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Flying the flag for gay rights; Liverpool is the first city in the world to mark day of action, as Alan Weston discovers.

ATOTAL of 50 high-profile organisations in Liverpool are getting together on Thursday to mark this year's International Day Against Homophobia International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) is celebrated May 17.

The international day against homophobia aims to coordinate international events to call respect for lesbians and gays world-wide.
.

Known as IDAHO for short, the day of action was originally launched eight years ago to raise awareness of the persecution of homosexual and transgender people around the world.

The day has since gained international recognition, but Liverpool will be the first city anywhere in the world to mark it officially with a programme of free events.

Rainbow flags will be flown at iconic sites such as St George's Hall, Liverpool town hall The Liverpool Town Hall is built in a striking style of architecture. Designed by John Wood, the Elder, the first stone of the building was laid in 1749, and the hall was opened in 1754. It is still in use today by Liverpool City Council.  and the Liverpool Philharmonic. Among those supporting the day are Everton FC, Liverpool Cathedral Liverpool Cathedral is the Church of England cathedral of Liverpool, England, built on St. James' Mount in the centre of the city. It is the seat of the Anglican Bishop of Liverpool. Its official name is the Cathedral Church of Christ in Liverpool. , University of Liverpool The University of Liverpool is a university in the city of Liverpool, England. History

The University was established in 1881 as University College Liverpool, admitting its first students in 1882.
, and Merseytravel.

It is a startling statistic that it is still illegal to be gay in 80 countries, including Uganda, Bahrain, and parts of Russia. In some, such as Iran, it can even carry a death sentence.

Drawing attention to stark facts such as these is one of the reasons why IDAHO was launched worldwide.

But whereas the day is usually marked exclusively by organisations concerned with the promotion of gay issues, a total of 50 organisations in Liverpool, including Merseyside police Merseyside Police is the Home Office police force responsible for policing Merseyside in North West England.

The force area is 647 square kilometres with a population of around 1.5 million. At present the force has 4,466 police officers plus over 2,000 police staff.
 and the city council, are lending their support.

The inaugural IDAHO event has been developed by the Liverpool-based arts and social justice organisation Homotopia. Artistic director Gary Everett says: "Liverpool is the first city internationally to take IDAHO on board, and 50 important organisations have come forward to help mark the day.

"It's important to make people aware this is an international issue. In some countries it is still illegal to be gay and can result in torture or execution, and the aim of IDAHO is to raise awareness of this issue."

Gary explains: "IDAHO started eight years ago, the day the World Health Organisation declassified de·clas·si·fy  
tr.v. de·clas·si·fied, de·clas·si·fy·ing, de·clas·si·fies
To remove official security classification from (a document).



de·clas
 homosexuality as an illness.

"The reason we thought it would be good to get bigger organisations involved is because homophobia and transphobia are quite insidious and can have a negative effect on society.

"The lead partner is Merseyside Probation Service, who will be working with offenders who will be making planters for flowers and circulating these around the city."

Homotopia already stages a major month-long festival every November, and IDAHO will add to Liverpool's reputation as a gay-friendly city, which has already been given a higher profile by the recent launch of the city's own Pride festival.

Gary adds: "Unlike the other events we are involved with, IDAHO is more sombre som·bre  
adj. Chiefly British
Variant of somber.


sombre or US somber
Adjective

1. serious, sad, or gloomy: a sombre message

2.
 and more reflective. It's important to stand up to people who are pushing extreme ideas, and we are making homophobia and transphobia as relevant as other forms of discrimination.

"Having 50 organisations getting involved like this is quite new, but next year we are aiming for 100 companies.

"IDAHO is normally marked by gay organisations flying the rainbow flag rainbow flag rainbow nRegenbogenfahne f or -flagge f , but Liverpool is the first city to recognise it officially and bring in so many private and public organisations.

"All police and fire stations will be flying the rainbow flag, while the University of Liverpool is having lectures and debates. But it will equally involve making cakes and creating displays.

"The event fits in well with Liverpool's traditional history of equality, social justice and fighting for the common good."

One of the major events on the day, which is organised jointly with Merseyside Probation Trust and the visual artist Paul Harfleet, goes under the provocative - and entirely deliberate - title of the Pansy Project, with the flowers being planted at St Luke's church.

Gary says: "The Pansy Project, Merseyside Police and Homotopia first collaborated in 2007, so the legacy of our community outreach programme is connecting further through the criminal justice system with the partnership of Merseyside Probation Trust.

"IDAHO 50 will raise awareness of our year long social justice programme helping to create a more cohesive and tolerant city. Since 2005 our inter-generational and youth engagement programme has reached over 80,000 people and is growing" Among those backing the day of events is Mayor Joe Anderson, who says: "I am proud that Liverpool is the first city to participate in IDAHO 50.

"We need to create a society which does not discriminate against anybody because of their sexual orientation sexual orientation
n.
The direction of one's sexual interest toward members of the same, opposite, or both sexes, especially a direction seen to be dictated by physiologic rather than sociologic forces.
 and one in which everybody can feel safe and secure. We fully support the work Homotopia is doing to achieve this."

Anne Pakula, head of operations at Merseyside Probation Trust says: "Merseyside Probation Trust supports Homotopia in its work to eliminate discrimination towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

"Our innovative work with the perpetrators of hate crime leads to a change in attitudes, thinking and behaviour towards minority groups, which in turn results in safer communities for the people of Merseyside.

"The Trust is committed to reducing re-offending and improving public protection, and tackling hate crime in this form is just one way of achieving this. We fully support the aims of IDAHO 50, and value our continued partnership with Homotopia in this important area."

A spokesman for the Diocese of Liverpool The Diocese of Liverpool could refer to
  • the Anglican Diocese of Liverpool
  • the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool
 and Liverpool Cathedral adds: "As a cathedral that welcomes a wide range of people from across the world and welcomes diverse congregations to worship in our building, Liverpool Cathedral supports any initiative that promotes equality and works to end discrimination of minority groups. That is why we support the work of Homotopia and IDAHO 50."

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PRIDE: Liverpool will be the first city to mark IDAHO OVER THE RAINBOW: Gary Everett artistic director of Homotopia
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:1U8ID
Date:May 15, 2012
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