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14 May 2009

IDAHO momentum grows around the globe

What used to be known exclusively as a state in the American Northwest is now also an acronym for the International Day Against Homophobia movement – IDAHO, commemorated around the world on May 17. Justin Ellis looks at how grassroots movements on the Internet are rallying advocates to the IDAHO cause.

Launched initially as a national event in Canada in 2003, IDAHO is commemorated on May 17, the day in 1990 when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its register of mental disorders, ending over a century of institutionialised homophobia in medicine. Homosexuality is no longer considered pathological in most countries, but homophobia is still pervasive.

There was only one thing worse than being called a poo pusher by a total stranger. It was that feeling of disgust about my own lack of resistance to unprovoked homophobic slurs. In response to these frequent attacks in Sydney, and more recently in Auckland, the bird gesture works particularly well for my boyfriend. And that’s fine if you’re an imposing 6-foot-2 (1.88m) half-Fijian.

If you’re not - or not as bold, the Internet offers an avenue through which to express your exasperation in a non-threatening, constructive way and add your voice to the growing campaign against homophobia around the world. In conjunction with the IDAHO Sydney Exhibition, Sydney-based artist Luke Callaghan has created a Hate Crime Map, to provide victims of homophobia with the opportunity to record their experiences in an ongoing, interactive digital collaboration.

The map highlights that even in the dawn of the age of the same sex marriage, and even in perceived gay meccas like Sydney, homophobia is everywhere.

“My main objective is to support people rather than this being a political thing,” says Callaghan.

“I want to give people the opportunity to articulate their responses to homophobia, and I want to support anyone in the LGBT community that has experienced homophobia or who is currently living with homophobia. I wanted to document in real places, real events - the violence. The simplest and most effective way to do this was online. The digital sphere helps us reach more people and increasingly the medium offers the potential to provide a tangible and concrete outcome compared to just sending an email.”

Online advocacy offers a whole new dimension in combating homophobia, says Sydney based Canadian LGBT activist Randall Pearce. “It’s a lower level of commitment, but it makes a broader-based engagement possible. The fair-minded straight man sitting at his computer for example, can be an activist just on the basis of his beliefs. He can take a position and add his support to a democratic movement.”

2009 campaign poster
The provocative advocacy website and organisation Avaaz combines activism, marketing and humour on the web, and largely takes the act out of the activism. Through using email circulars that can be forwarded to multiple recipients the organisation isn’t breaking new ground, but it’s mix of arresting videos, images and text coupled with an irreverent tone, has proven that you don’t have to be earnest to be heard or to be effective. Avaaz, which means voice in many Asian, Middle Eastern and Eastern European languages says “the rise of a new model of internet-driven, people-powered politics is changing countries from Australia to the Philippines to the United States.

“Avaaz takes this model global, connecting people across borders to bring people powered politics to international decision-making.” Avaaz’s recent campaign against the Pope’s comments about condoms contributing to AIDS infection rates has over 200,000 esignatures and counting.

The greatest benefit of digital advocacy is that it works nicely alongside conventional advocacy to provide those who wouldn’t have registered their protest publicly, with a way to do so in private, and anonymously.

As integral to homophobia as victim hood can be, Foundation Emergence, the organisation who spearheaded IDAHO, says that International Day Against Homophobia should be seen as a great opportunity to highlight positive aspects of homosexuality and celebrate the contribution of lesbians and gays to society. This year’s theme is ‘Homosexuality Knows No Borders’, in support of LGBT immigrants and refugees around the world who may come from societies where homosexuality may be pathologised or criminalised or both.

IDAHO aims to reach all groups of society, regardless of their sexual orientation, and emphasises the negative, ongoing psychological affects internalised homophobia has on the LGBT community in addition to widespread homophobia in the broader community.

Luke Callaghan hopes the Hate Crime Map will ultimately have as broad an exposure as the IDAHO vision and says the measure of success for the Hate Crime Map will be to have an ongoing documentation of homophobic crimes. “The Hate Crime Map has impact because it isn't a bureau of statistics survey. It is a personal response to homophobia that documents real events, responses and stories about what members of the GLBTIQ community experience on a far too frequent basis. People can give as little or as much information as they want. The more people that contribute, the more powerful the map will be."

Related events in the Asia-Pacific

Australia, Sydney (NSW)

IDAHO Sydney is conducting a series of workshops in the lead up to the launch of Idaho the Exhibition on May 16, and has set up a hate crime map to anonymously document where people have experienced homophobia. Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) will hold a rally at the "I have a dream" mural on King Street, Newtown, starting at 1pm, on May 17 to “draw attention to the unfair treatment and mandatory detention of LGBTIQ refugees and asylum seekers, the ongoing ban on same sex marriage, the need to tackle Transphobia around the world, and to continue its work towards an end to homophobia on both individual and global level.” For more details, visit the CAAH website at caah.org.au

Australia, Victoria
A special series of radio broadcasts on JOY 94.9 have been planned from April 29 to May 17. The programmes are streamed online at www.joy.org.au and IDAHO content will be available as podcasts.

