Next year’s IDAHOT (International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia) will focus on family, an issue that organizers say is being exploited by ‘fear-mongers’ to inflame anti-LGBTI opinion.
IDAHOT will next year combine with International Family Equality Day (IFED) to hit home messages about LGBTI families. In an interview with Gay Star News, IDAHOT committee member Joel Bedos and Caroline Ausserer, of IFED and the Network of European LGBTIQ* Families Associations (NELFA), said IDAHOT 2017 would mobilize mass support for LGBTI families’ rights, challenging the notion of family as ‘institution’ with the idea that ‘it’s love that makes a family’.
Efforts co-ordinated around IDAHOT 2017 will show how anti-LGBTI policies endanger the children of LGBTI parents, and will also focus on the widely overlooked issues facing trans parents.
Read our interview with Bedos and Ausserer below to find out about plans and activations for IDAHOT 2017, and how you can get involved.
Why is 2017 the right time to focus on the issue of family?
In a lot of places, conservative movements have understood that fear-mongering works best to drive people into submission. Fear of going to hell has been historically very ‘profitable’ but is [today] not as effective, as ‘blind faith’ is losing ground. Fear of illness was strong in the AIDS pandemic years, but with the pandemic becoming less visible in the global north due to the effectiveness of therapies, this fear is also less effective. Traditional movements have realized that there is still a strong assumption in some parts of the population that sexual and gender diversities threatens the family. They have therefore massively invested in this specific angle for their public communication. LGBTQI movements have of course reacted strongly. We hope the global IDAHOT 2017 focus issue [of family] will be a way to amplify this reaction and make it even more powerful.
The notion of ‘family values’ is often invoked by anti-LGBTI factions. What does ‘family values’ mean on IDAHOT?
First, IDAHOT is a platform for expression for anybody who speaks up. There is not one IDAHOT voice. So it’ll mean what organizations want it to mean. From the current mobilization from LGBTQI movements, the common denominator is that it’s love that makes a family. This is of course at odds with movements who see family as an institution, regardless of its content. We want to share the message that all families based on love are equal and deserve legal recognition and political and social protection.
What are the main issues in terms of rights for LGBTI families that require urgent change?
In many countries, rainbow families – that is, families where at least one of the parents identifies as LGBTIQ – are faced with unsuitable domestic laws, if not a total legal void.
This lack of proper recognition of rainbow families exposes them and especially their children to all sorts of legal risks. These families live with the thought that if a tragedy touches their life – for instance, the death of the legal parent – the bond of the social parent to the child may not be recognized by the law and basically their family life can be severely disrupted.
Also, when LGBTIQ parents are prevented by law from creating legal ties to their children, these parents may be unable to pick up their children at day care, may be unable to advocate for their children at school, and can be denied the ability to make critical healthcare decisions for their children.
Formal recognition of same-sex relationships gives couples the tools and the security they need to build a life together. For committed same-sex couples with children, relationship recognition provides both legal and economic security for the entire family. Denying this recognition robs children of crucial support and stability, and ultimately leaves families unprotected, which makes creating and raising a family even more difficult.
Adoption is one of the primary ways that parents who are LGBTIQ create families. However, in most places LGBTIQ individuals and couples face barriers to adoption, making it difficult or sometimes impossible for these loving, qualified people to create families. Furthermore, the possibility to adopt the ‘biological child’ of the partner is perpetuating a discriminatory treatment of rainbow families, degrades them to ‘second class families’ and is in contrast to an equal and just society.
It’s a really crucial point that equality for LGBTI families protects the children. It’s a point that often gets lost in the ‘family values’ argument, isn’t it?
Studies show that alarming numbers of students with parents who are LGBTIQ report experiencing bullying, harassment, and discrimination at school because of who their parents are and how their families were formed. As a result, these students are deprived of equal educational opportunities and are too often left with few or no avenues for recourse. Research shows that unchecked bullying and harassment negatively impact student achievement by decreasing interest in school, increasing absenteeism, and decreasing concentration levels for students. Leaders in the fields of education and child welfare agree that positive school climate and culture is a critical condition for promoting students’ academic success.
Social stigmatization and legal discrimination of LGBTQ families forces children to stay in a closet that is not even their own. One of the greatest challenges reported by youth with LGBTQ parents is a sense of isolation, alone-ness, or feeling that ‘they are the only one’.
Do you think there is a strong enough spotlight being shone on issues around trans parenting?
Trans parenting is definitely a huge issue, all the more so as in many countries – 24 countries alone in Europe – forced sterilization is still compulsory to change your gender, thereby destroying people’s opportunity to create a family, which is one of the grossest denials of human rights, including in so called ‘progressive’ countries.
Co-operating with NELFA will make sure that issues around trans parenting will be upheld on the next IDAHOT. NELFA is very much committed to raise awareness about the situation of LGBTIQ* families among the public at large, in particular of trans and inter issues, that most of the time remain largely invisible also within the LGBT community.
Learn more about IDAHOT 2017 here.
Main image: nelfa.org