At a time when the murder and execution of gay people is sought to be legalized, no less, in many countries in Africa, when one questions whether in countries like India social acceptance of the LGBT community is growing or whether homophobia is only becoming more subtle, at a time when even in the USA the voices of fundamentalist preachers sounding off against homosexuality are getting louder, it is important to remember the significance of having an international day against homophobia.
May 17 is marked in many countries around the world as the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO). The theme for the 2011 campaign which kicks off today is Same-sex Couple - A Story of Love. The aim of this theme, according to the organizers, is to reinforce the idea that all homosexual relationships are not only about sex (as is widely perceived) – they are about sex, but also about love and companionship, tenderness and ups-and-downs, acceptance and safety, just as all relationships are. It aims to “dispel the narrow perceptions of gay and lesbian relationships according to which being gay or lesbian is basically only supposed to be about having sex; inform people that, legally, same-sex couples are on a par with opposite-sex couples; show that same-sex couple relationships are a lifestyle; increase the standing of couple relationships among gay men and lesbians; demonstrate that same-sex couple relationships have always existed; spread the idea that societies embracing sexual diversity are societies that welcome diversity in all its forms.”
Spearheaded by Montreal-based Fondation Émergence, a theme-day set aside for the fight against homophobia was organised in Québec on June 4, 2003, and designated as the “National Day Against Homophobia”. With the help of its partners, Fondation Émergence then strove to have this annual day take place on a pan-Canadian level. Belgium, France and United Kingdom caught on to the idea and set up similar events. The initiative was given an international dimension with the involvement of a number of countries who worked to spread the idea that May 17 should become the World Day Against Homophobia or the International Day Against Homophobia, known by the abbreviation IDAHO. Held in Montréal over the summer of 2006, the first World Outgames was the opportunity for hosting the most significant international conference in the West, on LGBT human rights. This conference ended with the adoption of the “Declaration of Montréal”, whose final recommendation (read aloud at the Outgames opening ceremony by Ms. Martina Navrátilová) “call[s] on all the countries in the world, and the United Nations, to recognise and promote the 17th of May of each year as the International Day Against Homophobia.”
The Fondation Émergence which spearheads the campaign also makes an annual award to a significant campaigner against homophobia. The 2011 award has been given to producer, actor, director and scriptwriter Xavier Dolan. Hailing from Québec he has produced the films J’ai tué ma mère (I Killed My Mother) and Les amours imaginaires (Heartbeats), films for which he has received several awards both here and abroad.