Bangladesh, Khulna
Members of Khulna’s LGBT community will commemorate IDAHO for the first time on May 17 with a discussion about sexuality, gender discrimination and homophobia; a screening of Milk; followed by a gathering at Hadis Park after which participants will deliver leaflets about homosexuality and homophobia to their heterosexual friends. In Bangladesh, homosexual sex is criminalised under Section 377 of the penal code. For more info, contact red_door83@yahoo.com.

Cambodia, Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh Pride 2009 which takes place between May 12 and 17 will coincide with International Day Against Homophobia 2009. Events include an art exhibition, film screenings, workshops and social events.

Hong Kong
The 5th IDAHO rally will start at 3pm on Sunday May 17 in front of the Legislative Council and will march up to government headquarters. Organisers are lobbying the government to create anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Organisers include For My Colours (joint committee), Women Coalition of HKSAR, Midnight Blue, Ten Percent Club, HK Sexuality Society, Amnesty International Hong Kong Section, Hong Kong Tongzhi Special Zone, and Rainbow of Hong Kong. See Facebook page.

Indonesia, Jakarta

A coalition of gay groups - comprising Arus Pelangi, Institute Pelangi Perempuan, Ardhanary Institute, Yayasan Skrikandi Sejati, Forum Komunikasi Waria, Our Voice – are holding a peaceful pride parade on May 16 in the capital city. Attendees are to meet at Bundaran Hotel at 10am. See Facebook page.

Indonesia, Surabaya

GAYa NUSANTARA (GN), Indonesia's oldest gay rights advocacy group, is holding Perayaan IDAHO 2009 (International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia) on Sunday, May 17 from 3-11pm. Events include talks about HIV within the LGBT community, women’s issues, a documentary film screening of 'Sexuality and Hate Crimes', and party to close the event. Venue: Monkasel (Submarine Monument) and GN Community Centre. See Facebook page.

Japan, various cities
A number of events including symposiums, talks and film screenings are being held in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Kyoto. Click here for the latest updates (in Japanese only). Tokyo Pride Festival will be held on May 23 at Yoyogi Park Event Area & Outdoor Stage. More into at tokyo-pride.org/festival.

Singapore will see what organisers say is "the first-ever official LGBT public gathering in Singapore" on May 16. While it’s not officially tagged as an IDAHO event, organisers are asking the LGBT community and its allies to come out and make a stand against prejudice and bigotry. Venue: Hong Lim Park, Singapore/ May 16, Sat, 4.30pm. See Facebook page.

- Compiled by Sylvia Tan. If you know of other related events, please add them as a comment below or email us using an online form.


1. 2009-05-14 22:21  
Nice profile on the world-wide IDAHO events!

Anyone travelling through Melbourne in the next few days is welcome to join in many local events tied to the StopHomophobiaToday state-wide campaign. Friday 15th sees a message-writing and photo-taking day of activity at the Bourke Street all in the Melbourne CBD - if you're visiting, come on down and join in. Have a look at http://stophomophobiatoday.com & we WILL be delighted to accept posts from around the globe!

(love the new Fridae!!)

cheers everyone
Greg Adkins
Anti Violence Project of Victoria
2. 2009-05-15 01:41  
we just had VESAK day, well, like BUDDHA said, hatred cant be eliminated by hatred itself, but love will do
so, just show them love my brothers, to those who hate us
and do remember as well, most of those homophobic people actually our homosexual fellows, but they are just too afraid to accept themselves as a homosexual and behave so extremely against homosexuality
they are foolish, ignorant and misleaded to false belief and values
isnt it giving us more reason to love them??
3. 2009-05-15 06:57  
This is for the Sinngaporeans and others following the issue.

While we are on the topic of homophobia, know that we are still seeing the fallout from the AWARE episode; the online debates are still raging. An important online venue to have yourself heard is the REACH Singapore portal. (No, your NRIC number is not required.)

REACH is crowded with people from the ultra-conservative camp, the faction that the PAP government has long coddled. I'm not surprised it is they who are there in those numbers because they are very accustomed to thinking that Singapore is for them only and have been made to feel more of a sense of belonging to Singapore than liberals.

The latest focus for their homophobic bile is Siew Kum Hong's re-nomination as NMP. (What excuse DON"T they need?)

Incidentally, there are two queer and another queer friendly nominations that have been put up; this is truly historic for Singapore and I guess it is left to us to give vocal support for their nominations.

Help the days of ultra-conservative bullying to be numbered and write on REACH.
4. 2009-05-15 07:29  

Olympic champion Matthew Mitcham, MTV VJ Ruby Rose, Greens Leader Sen. Bob Brown and former High Court judge Michael Kirby are set to help launch a new national campaign to fight discrimination against Australia’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community.

