Nearly 2,000 delegates from more than 100 countries travelled to Montréal yesterday Wednesday to attend the largest human-rights conference on issues of interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) individuals.
Legal scholars, judges, activists, researchers, rights advocates, academics, union representatives and journalists are among those who gathered for the four-day International Conference on LGBT Human Rights, which is tied to the 1st World Outgames.
“The large number of delegates coming from all over the globe will undoubtedly provide new contacts, new impulses and new bridges to enhance the vitally needed international work,” said Radio Sweden broadcaster Bill Schiller, a gay and lesbian rights activist who is scheduled to speak.
According to The Montréal Gazette, comedienne Robin Tyler left Canada in the ’60s because she had heard that the United States was more accepting of gays.
“Isn’t that ironic?” she said in a recent Gazette phone interview. “Now Canada has passed civil rights for gays, and the US is still dominated by religious fanatics.”
She recalled a visit to Montréal during the planning stages of the Outgames and rights conference, where she was greeted warmly by the mayor and other politicians.
“I was not just tolerated, but treated as a welcomed human being, in a country that has full equal rights, a rare thing in this world.”
Keynote speakers at the conference include Alice Nkom, a lawyer who is defending 11 men imprisoned for being gay in Cameroon; Walter Schubert, founder of the Gay Financial Network and the first openly gay member of the New York Stock Exchange; Ashok Row Kavi, HIV activist and founder of Bombay Dost, India’s first registered gay magazine; and Georgina Beyer, the world’s first transsexual Member of Parliament from New Zealand.
There will be 200 workshops with topics such as Transgender People in the Workplace, Real and Perceived Barriers to Being Out in Pro Sports, Public Executions in Iran: What Can We Do?, Challenging Anti-Sodomy Laws in the South and Equality and Equity in Zimbabwe.
“I feel that many, in North America particularly, don’t have any idea about what people go through in developing countries – how their sexuality plays such a huge role is subjugating them even further than the poverty, ethnicity, class and other factors dictate,” said Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, co-secretary of the Brussels-based International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), in the Gazette report.
Flamer-Caldera also is an activist with a small group called Equal Ground in her native Sri Lanka.
“We are fighting for the rights of all those who are marginalized due to their sexual orientation and gender identity – in a country where homosexuality (both men and women) is still a criminal offence,” she said of her homeland.
Montreal decided to start the Outgame after a disagreement between local organisers and the Federation of Gay Games, which the city was originally set to host. The Gay Games were later handed to Chicago.
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