May 14, 2018 at 9:13 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Annual IDAHOTB events promote solidarity, alliances

A man wears a rainbow flag around his body before a march commemorating the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia began in Havana on May 12, 2018. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

LGBTI rights advocates around the world this month will commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX) of which Mariela Castro, the daughter of former Cuban President Raúl Castro, is the director, organized a march that took place in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood on Saturday.

Daniela Vega, the transgender actress from Chile who starred in the Oscar-winning movie “A Fabulous Woman,” is among the thousands of people who participated. CENESEX on May 17 will hold another march in the city of Pinar del Río.

LGBTI activists in Mexico City on May 17 will hold their annual kiss-a-thon and festival.

The Belgian, Dutch, Canadian, Israeli and Swedish embassies in Argentina on May 18 will hold a “kick discrimination and violence” soccer game with LGBTI advocacy groups. The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a Chilean LGBTI advocacy group, on Saturday noted in a press release that 34 municipalities, 10 embassies and a government agency have agreed to either publicly display the rainbow flag or illuminate their facades in rainbow colors.

Officials in Geneva this week will illuminate the Swiss city’s iconic Jet d’Eau fountain in rainbow colors. They have also launched a campaign that seeks to highlight older LGBTI people.

The U.N. LGBTI Core Group on May 17 will hold an International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia event at the U.N. in New York that will include French Olympian Casey Legler and Xeenarh Mohammed, founder of ReSista Camp, among others.

‘All progressive struggles are connected’

The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia first took place on May 17, 2005, in commemoration of the World Health Organization’s decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental order.

Joel Bedos, director of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, pointed out to the Washington Blade this year’s theme — “Solidarity and Alliances” — “underlines how intricate the struggles of LGBTI people are with other social struggles.”

“Our opponents spend a lot of energy dividing us and singling each social struggle out as ‘particular,'” said Bedos. “But the reality is that all progressive struggles are connected and we have to increase our collective awareness of this.”

“We have seen repeatedly in the past that sexual and gender minorities act like canaries in the coal mine and that crackdowns on them signal wider crackdowns to come on democracy, civil society spaces, freedom of speech, women’s rights, etc.,” added Bedos.

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia Latin America and Caribbean Outreach and Communications Officer Mariano Ruiz told the Blade on Friday in an email from Buenos Aires “the focus of the day on solidarity and alliances can create a valuable opportunity for all of us to reach out to our current partners to reinforce our bond.” Ruiz added this year’s events also allow LGBTI activists around the world “to reach out to new partners to raise awareness of our commonalities and to engage in collective action around the day.”

“No battle can be won in isolation,” Ruiz told the Blade. “We all need to keep strengthening alliances, especially when we need to ensure safety, fight violence, lobby for legal change and/or campaign to change hearts and minds.”

This year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia is taking place against the backdrop of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity that remains rampant in many parts of the world. It is also taking place against the backdrop of advances in LGBTI rights in many countries.

The Trinidad and Tobago Supreme Court last month struck down the country’s colonial-era sodomy law. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in January issued a landmark ruling that recognizes same-sex marriage and transgender rights.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last November apologized to those who suffered persecution and discrimination under the country’s anti-LGBTI laws and policies. British Prime Minister Theresa May last month said she “deeply regrets” colonial-era laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relations the U.K. introduced in Commonwealth countries.

Bedos acknowledged this progress, but also cautioned LGBTI rights advocates there remains much work to be done.

“LGBT people and their organizations are in danger of loosing sight of the wider systems of oppression,” said Bedos. “Silo politics are dividing us into confetti struggles and we often contribute to strategies whose objective it is to pitch us against others, be it migrants, people living in poverty, other minority groups, etc.”

“Appeal to solidarity from others must mirror acts of solidarity with others,” added Bedos. “We hope that solidarity and alliances will be spanning across many divides on this coming May 17.”

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

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