May 17, 2021

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia: Embrace diversity

May 17th, 1990: The World Health Organization after a general assembly, officially eliminates homosexuality from the list containing mental illnesses, suggesting that “homosexuality isn’t a mental illness, a disorder or an anomaly,” and establishing this day as the International Day Against Homophobia. The term “homophobia” appeared for the first time during the ‘70s, dispraising in such the hostile stance and the discrimination against homosexuals, as well as the irrational fear of any contact with them. The principal meaning of the word remains unchanged up until today, only the spectrum of discriminatory attitudes touches upon the entire LGBT+ community.

Indeed, the terms “transphobia” and “biphobia” were added in 2009 and 2015 respectively. This doesn’t imply the absence of trans or bisexual people until then, nor the absence of homosexuals before the ‘70s. It’s just that until then, no official title had been established. However, since the ‘60s sexual revolution, groups of people, also known as “gay” within society, started to organize themselves and fight for their rights. Towards the end of the ‘70s, trans and bisexuals were also asking for visibility, since they weren’t only brought down by the heterosexual community, but also homosexuals. In 1988, the acronym “LGBT” was established, including the groups of people mentioned.

The acronym LGBT had to be expanded since it didn’t include some groups of people that were also facing social discrimination, such as pansexuals (attracted to people regardless of their gender or sexual identity), asexuals (absence of sexual attraction in people regardless of gender) and more. For that reason, the symbol “+,” was added in the acronym, establishing from 1996 the name “LGBT+ community,” covering not only sexual orientation (a definition of the attraction towards concrete genders, or absence of it) but also sexual identity (a definition of social -and not biological- gender). More specifically, everyone but heterosexuals (those attracted only to the opposite gender) and cisgender people (accordance with sex assigned at birth) appertain to this group. A common question is why there are so many terms in this acronym, however as every element of nature is represented by a different grammatical spectrum, every term links to a different group of people with different feelings.

The LGBT+ community is fighting on a daily basis for their rights, and other than the wins they’ve accomplished on a legislative level, society still faces its members with hatred. Marriage between homosexual couples is legal in 29 countries -only 15% of every country in the world- with the Netherlands being the pioneers in 2001. Even though homosexual contact is legal in most countries, there are still places where it’s considered illegal and it’s actually punished by law with imprisonment and a fine, while in others it’s even punished with the death penalty.

It’s not easy for someone to realize their difference when growing up in a world that doesn’t accept people like them. They’re growing up in a society where everything is separated into boxes, where it’s the “right” thing for boys to like blue, girls to like pink, and the only acceptable couple is between a man and a woman. We’re talking about a society that uses the word “gay” as an insult, a society that considers the attraction between two people, that happened to deviate from the “normal” binary of man and woman, to be from sick, up to illegal.

And all this fear and worry of being accepted by their family, friends, society, is piled up and enclosed within the “closet” (a reference to “coming out of the closet,” the revelation of someone’s sexual orientation or identity). But for how long can someone pretend to be something they’re actually not? Maybe it sounds easy -big thing, how difficult can lying be?- but not everyone has the same stamina and besides… What’s the point? Happiness is one of people’s highest goods, but you can’t be happy unless you are yourself.

Of course, there have indeed been several attempts by institutions, such as schools using education, or the state using public service commercials to accept diversity. The messages and words transmitted are great, but daily actions prove the exact opposite. A homosexual couple walking hand-in-hand on the street faces mocking comments, the image of a feminine man causes confusion -it’s an insult to… manhood- up to the point of physical or verbal violence, the question “what do you think about homosexuals?” is uttered on public television as if they’re referring to something vulgar. And all this is usually accompanied with the phrase “I’m not homophobic, but…,” to avoid appearing as misanthropes.

How can you consider hatred to be more acceptable than harmless diversity? Because the attraction between two people, existing on the same terms through heterosexual attraction, with the only difference being gender (or sex), is not dangerous. As it’s also not a trend -no one wants to become the subject of discriminatory attitudes. How can you condemn someone, then, whose only “fault” was to love? Do you care that much about someone else’s sexual life? Does the image of two people kissing, exactly like you kiss others, bother you that much? Are you that afraid of love?

Nevertheless, we shouldn’t ignore the sensitization emerging from within society the last few years on the issue of discrimination. The affected groups can find support even in non-members of the springboards of accepting diversity, giving hope for the approach of a peaceful atmosphere between people. Thus, they create a safer environment for people, people who are different. But aren’t we all different after all? Greek information and psychological support line for members of the LGBT+ community, parents and educators.

Photography by Polina Vasilikou

Areti Chatzaki

A physicist and, of course, an overthinker in her free time. Ηer mind is inhibited by a scientist and an artist who frequently argue, but have learnt to coexist and cooperate. She gets easily excited about space, books, paintbrushes and fairy lights, while she belongs to the minority of people that don’t like french fries (!).

Kiriaki Arnaouti (she/they)

Born a Drama queen, both literally and figuratively. Her mind is constantly switching back and forth between Greek, English and Spanish but her heart is set on two things only; iced coffee and books. Her Sagittarius nature convinces her that she’s the funniest person alive, but that’s for you to discover!

Chrysoula Toliopoulou (she/her)

A 20 year old optimist who is constantly striving to improve herself. I live by travelling, looking at the sky and observing my surroundings. Nature and space enthusiast, with grand affection towards the environment and any form of art but especially music! Gaining courage by volunteering and petting dogs! Also learning foreign languages in my free time but still struggle to communicate with people sometimes.

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