How #ShapeIDAHOBIT 2020 created global LGBTI awareness

“None of us are free until all of us are free.” – Max Seunik, Global Shaper Toronto Hub

On May 17, 1990, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases and Related to Health Problems (ICD). It was no longer classified a mental disorder.

To commemorate the decision, the same day was chosen to celebrate LGBTI people globally while generating interest in the global status of equality for LGBTI people. For the first time ever, the Global Shaper Community broke the silence to give attention to the plight of LGBTI people.  #ShapeIDAHOBIT, a cross-hub global initiative, took place on May 17, 2020, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia “IDAHOBIT”. 

Over 25 hubs representing 15 countries including Abuja (Nigeria), Zurich (Nigeria), Mexico City (Mexico) and Praia (Cape Verde), Jaipur (India) and Calgary (Canada) participated in this campaign. This day provided an opportunity to take action and engage in dialogue with media, policy makers and the wider civil community. 

We caught up with Max Seunik and Maria Vassiliou, Global Shapers at the Toronto Hub that led the hub’s efforts in this campaign, to gain their insight on this initiative.

Why is this initiative important to you?

Maria: Experiencing and feeling love is a human right. It brings people together. It unities and creates a space for connections for people across cultural, social and economic groups and backgrounds. It fosters compassion and understanding. The fact that people who are innocently experiencing love is punishable by death in some countries, is abhorrent. This initiative is important to me because the stigma, hate and violence needs to come to an end. 

Max: Living in Canada, it can be easy to forget that more than 70 countries still criminalize same-sex relationships. That’s over 1/3 of all countries. In 7 countries, those same loving, consensual relationships can be punishable by death. For trans- and gender-nonconforming folks, many countries obligate medical treatment, sterilization, or onerous preconditions before they can obtain legal recognition of their gender identity. Trans people, especially trans women of colour, face horrifying levels of violence. This reality is unacceptable to me.

What is the most important take-away?

Maria: Dialogue creates action. Getting over 20 different cities involved in a cross-hub initiative opens up a conversation in various communities around the world. It’s the first step in creating long-lasting generational change. 

Max: None of us are free until all of us are free.

Can you share something new that you learned?

Maria: Realizing that Toronto has several organizations that are TOTAL powerhouses and are having a global impact on LGBTQ+ lives around the world. 

Max: Torontonians and Toronto-based organizations are stepping up everyday in a big way! Rainbow Railroad, which helps LGBTQ people escape state-sponsored violence is one stellar example.

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