here more in the US too – if for no other reason than for people in the US to become more aware of what is happening around the world with LGBT issues. Even with the challenges, there is such a spirit of hope and exuberant persistence.

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