May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Read the stories of 5 young LGBT people from around the world.
1. Nevin Öztop, 28 (Turkey)
Lesbians are located in every corner of the globe, which is why the forms of discrimination and violence we face are just as diverse. It varies from discrimination and mobbing at the work place to family pressure, from school dropouts to social stigma, from lack of access to quality health services to forced marriages, “corrective” rapes, and even hate murders. But perhaps I wish to take this moment to draw your attention to one common thing regardless of our geographies: isolation. Sometimes this feeling is so intense that it feels like there is nothing to hold onto, which is not true.
Despite all the challenges that came my way, I felt the responsibility to be mindful of my privileges compared with my other lesbian sisters in different contexts. Therefore, I see May 17 – IDAHOT (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia) – as a crucial tool to encounter intersectionality of our identities, realise our sorrows, and raise global awareness.
My journey was of torment, suffering, suppression, and discrimination; when I was 10 years old I developed a certain liking towards my male friends. Bullying followed because I wasn’t as strong as the other kids my age; I wasn’t interested in physical sports or “chilling with the boys”. With very little support I struggled through primary and high school with bottled emotions and adapted the pretentious faces to deal with the high expectations of the very hetero-normative society I lived in. The humiliation and torment continued until all the “gay” boys in my all boys secondary school were physically assaulted in what was named the worst high school homophobic bashing. This incident brought with it expulsion, rejection, and assault. Few months later after continuous threats and abuse….I attempted suicide.
After much support from a loving mother and a small group of friends, I empowered myself, got involved in voluntary work and started using my experience to empower other young LGBTIQ to speak out. I sit on a steering committee for a Rainbow Movement and also lead a youth organisation focused on improving youth’s mental health and creating awareness on suicide prevention.
I’m from Northern Ireland. Despite coming from part of the UK, where equal marriage has just been enacted, the Northern Irish government has decided not to allow this and our leading party are openly and publicly homophobic. This means that public mindset about LGBTIQ people is not changing and many young people here are thrown out of their family homes because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Homophobic hate crimes are happening all the time and a few years ago I was attacked by two men outside a gay bar because I am lesbian. I was too afraid to report it to the police. As a lesbian I am continually over sexualised by society and men often disregard my identity and the validity of my relationships and assume that I am an object for them to watch. It’s very isolating and causes me and others to feel depressed and undervalued in our society.
I live in the capital city of Indonesia, Jakarta. As a young transgender woman in a religion-centred society, I still feel stigma and discrimination is attached to the society around me. However, I have to say I am quite lucky to finish my bachelor degree in one of the most reputable universities in the country, while most my fellow trans sisters could only dream of studying at university. Rejection and prejudice have overshadowed LGBT people when they want to pursue education. It is very sad to see that access to education for trans people in Indonesia has been denied so often due to common prejudice that trans people are sinful.
I remember when I was in the third grade, my classmates used to make fun about how I acted. Yes, as everybody knows it’s lately kind of ‘normal’ to make fun of a classmate or friend when he or she looks a little bit different, and everybody also knows that it is more intense when it is about sexual orientation, and this last one was my case (and also because I was the nerd of the class).
One day, I remember, my classmate hit me in my face in the break time because of my sexual orientation, my teacher didn’t do a thing about it, I cried a lot, as every child does when somebody bothers them. I grew up, and in high school I also suffered bullying from my classmates and other students, because I never had a girlfriend, I didn’t play soccer, and I was always with the girls.
When the WHO established that homosexuality was not a mental disease in 1990 it automatically represented the progressive change of science, of scientists, and also community beliefs. May 17, IDAHOT, is a very important day for the global LGBT community; a community which has a history of changing many lives around the world for the better.
Click here to find out more about IDAHOT.
Click here to find out how the LGBT community is thriving in South Africa.