The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT) is held on May 17 to mark the day in 1990 when the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from its International Classification of Diseases. A quarter of a century later, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community has made great progress in overcoming discrimination in many parts of the world.
Despite that progress, LGBTI people still often face misunderstanding, fear, and even violence simply for being open about who they are. As a gay man in his 40s, I am old enough to remember a time in the United States when I and many of my LGBTI friends and colleagues were afraid to be honest about our identity. When it comes to sexual identity, some people are afraid to be honest with themselves. Overcoming that fear can be an important first step in educating others about the LGBTI community. By sharing who they are with family, friends, and colleagues, brave members of our community are helping to increase acceptance and understanding.
Sometimes, such openness is met with confusion, prejudice, and fear. Since I arrived in Shanghai last year, however, I have been impressed by the number of people in East China who learn that I am gay, and respond with sincere curiosity or friendship. As a foreign guest, my experience may not be the same as those of my Chinese LGBTI counterparts. But I am optimistic that the LGBTI community will continue to make progress in replacing fear with understanding.
On IDAHOT, therefore, let us recognize not only LGBTI people, but all those in East China who are increasing tolerance for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex community.