Let's celebrate LGBTIQ inclusion for IDAHOBIT

Dr Jonathon Mackay on the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT)

May 17 is a date globally recognised as the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), celebrating the anniversary of homosexuality being removed from the WHO classification of diseases in 1990. First launched in Australia in 2005, IDAHOBIT is now globally recognised as a time for reflection and the celebration of LGBTIQ people in our communities.

While there is ongoing discussion about the name itself, the purpose of the day remains the same: a day of acknowledging and celebrating LGBTIQ progress and recognising the ongoing barriers and discrimination the community faces today.
This is an opinion piece written by Dr Jonathon Mackay, Senior Lecturer and Chair of the UOW Pride Network. The tenor of the article has been edited by The Stand with the consent of Dr Mackay.

A day for acknowledgement

IDAHOBIT aims to celebrate all people within the LGBTIQ community, which has become an umbrella term encompassing individuals whose identities sit outside the heteronormative (whether it be sexuality, gender or even family structure). As time progresses, we see new ways of expression unfold and emerge that aim to provide a sense of authenticity to a person: at-times a rejection of societal expectations and norms and a way of saying: “this is me, I am unique and I am worthy of love”.


A time for recognition

For many people in the wider community, the legalisation of same-sex marriage in 2017 throughout Australia was seen as bringing equality to people who identify as LGBTIQ. However, the work was not completed on that day.

For individuals in Australia, people who identify along diverse sexualities (e.g. gay, lesbian, bisexual etc.) face a much higher prevalence of mental disorder when compared to heterosexual people, a number that only gets worse for those who identify as gender non-conforming and transgender. 

Dr Jonathon Mackay Dr Jonathon Mackay is Chair of the UOW Pride Network

In modern society, the LGBTIQ community still faces ongoing discrimination and violence The 2019 Private Lives 3 survey undertaken by La Trobe University found that almost three-fifths of people interviewed felt discriminated against on the basis of their sexuality, a number that increased to three quarters for those who are trans and gender diverse. The LGBTIQ community also faces higher rates of homelessness and increased unemployment, a rate that increases further in multiple marginalised identities such as the Indigenous LGBTIQ community and representation within refugees and asylum seekers.

Although these statistics may appear shocking, the wider context provides an explanation to the hostility against LGBTIQ people on a community level such as the backlash to rainbow storytime events and the vandalism of the rainbow steps at UOW Wollongong campus in November 2023. From same-sex parenting book bans to anti-LGBTIQ political rhetoric and the ongoing religious discrimination debate, hostility can also be seen across all levels of government on a national scale. These demonstrate the intersectionality of socio-temporal contexts that inform many LGBTIQ identities. In other words, how socio-cultural factors in a given time intersect to impact the lived experience of individuals.


An opportunity to celebrate

While it’s important to recognise the backdrop of issues facing the LGBTIQ community, IDAHOBIT is also a day of celebration. In terms of politics, there have been substantial wins for the community recently, including the NSW ban on conversion therapy and NSW premier Chris Minns’ upcoming apology to people convicted under historic homosexuality laws. 
Locally, stories like drag performer Ellawarra’s transition journey are appearing in local media and sharing voices previously unheard. At UOW we are proud to have an ever-growing Pride Network, and specific policies and procedures to prevent discrimination of LGBTIQ people (including gender affirmation leave in new enterprise agreements under proposal). 
As Chair of the UOW Pride Network and a queer man myself, it is a privilege to lead this grassroots network that advocates for and celebrates our LGBTIQ staff, students and community. This IDAHOBIT Day we will be celebrating our LGBTIQ community across all our campuses in Australia and taking the time to reflect on the current concerns, barriers and discrimination facing our community. 


UOW academics exercise academic freedom by providing commentary, opinion and analysis on a range of ongoing social issues and current affairs. This commentary reflects the views of those individual academics and does not necessarily reflect the views or policy positions of the University of Wollongong.