Friday, 31 July 2009
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
The morning plenary was a treat. The speakers were Marcela Sanchez Buitrago from Columbia, Bin Xu from China, Morten Kjaerum from Denmak and Pascal Lepine from Canada. Each shared a different perspective in the forum entitled "National, Regional and International LGBT Human Rights: Our Goals and How to Get There". It was Bin Xu who told of China's Camp La La tha moved the audience to the edge of their seats. Camp La La was a workshop event with flip charts, small group discussions and things that we take for granted when we have a union course. But imagine this being done with lesbians, in China, for the first time ever. Incredible to see the advances being made in the LGBT communities in China.
It was interesting to have Pascal Lepine speak. His position is the Secretary General of the International Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Having a businessman speak to a group of prodominantly trade unions (or left leaners) was a gamble for the organizers, but one that paid off (so to speak). It is necessary to see where LGBT workers are, and not all are in the public sector, and what rights they have. The presentation led to much discussion between sessions.
The workshop I attended in the morning was entitled "Using the Internet to advance our Community: Building organizational capacity and writing about LGBT Travel and Culture Worldwide". Rather than describe the workshop, I encourage you to check out the new links found on the right hand side of the page.
After a lunch break it was off to another workshop - "The role of Unions in Working towards LGBT Equality". Here we had presenters from Slovenia, Australia and Canada. Questions were raised such as - how the LGBT activists from around the world can stay connected after conferences like this? What medium is best for promoting and advancing issues? What is the relationship between unions and political parties? How can we build on past successes and share in the best way with others? Lively discussion ensued after the presentation.
And then the final plenary - an opportunity to look at International LGBT Human Rights. Dignitaries from Sweden, Thailand, South Africa and the United States shared insites as to how international coalitions worked, but stressed the importance of grassroots movements at a local level is a crutial means for making global change.
Music, Speeches, Tears, Three wonderful days of the Workers Out Conference. And then Paula Ettelbrick, former Executive Director, International Gay and Lesbian human Rights Commission, turned to the audience and said "and there you have it. Its now up to us." The activists in the room, and the activists around the world, are ready for the challenge.
Thank you for travelling with CUPE. I'll have one more blog with some final images in a few days.
Tuesday, 28 July 2009
ci-haut une photo avec Georgina Beyer, femme inspirante!
The first plenary was entitled: "Making a Real Political Change: Out LGBT Politicians and Our Allies". Here we were treated to presentations by Sunil Babu Pant from Nepla, Georgina Beyer from New Zealand, Rogerio Sottili from Brazil and Belinda Pyke from the United Kingdom. There was a breadth of messages being conveyed to the delegates as there is a giant range of rights achieved throughout the world. I was particularly taken by some of Sunil Babu Pant's comments. He said about our activism, "Its not just about improving our rights, its about saving our lives". He also shared a story of faith. In his culture, there is a belief that a messenger from God comes to write the fate of a child on the sixth day of their life. He expressed that with Nepal's new ammendments to their constitution, these messengers can now write that fate, and an LGBT child can fully achieve what has been written.
It was great to hear from Georgian Beyer. She is the first out trans elected member of parliament in the world. (though she is quick to say that there were trans before her though not out). I had the good fortune to have had a three minute conversation with her three years ago in Montreal. And I'm sure that she recalled that conversation when we met again today for another three minute gab.
The morning workshope I attended was Sexual Orientation and Work Life hosted by The Norwegian, Swedish and Danish confederation of trade unions (LO). This organization has been striving to bring equity to the workplace over the past 20 years. Their initial focus was gender parity, then dealing with immigration issues and over the past 4 years, have brought a focus to LGBT issues.
After lunch the delegates again reconvened for a plenary session. the one was entitled "Our Rights, Our Differences; The Global and Diverse LGBT Community". The heart was tugged as we heard from Lawrence Mute form Kenya, Rasha Moumneh from Lebanon, Amaranto Gomez Ragalado from Mexico and Michelle Douglas from Canada. Stories of murder just because one is trans, oppression because one is not understood, alienation because one is different. And hearing that there is not one solution. A clear message was that time needs to be taken to hear, before taking action.
