OutRight Now: International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

idahotb 1990 and 2018


This week, on May 17, we mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB), created to put the violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people around the world in the spotlight, and to utilize the concerted attention to push for sustainable change.

Did you know that May 17 was picked as the date for this occasion because on that day in 1990, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders? 29 years have passed since that day (trans identities were removed from the same list only last summer). Perceptions of our identities as disorders persist, and efforts to change, to "convert", to suppress or divert them continue.

I am speaking of so-called "conversion therapy". Or reorientation therapy, reparative therapy, reintegrative therapy, gay cure therapy, or, more recently called sexual orientation change efforts or support for unwanted same-sex attraction or transgender identities.

Regardless of what name is attributed, regardless of whether they aim to change sexual orientation, gender identity or expression (SOGIE), or purportedly provide support for unwanted same-sex attraction or gender identity, these practices embody the epitome of what IDAHOTB aims to counter. They hinge on the belief that cis-gender heterosexuality is the norm, and transgender and/or homosexuality not only falls outside the norm, but has to be changed, if need be by brutal, inhuman force, through practices which have been recognized to be tantamount to torture by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“'Conversion therapy’ is not a single event – it is a process of continued degradation and assault on the core of who you are. There are often repeated violations in the form of psychological and sometimes physical abuse…It is not one instance – it is a continued sense of rejection. The pressure is enormous.”
- George Barasa, gay gender non-conforming Kenyan living in South Africa
(quote from upcoming research report)

As strides have been taken to ban such practices in parts of the US, Latin America, Europe, and Australia, awareness of their types and regularity in these regions has grown. But very little is known about cis-gender, heteronormative indoctrination efforts and practices elsewhere.

We at OutRight wanted to change that, so for the last year we have been working on a research report about so-called "conversion therapy" practices around the world. The almost 500 people from 81 countries who responded to our survey told us that such practices indeed happen everywhere.

With 18 respondents who had experienced some form of cis-gender heteronormative indoctrination practice, we had in depth discussions, to find out about their experience, its impact on their lives, and their recommendations for how to combat such practices in their countries.

The findings will not make for easy reading, but they are crucial to understanding and thereafter countering SOGIE change efforts. As we approach this year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, I am pleased to be able to let you know that our pioneering research on so-called “conversion therapy” practices will be released within the next month.


Jessica Stern,
Executive Director, OutRight Action International

P.S. For more insight into the upcoming report read Bella Fitzpatrick’s blog on our website, and her op-ed in TBC.