Observing International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia in Micronesia


Jaap van Hierden

The International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, or IDAHOBIT, is recognized every year on May 17 to draw attention to human rights issues related to fellow human beings with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, or expressions. An important recognition as it was on this day in 1990 when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. Indeed, IDAHOBIT is a day to celebrate diversity and to raise awareness of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and other people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities (LGBTIQ+ people). It is a day when the United Nations and its member states are reminded of the promises we made to “reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights” and to ensure that the dignity and worth of every human are never forgotten or infringed upon. We have made these promises in the Charter of the United Nations in 1945, which still guides us today.

Recognized in over 130 countries, the theme of this year’s IDAHOBIT is “Together Always: United in Diversity.” This theme was chosen in consultation with LGBTIQ+ groups from around the world as an open invitation to unity, allyship, and collective action. “Together Always: United in Diversity” allows for the celebration of human rights defenders, advances the struggle for LGBTIQ+ rights everywhere, and provides for inclusion of and space for allies to join the movement. Space in which Micronesian communities are doing their part.

I was pleased to learn that a few days ago, the organization “i AM,” advocating for rights of the LGBTQIA+ community, held an Urohs Fashion Show in Pohnpei, showcasing traditional FSM and Pohnpeian Urohs designs made by local designers. The fashion show used models of all identities, and it was a masterclass in showing how such a display of diversity and inclusivity can be a beautiful, fun, and important event for everyone.

I was also pleased to hear about the work of Yoske “Yaya” Matul, a human rights defender from Palau and one of the founders of living all-inclusive Belau, LAIB, Palau’s first Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Allies (LGBTIQ+) organization. Yaya’s work was showcased by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Pacific Voices (#UDHR75PacificVoices) campaign, currently ongoing and will feature many others from the region.

Indeed, IDAHOBIT is a day that helps us remember to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another. A day when we recognize that everyone deserves dignity and respect, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age, identity, culture, and nationality. Let us use this day to build our knowledge and understanding of the legal and social barriers faced by LGBTIQ+ persons. Let us accept and support LGBTIQ+ persons ensuring that all are treated equally. And let us speak out against discrimination and proactively ensure that our homes, our social spaces and our workplaces are safe and inclusive. We all have a role to play!

In line with this year’s IDAHOBIT theme, let’s reaffirm that we are indeed together, and united in our diversity.

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