The Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya is joyful to join Kenyans and people all over the world in marking the 2021 International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT). This impactful initiative was first created in 2004 to bring attention to the ongoing violence and discrimination towards the LGBTQ+ community. The date, May 17, became the designated day due to the 1990 World Health Organization’s decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

This year’s theme: “Together: Resisting, Supporting, Healing!”, serves as a call for us all to find a reason to celebrate life. GALCK’s goal is to integrate LGBTQ+ issues into broader health and human rights organizing, ultimately to reform harmful legislation and policies. The broad-based support that has since been built has been garnered for the #Repeal162 High Court Petition and will again be drawn upon for the ongoing Civil Appeal No. 536 of 2019 – Eric Gitari vs the Hon. Attorney General and 21 Others. In line with our vision of a safe and enabling environment for all, GALCK is creating a space where the fundamental principles of human rights, equality and non-discrimination and the protection of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer Kenyans will be guaranteed as enshrined in the Constitution of Kenya 2010. Our work has so far inspired cohesion amongst people who appreciate diversity and recognise that everyone has a right to equal opportunities irrespective of their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender and expression.

The global pandemic is far from over and will have a lasting impact on social activism and the fight for equal rights. At the COVID-19 onset in Kenya, the GALCK Secretariat through its member organisations assessed how the LGBTQ+ community was coping. We found direct correlations between COVID restrictions and limited access to health care, unemployment, food insecurity, homelessness, violence, mental health challenges, insufficient information around the pandemic, among others. GALCK subsequently launched a COVID-19 Relief Initiative, entailing two rounds of unsolicited, membership-wide disbursements. These disbursements helped member organisations mitigate restriction-related hardships for over 2100 of their hardest hit constituents. Under this project and in collaboration with mental health workers, we have helped improve the mental wellness and coping strategies of LGBTQ+ people. This has reinforced the resilience of member constituents by mitigating their suffering and strengthening resolve to persevere the physical and mental hardships of the pandemic.

As we celebrate this year, we urge every LGBTQ+ person, ally and friend to find a reason to celebrate life today. Together we have formed communities and families for ourselves that have supported us and kept us safe. Let today be a celebration of the Kenyan LGBTQ+ community’s resilience against an unjust and unconstitutional law and all political, cultural, and religious resistances. Happy IDAHOBIT to you and yours!

The Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya