'This Is About Bodily Autonomy': Why the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia Is More Important Than Ever

South African Members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning and Intersex community (LGBTQI) protest outside the Tanzania High Commission on November 26, 2018 in Pretoria.
South African Members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning and Intersex community (LGBTQI) protest outside the Tanzania High Commission on November 26, 2018 in Pretoria.
Photo: Phill Magakoe / AFP (Getty Images)

In recent years, it seems as if every other day marks a new holiday or day of recognition or remembrance, but May 17 is one we should all be aware of if we claim to care about human rights. Now in its 17th year, it’s the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

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The past year has been perhaps the worst in our collective memory; a trauma that is in many ways continuing to escalate even as we speak. However, for as terrifying as the multi-pronged assaults of a global pandemic, racial reckoning and economic crisis have been, they have been even more so for the most marginalized in our communities, including those who are queer, nonbinary and trans.

In fact, 2020 was the most dangerous year on record for transgender or gender non-conforming people in the United States since the Human Rights Campaign began tracking such data in 2013. While many acts of violence against the LGBTQIA community still go unreported, forty-four violent fatalities were recorded last year—the most in any recorded year to date. The majority of the victims were Black and Latinx transgender women.

Internationally, the statistics were equally sobering, as reported by LGBTQIA-focused media outlet Them:

According to data from Transrespect Versus Transphobia Worldwide (TvT), a global advocacy group, at least 350 trans and non-binary people were murdered between October 2019 and September 2020 in the 75 countries tracked. Given that 120 countries were not included in the survey, the actual total is likely far higher.

In recent months, the United States has seen a full-on assault on trans rights by the Republican right, specifically targeting trans youth by rejecting gender-affirming medical care and participation in gender-specific sports. As Ms. Foundation for Women President and CEO Teresa C. Younger notes in a statement released in recognition of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, those of us committed to preserving human rights must recognize that like physical violence, these laws are an assault on bodily autonomy.

“The Ms. Foundation for Women is dedicated to fighting for the political, social, and economic equality of all genders, including all members of the LGBTQIA community,” said Younger in a statement provided to The Root. “Today, on International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, we ask that our supporters recommit to pushing back against the reprehensible legislation affecting this community.

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“Make no mistake, this is about bodily autonomy, the right to have governance over our own bodies—specifically as it pertains to women, nonbinary, and transgender people,” Younger’s statement continued. “In the face of recent abhorrent legislation introduced by Arkansas and 16 other states, millions in the LGBTQIA community fight to ensure their personal human rights and gain visibility at-large, as these new laws work to prohibit doctors from providing transgender youth with gender-confirming hormone therapy, puberty blockers or gender-confirmation surgeries or from referring patients to other health care providers. For transgender youth in rural or suburban areas, with little to no access to providers, this will be disastrous and deadly.”

However, there is hope. As our sister site Jezebel recently reported, at least a few Republican legislators, like North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, have the compassion to place at least some modicum of humanity above partisanship, vetoing laws restricting trans participation in gendered school sports. And as Younger further notes, “While it’s still legal to discriminate against LGBTQIA people in almost 30 states, federal actions are looking to uphold human rights. President Biden recently enforced a Supreme Court ruling prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression through an executive order and new Title IX enforcements to protect transgender and other LGBTQIA people against health care discrimination.

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Younger and the Ms. Foundation are urging Congress and state legislatures “to build toward more inclusive communities,” working in tandem with the The Marsha P. Johnson Institute, Trans Sistas of Color Project – Detroit and other organizations “who refuse to allow the criminalization or erasure of LGBTQIA bodies and experiences.”

Maiysha Kai is managing editor of The Glow Up, host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast and Big Beauty Tuesdays, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow some sugar?

DISCUSSION

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It exposed everything nasty, dangerous and psychopathic about America.