Homophobic stigma – A community cause

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PinkNews.co.uk Exclusive

In accordance with international demonstrations marking the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), PinkNews.co.uk’s Marc Shoffman examines how much stigma and prejudice has been eliminated.

Today marks 16 years since the World Health Organisation (WHO) removed homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) as a mental disorder. On May 17 1990, the World Health Organisation endorsed an intention to remove homosexuality from a list of mental disorders in its tenth review of disease definitions, it followed classifications of all known diseases and injuries from as far back as 1850.

Up until the late 20th Century, homosexuality was listed as a diagnosed mental disorder or “ego-dystonic homosexuality” which suggested the person was being caused psychological distress by their sexuality.

In the ninth International Classification of Disease, published in 1977, homosexuality and lesbianism were included under the ego-dystonic category of a list of “neurotic, personality, and other non psychotic mental disorders.”

In 1987, the American Psychological Association called for the negative terminology to be dropped, the APA Council of Representatives said, “homosexuality per se implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or general social and vocational capabilities.”

Following the APA’s trend, the 43rd World Health Assembly in May 1990, called for homosexuality to be taken off the list, this was made official in the publication of ICD-10 in 1992, and the WHO encouraged countries to heed the recommendation in the coming years.

However, the stigma and prejudice still remains worldwide.

Here in the UK, homophobic bullying in schools, and sometimes in the workplace remains a problem. Gay patients often fear coming out to their doctors whilst in the USA health professionals have been known to discriminate against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people).

These issues, coupled with anti gay campaigns from religious, nationalists and extremist groups suggests a problem still remains.

But homophobic prejudice outside of the Western world tells a more negative story.

The Eastern European gay community has experienced violence, gay bar closures and gay pride bans in major cities such as Moscow and Warsaw.

In many parts of Africa such as Cameroon and Nigeria, gay people are jailed and gay clubs and organisations are banned.

And the Middle East still has a lot of catching up to do, in Iran gay people are accused of false crimes such as rape and often hanged whilst the United Arab Emirates recently jailed 12 men for participating in a gay wedding. Investigations by gay rights group, Outrage, often find targeted and systematic violence against gay people in Iraq.

The gay community is not a small corner of Soho, or a San Francsisco stretch, it is a worldwide group of people, fighting for the right to equality, and we have a duty in the West to protect fellow LGBT members through asylum, protests, and political means.

Today’s worldwide IDAHO demonstrations will show the homophobia that remains and will push for progress.

Events are taking place in more tolerant countries such as the UK, Italy and France, as well as more difficult areas such as Poland, Iran and Nepal.

Whilst homophobia has been taken off the mental disorder list, this day will remind us that stigma and prejudice must still be removed from people’s minds.