“A phobia is an excessive fear of something harmless and LGBTQ+ people are in fact completely harmless, while LGBTQphobias have a serious impact on the people who experience them,” says Fondation Émergence President Patrick Desmarais, adding, “A quarter of the world’s population believes that being LGBTQ+ should be a crime.”
May 17 is a symbolic date: on this day in 1990, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.
In 2003, Fondation Émergence created the first national day against homophobia, which grew to be observed internationally. In 2014, Fondation Émergence added the fight against transphobia to the title.
The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (also known as International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia in some other countries) raises awareness of the impacts of phobias related to the LGBTQ+ communities and encourages governments to take action to recognize the rights of these communities.
This day is now observed in more than 130 countries worldwide, including 37 where same-sex acts are illegal. Thousands of initiatives, big and small, are held throughout the planet. There is not one centralized campaign, and some organizations add Lesbophobia, Biphobia or Intersexphobia as distinct focuses.
Fondation Émergence works against homophobia, lesbophobia, biphobia and transphobia through its various year-round awareness programs.
In its 2023 IDAHT campaign flyer, Fondation Émergence states, “Unfortunately being LGBTQ+ is still seen as a choice, which, according to some people, is influenced by access to LGBTQ+ representations during the person’s upbringing. As a result, LGBTQphobias tend to result in censorship and repression, which still exist in many countries.”
Fondation Émergence reports 69 countries still criminalize homosexuality, and homosexual relations are punishable by the death penalty in 11 countries. Additionally, 31 countries have laws that censure or prohibit discussing, promoting or teaching sexual and gender diversity in the media, schools and among the public at large.
And despite Montréal being a queer mecca and Québec in 1977 becoming the first jurisdiction in Canada to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, the Leger polling firm – in a 2023 survey commissioned by Fondation Émergence – reports that 42% of Québecers are either indifferent to or do not understand the importance of LGBTQ+ issues.
The Leger survey also reports a third of the Québec population expresses discomfort with two men kissing, and one in five when it comes to two women; that one in four Canadians would feel embarrassed going to an appointment with an openly trans professional; and 37% of Canadians are uncomfortable intervening when witnessing LGBTQphobic behaviour.
“Montréal is a pretty amazing place to be queer but there is always room for improvement,” says Fondation Émergence program manager Olivia Baker.
Over the years, Fondation Émergence campaign materials have been available in 20 languages, and for this year’s edition of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, the Montréal-based Foundation is distributing French and English posters to schools throughout Québec.
Visit the bilingual Fondation Émergence website to order free educational posters and leaflets.
Visit www.lgbtqphobias.ca and fondationemergence.org for information about the 2023 edition of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.