Today marks yet another observance of International Day Against Homophobia. It was first designated by Fondation Émergence on June 4, 2003 in Québec, Canada to promote harmonious relationships among people of all orientations, end discrimination, and show the consequences of homophobic acts. It's perfectly fitting for Québec to take this initiative: it was the first province to forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation in 1977. This day marks a time for both celebration and awareness. Though tolerance seems better than in years before, there are still many milestones to pass.
Homophobia comes in many forms: from the casual derogatory use of the words "fag" and "gay" among teenagers to public hangings of homosexuals in various countries. It stems from societal and individual inabilities to grasp differences among people... and in turn, view them as a threat. These beliefs can even lead to internalized homophobia, where gay and lesbian individuals begin to view themselves as inferior or worthless. The self-loathing can eventually lead to suicide.
This year's focus is on health issues, including depression and suicide, blood and organ donations, addiction, and AIDS. Medical institutions and employers still have been known to discriminate against individuals based on hiv status and sexuality. People still equate AIDS with homosexuality. And the risk of suicide in both teenagers and adults hasn't ended.
We can all do our part to help end the hate. Encourage teachers and employers to discuss homophobia. Ask businesses, organizations, newspapers, and media sources to publicize this day and make a firm stand on tolerance. Contact your political representatives and tell them to support diversity and follow through on past promises. Persuade parents to talk openly and non-judgmentally about homosexuality with their kids. Find the courage to "come out" in some way and let others know they aren't alone.
Or just feel free to kiss someone in public...