The second workshop I took in was entitled "Gay Bashing and Discrimination" presented by Canada and Denmark. A very sad reality in our society that bashing and discrimination can occur. As trade unionists we need to be there for members who this happens to. We can create a trusting environment with simple things like having a rainbow decal at the shop stewards desk, or having LGBT material in our workspace.
Monday, 27 July 2009
en soirée une promenade dans les rues de Copenhague pour voir quelques spectacles présentés par les OutCities. Voilà! on se reparle demain!
And so the Workers Out Conference began today with gusto. Set at the beautiful new DR Public Broadcast building, and the adjoining IT University, LGBT activists from around the world began their formal meetings. The morning commenced with a plenary session hosted by Svend Robinson and Rebeca Sevilla. As organizers of the Human Rights Conference, which incorporates the Workers Out Conference, they welcomed the delegates and thanked everyone for travelling such distance to attend this important Conference.
A special guest at the morning plenary was Axel Axgil. He was greeted with a standing ovation as the masses wanted to thank him for taking the leap - being the first man to marry a partner of the same sex. At 95, Mr Axgil is still spry and still taking on causes. The eloquence of his speech enamored the audience.
Delegates were also treated by presentations by:
Ritt Bjerregaard, Lord Mayor of Copenhagen
Virginai Apuzzo, Author and former American Politician
John Amaechi, retired NBA player and the first member of the NBA to come out
Regina Orozco, "Mexican maga star and diva celebrity"
There was then a workshop for the Workers Out Delegates. A panel discussion on education and issues arising in the LGBT community.
Haldis Holst, an educator from Norway, shared some activist actions
1 - Share a story
2 - Share your knowledge and experience with a teacher
3 - Build alliances and join forces, together you are stronger
4 - Never give up on unions!
The Afternoon plenary was dazzling! First up was Cleve Jones, who warmed the audience instantly by acknowledging that he was not Emile Hirsch, who played him in the movie Milk. He spoke of the changes that are happening in America with the results of the past election, and the impact of 8 years of republican govenment. Suffice to say that all delegates will be fired up for rallys on October 11, 2009 when Queer Americans ask for equality.
The plenary continued with personal and powerful stories that would propel anyone into action. Suk Hong, Kemone Brown and Parvez Sharma balanced delgates through levity and tears, enriching all with the knowledge that one person taking a step, can make a giant difference in this world.
The afternoon concluded with another workshop. Several of the CUPE delegates went to the session "30 Years after Nancy Wechsler and Harvey Milk". It was made clear that despite advances made during the past three decades, there is still much political action to be done.
Sunday, 26 July 2009
Si certaines femmes se sentent seules, sachez que nous ne le sommes pas!
Hier soir, j'ai eu la chance d'être parmi des gens très impliqués dans leur milieu syndical et qui sont venus afin de continuer ce magnifique travail commencé. C'était une rencontre de préparation pour les délégués de l'IE (Internationale de l'Éducation) et de ISP (International des Services Publics).
Aujourd'hui, 8 du matin, donc 2 heures pour vous!, commence la conférence! Je vous rerparle plus tard de cette première journée et j'aurai des photos!
And it was back to work this evening as Public Service International hosted an informal meeting for activists. The meeting was attended by delegates from Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Netherlands, Sweden, Canada amongst others. Among the speakers at the meeting was Michael Butler from CUPE who spoke on what transpired in the planning of the 2006 conference in Montreal, and shared suggestions as to how to make learnings resonate after the conference concludes.
Some highlights of the opening ceremony for me were:
- Visiting with our friend Svend Robinson while we queued up.
- The thunderous cheers from Copenhageners as participants entered the City Hall outdoor square.
- An appearance from Axel Axgil, the first man to marry a same sex partner.
- The poignant absence of participants from countries where homosexuality is a capital offence.
- High wire trapeze artists spinning over the crowd, the sky darkens with clouds leading to cascading rain, and each drop of rain caught the lights from the stage illuminating the crowds and the performers, all while the song "Love is in the Air" played loudly and truly.
The Conference begins on Monday. We're energized and excited to participate.
Many thanks to Dylan and Joanne who took these pics, and also from the earlier outcities afternoon.