EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Advocates and lawmakers are calling for increased action and inclusivity for members of the LGTBQ+ communities. 

May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia that celebrates gender and sexual diversities, while also encouraging people to become more educated. 

“We know from research that when the general population is more familiar with people who are different from them, they hold less bias” Dr. Brenda Risch, Executive Director at the Borderland Rainbow Center tells KTSM. 

May 17th commemorates the anniversary of the World Health Organization declassifying homosexuality as a mental health disorder in 1990.

“So much has changed for the LGBTQI+ community since that day — not only in our laws, but in the hearts and minds of the American people.  Courageous activists in America and around the world have championed progress, and won. 

“Here at home, marriage equality and greater protections against hate crimes are the law of the land.  Overseas, foreign governments, civil societies, and international organizations like the United Nations finally recognize that LGBTQI+ people are deserving of the full measure of dignity and equality,” said President Joe Biden in a statement.

Last week, Instagram enabled a new feature allowing users to display their pronouns on their profile pages that advocates like Risch say is a step in the right direction.

“It promotes visibility of people who are open about their gender identity and gender expression,” she says. 

Despite progress being made online, COVID-19 and rising rates of hatred continue to threaten the lives and wellness of members of the LGTBQ+ communities like restrictive legislative policies passed in states like Arkansas.

More than 100 bills in 33 states have been passed this year that would restrict the rights of transgender people in the U.S.

The Human Rights Campaign identified 117 bills this session that directly target transgender people.

Many of the bills would specifically impact transgender youth, a population at high-risk for depression and suicide.

“I just don’t think it’s appropriate,” affirms Risch, “because what’s next?”

Legislative efforts to curtail gender and sexual diversities range from bans on transgender athletes from participating in sports consistent with their gender identities, as well as bans on gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youth that include psychotherapy, curriculum bans that prohibit transgender education, and bills that target civil rights protections. 

Advocates say there is a loss of humanity in the legislative language.

“We’re all human despite who we love and who we choose to be,” says Andi Tiscareno, a LGTBQ+ advocate who is also transgender. 

“Especially on a day like this,” says Tiscareno, “no one should have to fight for the right to identify as human.”

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