The high profile Australians are among many famous and everyday faces that are part of This Is Oz, a new online human rights campaign which involves participants sharing photographs of themselves with messages that challenge homophobia or celebrate diversity and social inclusion.

To view the celebrity images and find out more about the project, please visit www.thisisoz.com.au (This is being launched at midday today in Martin Place in Sydney, so I assume the link will be active from then.
5. 2009-05-15 11:54  
Re to percole: They already are. homo-obsessors have already galvanised their 'sheep' in the guise of 'Netizens' to attempt an ugly smear-campaign for the new applicants of NMPS in Parliament. Updates below (apologies to other posters, pls bear with me for this slight distraction):

SINGAPORE: Barely had they thrown their names into the hat for the post of Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) when the criticisms began on the government feedback website, REACH.

NMP hopefuls Loretta Chen and Beatrice Chia—Richmond — along with incumbent Siew Kum Hong, who is seeking a second term — have been accused of being "homosexuality activists" by some Netizens.

Postings on REACH questioned if their applications, in the words of one, were "a back door for more pro—LGBTs (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender)" to have a voice in Parliament. The debate has set REACH’s thread on NMP candidates abuzz.

First opened for comments on May 1, the thread picked up steam since last Thursday and has attracted 93 postings and more than 1,400 page views as of last night. In comparison, the thread on Influenza A (H1N1) has attracted eight comments.

With his role as a legal adviser in the recent AWARE leadership saga, Mr Siew, 34, bore the brunt of the criticisms; many accused him of "pushing homosexual lifestyle" and of being "against the majority Singaporean".

On the other hand, Ms Chia—Richmond, 34, and Ms Chen, 32, both arts practitioners, came under fire for their past projects, which forumer ’Very Worried!!’ alleged about Ms Chia—Richmond’s application "is far more serious and worrying than Siew Kum Hong being re—nominated".

Ms Chen, a theatre director, has been charged as being "no different". "She’s openly gay and has also directed films with mainly controversial themes," wrote forumer ’isay’.

When asked about this, Ms Chen said, "I am who I am and I don’t intend to pretend to be someone that I am not. If you can be honest to yourself, you can then be honest to the team you are leading and only then you can be honest to society at large."

Ms Chen, who hopes to speak up on arts, youth and elderly issues, added, "I don’t see this NMP as a backdoor (for LGBT issues). Human beings are capable of being multi—dimensional, multi—perspective and multi—layered. I think it’s sad when some Singaporeans choose to be so single—minded and so single—focused that you can only be defined by your sexuality or by your race or your religion."

Ms Chia, who is married and a mother of one, could not be reached for comment last night.

When contacted, Mr Siew said he had not seen the full comments posted on REACH, but has seen similar objections to his re—application online. He also received several emails.

"It seems there’s some effort to organise a campaign to target me," he said. "It does bother me to be a target, to be singled out for expressing a sincerely held opinion."

Mr Siew, who is married and is a corporate lawyer, reiterated that he does not support homosexuality but is rather against discrimination, which is why he sought to repeal the law against gay sex in 2007.

The criticisms on REACH is another sign that the two camps — those with concerns over the gay agenda and those seeking more equality for gays — are turning to "mainstream portals" as their sounding boards, according to Singapore Management University assistant professor Eugene Tan.

"The two groups are fairly educated and are not afraid to use the new media to draw and canvass for support," he said.

Feedback on REACH is typically passed to the relevant agencies.

But Mr Siew hopes the Special Select Committee of eight MPs will evaluate his record in Parliament, which he feels "speaks for itself" as he had spoken out on numerous topics.

"The only thing I hope is that rational minds will prevail," he added.

The panel, led by Speaker Abdullah Tarmugi, will make its recommendations to President SR Nathan after it has interviewed the candidates. The new NMP term begins in July.

Source: Yahoo; CNA; TODAY; Various

7. 2009-05-15 12:27  
In light of what happened in Singapore, & the US, where Plastic...err, I mean beauty queen Carrie Prejean can flaunt her
sans-noblesse airs loudly & proudly like her botox-silicone "beauty", it has been very positive for PLUS so far.
Yes, you read right: Positive.
Homo-obsessors actually got me to understand why IDAHO is so important all the more. And we don't even need to go low like Thio; many people from mainstream society are alrd disgusted by their very behavior.
8. 2009-05-15 16:04  
9. 2009-05-15 16:06  
Nice to be friend with everybody and share experience together.
10. 2009-05-17 01:13  
dear friends,

this is a very positive development for the gay and human rights movement. it's a good counter balance to the "Pride" events.

Many surveys show, that when we present our issues in terms of an expansion of human rights and emphasize fairness and equality, we make progress with the general public. In general, nobody has to be in favor of 'gay behavior' or it's excesses "" but being in favor of fairness to all human beings and anti hate crimes, is a social value most people can accept.

May a thousand flowers bloom!





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