Today, 17 May, is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT), a moment to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQAI+ community to Say Enough to all forms of violence and discrimination. Franc Cortada, Oxfam International Global Program Director, shares a profound and pressing reflection.
As I write these lines, someone, somewhere, is been harassed, discriminated, beaten or is fleeing death because of their Sexual Orientation or their Gender Identity.
I'm open and upfront about my sexual orientation, unapologetically. But it took me time and support from those around me.
The void, the threats and insults can break you.
And yet I’m white, I’m male, I had the opportunity to complete my studies and I hold a position of power within the organization I work for. So, I had it and still have it much easier that many other LGBTIAQ+ colleagues around the world.
It takes courage to overcome all these barriers, to just be yourself.
You might be left handed, red-haired or have big feet.
Now, I want you to close your eyes and imagine for a moment that, because of that particular trait of who you are, you were defined as “non-conformist” and that conditioned your whole life.
Being lesbian, queer, trans, intersex, asexual or gay is no different from being born left handed or red-haired: it's just who you are.
Imagine that “being left handed” limited and determined all aspects of your life: your access to basic rights, your safety and security; your ability to access to a job or education; your ability to fully enjoy love, caring and friendship, to openly express your feelings.
Imagine that, because of being left handed or red-haired, you had to constantly watch on your back; you had to regularly swallow judgements and insults; making you feel you’re not self-worth; just for being yourself.
Imagine because of this, you felt ashamed, alienated, you felt unsafe, not welcomed, nor valued, that you had to hide your “self.” Imagine that people described you as defective, abnormal deviate or against nature.
Imagine you were exposed to bullying, abuse and discrimination at school or workplace, or rejected by your family or community. Imagine being subjected to laws, policies, and practices that labeled you as different—as “less than”.
Imagine having to fight - over and over again - for the basic rights that your peers enjoy.
And imagine being systemically oppressed, criminalized, tortured and even being killed…just for being who you are.
Stigma, stress, hate, depression, fear. Just for being yourself.
This is a humble plea to each and all of you: call out and push back on any form of discrimination wherever you see it.
Be mindful of your own words and acts: comments, jokes, assumptions and prejudgments you make, can cause real harm and distress. And do respect and value people who are different from you: you might be surprised how much joy, learning and friendship you can get from it!!!
Things are getting better in many parts of the world, but still 70 countries criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts between adults, and the list gets longer when we talk about social barriers, same rights and the genuine and full respect to LGBTIAQ+ people.
Everyone deserves to be who they are, without fear and shame.
#SayEnough to all forms of violence and discrimination.
This entry posted 17 May 2019, by Franc Cortada, Oxfam International Global Program Director.
Photo: Oxfam Canada staff join the Toronto PRIDE March. Credit: Oxfam