San Francisco LGBT community spotlights injustice

Imagine living in a country where being gay is considered a crime. A place where people feel restrained from expressing their sexual orientation, are persecuted and always fear the day they may be imprisoned, stoned, beaten or killed for being gay.

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, commonly known as IDAHO, is a day that asks everyone regardless of sexual orientation to unite with LGBT communities to fight discrimination and violence.

Psychologists originally considered homosexuality a deviant sexual behavior, which led them to list it as a mental disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health conducted several studies and came to the conclusion that homosexuality was a normal and healthy sexual orientation. Those studies prompted the World Health Organization to remove homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses May 17, 1990, a day now immortalized by IDAHO in San Francisco.

The goal of this day is to bring awareness to the violence, discrimination and murder of people within the LGBT community around the world. Several countries in Europe and Central and South America have recognized May 17 as a day of action against homophobia and transphobia.

Late last month, then San Francisco Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution petitioned by Gays Without Borders, a gay activist organization that fights for equality and rights for the LGBT community. They asked that San Francisco lower the American and United Nations flags for a 24-hour period in recognition of IDAHO.

“Lowering the UN and American flag in the UN Plaza is a visual message of solidarity,” said Mark Petrelis, a member of Gays Without Borders in San Francisco.

The organization hopes getting politicians and the city involved will bring awareness to San Francisco and the Bay Area.

“I think it’s important for those of us who live in places like San Francisco where we don’t have to deal with those horrible situations that we acknowledge the suffering that other people have,” said David Campos, the supervisor who introduced the resolution to the board.

Petrelis believes that having the city officially recognize International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia puts the issue on a whole new level by putting a day that is not well known in the spotlight.

Gays Without Borders has participated in IDAHO for several years. Every year is different, and the participation has ranged from protesting homophobia in other countries to participating in kiss-ins at Harvey Milk Plaza. This year they plan to honor gay teens that have been murdered in Iraq and Chile because of homophobia.

Petrelis wants to make American youth aware that being gay in other countries can get you killed. March 2, Daniel Zamudio, 24, of Chile was beaten and found with swastikas carved all over his body because he was gay. He died of his injuries 25 days later.

Although San Francisco is known for its acceptance of the LGBT community, discrimination and intolerance still exists.

Gay students at SF State face discrimination even on campus. Communications major Pablo Ramirez, the director of the Queer Alliance Organization at SF State, said his peers get obscenities yelled at them by other students.

Ramirez has experienced discrimination not just for his sexual orientation, but also for his race and his expression – the way he presents himself.

He hopes this day will bring awareness to the pain that discrimination causes, and makes people realize that it’s wrong.

“It’s always just hard because they are attacking your inner being, regardless of what it is – regardless if they’re teasing your hair or if they’re teasing the way that you look, the color of your skin, they’re teasing you,” Ramirez said, “It’s always going to hurt.”

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