Today, May 17 is “International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia”. We celebrate the proud resistance and long struggle for basic rights waged by LBGTQIA2S+ activists and their allies. This struggle has a deep connection to public health activism. May 17th was specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.
Our commemoration is especially poignant and important this year as the nation faces dangerous backlash against progress on basic LBGTQIA2S+ rights – a number of state governments are attempting to enact a range of homophobic and transphobic laws and regulations including the infamous “Don’t say gay” law in Florida and transphobic legislative action spanning 7 states. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 2021 was the worst year on record for new legislation rolling back basic rights.
“With seventeen bills now signed into law, states have enacted more anti-LGBTQ laws this year (2021) than in the last three years combined (anti-LGBTQ bills enacted in previous years include 2 bills in 2018, 7 bills in 2019, and 4 bills in 2020).” 2022 looks to continue this trend. The Supreme Court draft opinion on Roe v. Wade suggests future attempts to roll back a range of fundamental rights including marriage equality.
A core component of the DGH DEI work is LBGTQIA2S activism and rights both within the institution and in the pubic health work we conduct. As the legendary Harvey Milk stated, “Rights are won only by those who make their voices heard”.
May 17 is now celebrated in more than 130 countries, including 37 where same-sex acts are illegal. Thousands of initiatives, big and small, are reported throughout the planet.”
JAMES PFEIFFER, DGH DIRECTOR, DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION AND PROFESSOR OF GLOBAL HEALTH