To mark Sunday’s observance of the 2020 International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB), the Human Rights Campaign is recognizing the power of voices speaking out against anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and violence around the globe, and honoring those who speak up for LGBTQ rights and equality.

IDAHOTB is a day to draw attention to the homophobia, transphobia and biphobia still faced by so many LGBTQ people around the world. May 17 was chosen as the annual day for IDAHOTB because it is the anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declassification of same-sex attraction as a mental disorder, which happened in 1990. The theme this year is “Breaking the Silence,” in honor of all those who still cannot live their lives fully as themselves. 

 Ahead of IDAHOTB, HRC sat down with Jean Freedberg, director of global partnerships at HRC, to discuss her work and how HRC Global is engaging with LGBTQ advocates around the world during the COVID-19 health crisis. 

How does HRC work with LGBTQ advocates around the world?

During this time of COVID-19, we are committed to continuing to engage with LGBTQ advocates across the world. Over the years, HRC Global has built a strong Global Alumni Network of more than 150 amazing, courageous and passionate advocates and allies from some 90 countries, all of whom are creating innovative, smart and durable solutions to advance equality at home. We will continue to partner with them virtually, by providing programming and capacity-building support to help strengthen their work. 

We will also continue to share lessons learned from our own history and from each other over the years, especially programs on how to involve allies and how to build relationships with people of faith and employers. We are still planning to hold the 5th annual Innovative Advocacy Summit virtually this year - stay tuned for updates! 

How did you get involved in this work?

My lifelong activism was defined by growing up in South Africa and being involved in the anti-apartheid movement. At its core, that was a movement which was focused on fighting for intersectional justice before we even fully understood that term. It was about understanding the interconnections between all forms of discrimination and oppression.

Why is it important to approach LGBTQ rights from an intersectional perspective?

My work is grounded in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its inspiring foundational language that unequivocally states, “every human being is born free and equal in rights and dignity.” That is, at its core, an intersectional approach. As an out lesbian, I have been involved in the LGBTQ movement for many years. In my current position at HRC, I can bring everything that I’ve learned over my entire career to bear, not only the practical knowledge of what it takes to build a movement, but the passion that I have for changing the world and making it a better place. 

How can we encourage folks to get involved?

Making sure that others have the tools to advocate for LGBTQ rights is something that’s very important. Becoming involved and speaking out on IDAHOTB is a good starting place for those who want to be involved in the global LGBTQ movement. 

The intersections of communications, campaigning and policy are really all the essential parts of the movement. Follow your heart, learn as much as you can and offer to help. You will learn more from getting involved and just doing.

IDAHOTB celebrates the anniversary of the World Health Organization’s resolution to declassify same-sex attraction as a mental disorder in 1990. The move followed a similar decision by the American Psychiatric Association in 1973. The WHO’s monumental change created a shift in how many LGBTQ people were treated. In 2004, LGBTQ activists gathered for the first time to mark this date with rallies in support of equality. The anniversary is now marked by celebrations, governmental proclamations and renewed efforts to end the discrimination and violence that LGBTQ people throughout the world still face.


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