The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT) represents a major global annual landmark to draw the attention of decision makers, the media, the public, corporations, opinion leaders, local authorities, etc. to the alarming situation faced by people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions, and sex characteristics. The date of May 17th was specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.
This years’s global theme of the commemoration is „Breaking the Silence“. The goal of this theme is for LGBTI+ persons to share their own personal experience with homo/bi/trans/phobia, which is especially tough for queer persons who are not ‘out’ yet. Tuzla Open Centre is marking this year’s IDAHOBIT with an activity named ‘Queer Art in Self-isolation – Breaking the Silence’. We learn more about this campaign activity from Haris, one of the creators behind this concept:
„Queer art in self-isolation is an idea which arose spontaneously from the need to provide the LGBTI+ community with a safe space and platform in which they could express themselves and break the silence freely. As self-isolation reduced our interactions with the outside world, an opportunity came to increase our creativity in the online world. No matter if it was done through photographs, songs, stories or drawings, queer people have provided us with works that reflect their pride, hope, love, and even their own fears and sadness. The individual experiences of queer people are significant, and giving them visibility is even more important because in a heteropatriarchal system they are – more often than not – denied and dehumanized.“
We are well aware of the significance of this day and its commemoration on a global level, but we asked Mirela, Anisa, Martina and Katrina, queer persons and allies, what May 17th means to them.
„Marking this date is really significant to me because this is a fight we are all in together. We deserve equal rights, respect and dignity. This date represents our various identities and it makes a clear statement that in this society there’s more than enough room for us all – different, proud and brave people.“ – said Mirela.
Anisa looks at IDAHOBIT through a prism of fighting to excercise and protect human rights through the justice system, because the state does not punish those who condone and idealize fascism: „In that way by not punishing them it does not protect those whose rights are in danger, IDAHOBIT and its meaning cannot represent anything else but a societal, moral and professional responsibility to the people. It’s very important to point out and fight against homo/bi/trans/phobia until the point in time when the LGBTI+ community is recognized in the justice system – ie. in the fields of social, family and work laws.“ She believes homophobia will be a big problem all the while the queer community isn’t protected by the constitution of the state, and that it (homophobia) fits right in our tainted view of society.
Martina on the other hand decided to share her experience in discrimination with us, she says IDAHOBIT makes her feel less alone: „I feel discrimination and hate on my skin everyday. Sometimes it’s coming from strangers whose opinions I hear on accident – and they make my hair stand like a cat’s – when someone asks a question about the LGBTI+ community. But sometimes i hear those awful homophobic things come from my family members – which is why I’m still in the closet, and give out statements like these under a pseudonym. I have no other options but to fight, for my and other people’s rights. Those rights are rightfully ours, and no one may take them from us. I will fight until my last breath. This date represents one day in a year when our voices get louder, when I see and hear all of these other people fighing for the same thing as me – equality. IDAHOBIT really is a reminder that I’m not alone.“
For Katarina, the 17th of May represents the fight of those who come after us – she says: „The fight for visibility, acceptance and understanding of LGBTI+ persons is something we owe to the future generations if we do not want to see them live through the judgement and rejection we had to go through. This fight is here to take us to freedom, we all have the right to be happy and be loved in whatever way that is. IDAHOBIT reminds us that it will be better, and that we’ve already passed one part of the way in the last 10 years.“
They also commented on queer art, and why it plays an important part in the fight for the rights of LGBTI + persons.
„Queer art is a very important tool in the fight for our rights, because in doing so, through our art, we show our visibility in society. Queer art is an incentive for me to create, to spread my art, creativity, which knows no boundaries” – says Mirela.
Anisa believes art is a peaceful protest, an invisible alarm that conveys the image of the times it’s about: „Whether it is literature, film, music, it doesn’t matter, it comes as a kind of relaxation for a person, and then they unconsciously absorb certain facts through it. So I think it can really be important in the fight for visibility, acceptance, rights and life in general.“
“Art is an extremely powerful tool for fighting fascism and all the ‘phobias’ they invented to put us on the very edges of society – it can send extremely important and powerful messages, to those who are with us but also to those who discriminate against us. We are here and we are not going anywhere, we are part of this society just like you. You’ll see more of us. Queer art has given me the opportunity to express my thoughts, to connect with other queer people, but also to realise that there is someone out there who thinks of us all, and who, like me, fights against all the fear and hatred with everything they have in them.“ – stated Martina.
Katarina agrees with their opinions and asserts the following: „Art has marked epochs, changed people and their view of the world. It is a universal language that everyone understands, which is why it is an essential tool in the fight for the visibility of LGBTI + people. ‘Queer Art in Self-isolation’ is a wonderful activity, I think we need more activities like these, even when we are not going through a global pandemic. I was glad that I could finally be what I am, to show someone my work without fear of being frowned upon. I was very happy that we are here for each other and that we got to share pieces of ourselves with the rest of the world without the fear of judgement.“
Our interlocutors send the message “Be yourselves, be brave, be proud”
Let’s break the silence!
Author: Dina Bajrektarević
Translated and adapted by: Lejla Delalić
This text was published with the support of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Norway. The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Norway, but solely those of the author.