The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) falls on May 17 every year. It was created in 2004 to draw the attention of policymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and the media to the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTI people all over the world. The date of May 17 was specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990, to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. It was originally coined as IDAHO but we added the T at the end to ensure the trans community didn’t feel left out.
Geena Rocero, transgender model and advocate, flew down to Hong Kong to participate in a series of events related to IDAHOT, this year. To those who don’t already know, Geena rose to fame in March when she came out as a transgender on the TED Global stage. It was the first time TED was tackling transgender issues on the main stage. This was a huge shot in the arm for all of us who are working for trans rights here.
When I met Geena at the venue of her first event, she gave me a hug. She comes from the Philippines, my third home, and that’s the way we greet family and friends there. Geena treated us, a mixed crowd of TEDxters and activists, to an intimate talk on her life before, during and after her TED appearance. She also spoke about Gender Proud (http://genderproud.com/), her advocacy and awareness campaign to advance the rights of all transgender individuals.
Geena’s main appearance was at the candle light vigil co-organized by Amnesty International HK, Pink Alliance and the Transgender Resource Center, where she was the guest of honour. The program consisted of short performances, speeches and a series of panel discussions (I moderated the panels on bullying and workplace issues). The highlight of the evening, for me, was when we raised our candles and said a silent prayer. All of us, wherever we are India, USA or Hong Kong, are a part of this movement. We have made sacrifices and we havehad setbacks but nothing can defeat our spirit to get up and fight again.
Geena told me she was very happy for the Indian trans community and was looking forward to visiting India later in the year to further her advocacy work. Before she flew out, Geena recorded a message for you all.