May 17 marks The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. The reason it’s marked then is because that was the day – only back in 1990 – when the World Health Organisation decided to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. In 2022 it’s shocking to imagine that people’s sexual orientation were ever deemed a mental illness and in such relatively modern history.
That doesn’t mean that we’ve reached a perfect place when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community and their acceptance within society. We still have a long way to go – but we’re at least on the right path. And it’s a path that requires bravery.
I personally feel very fortunate that I come from a family of brave women. My mother went against the norm back in the 1970s and decided not to travel back to the US to give birth to me. She stayed in Spain. It was considered a ‘brave’ choice then and is something that makes me very proud of her. That bravery has been passed down to me in my desire to work towards a better, more equitable world and also down through to my daughter. She has had the bravery to come out as pansexual – having researched online for herself what makes sense to her. She has educated me about these different facets of sexuality; explaining that pansexuality means that she can be attracted to anyone – regardless of their gender or sexuality.
It also makes me painfully aware that not everyone is as fortunate as my daughter and our family. Not everyone is in a position to be open about who they truly are. Even in Western countries there can still be a residual unconscious bias towards people who step outside the ‘norm’ of heterosexuality – with many in the LGBTQ+ community fearing physical violence against themselves.
And that is why it’s so important to be aware of one’s own biases. I’d recommend that everyone check out Harvard University’s Implicit Bias Project. In their own words, “The mission of Project Implicit is to educate the public about bias and to provide a “virtual laboratory” for collecting data on the internet.” It’s a great way for teachers, students, employers etc to check for their own blind spots in order to interact with others in a more equitable way.
Let’s all be brave this International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia day and face up to our unconscious biases and support those around us may need it.