International Day Against homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia is celebrated every 17th of May since 2016. Various countries stand together against SOGIE based phobias through digital space and host events to commemorate this day. This year, VPride gathered a few SOGIE individuals, compromising on youths, to come together to share experiences, stories of their living realities on Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.
Based on the theme of 2022 on “Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Rights,” a convening held at the Grand Hotel and Casino Vanuatu in Port Vila unpacked discussions of SOGIE individuals living realities on stigma, discrimination, and violence in communities, accessing publics services, spiritual and faith avenues, and society as a whole.
VPride Executive Director GiGi Baxter stated, “this year it’s all about who we are and what we are meant for and designed by God and the Universe.” She continues, “Our bodies, our lives, our rights are God and Universe given creation to this world. It’s unique a form art to decorate the world. She appeals to allies, communities and our Vanuatu Society to simply respect diversity as it is meant to fit in this world.
Participants at the convening, shared their experiences, on the matter, elaborating from “hiding in the closet” to “coming out.” This is simply revolving on self-esteem, confidence and being true to oneself. “I haven’t come out to my family yet. I am still under the radar, “shares a participant. They continue, “That day for me will come yet,” and the room responded with assurance and affirmation. “We all are in a journey and we have our own timelines. Do it when you are ready, “stated Yannick Vera, VPride’s Programs Manager. “Expressing your true self is the most important thing in the world as you don’t live in denial but you live your truth. Therefore, we as SOGIE should be supporting and defending one another from the outside world, “Ms. Baxter declares.
However, some members present in the room shared their stories about how they are somewhat respected and tolerated as the way they are. “In our communities and villages, we are recognized due to our involvement with the church (youth, decoration etc.), community events and our cultural and traditional events. It is a must we are well capacitated with communal traditional and cultural practices. It is in this way we are recognized and somewhat respected for who we are,” one participant shared.
The urban setting on the other hand, is where unspeakable and unmeasurable Stigma, discrimination and violence occur from time to time. Participants in the room expressed their distasteful experiences. One SOGIE youth explained how they were often sought out for and somewhat forced into sexual activities, to which upon refusal were met with physical abuse.
The workshop concluded with the assurance and affirmation of positive and supportive vibes and environment in celebrating and embracing our bodies, our lives, our rights from one within the SOGIE community.
#IDAHOT2022 #Vanuatu #SouthWestPacific #OurBodiesOurLIvesOurRights