Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Day 2 at the Workers Out Conference!

And another incredible day filled with passion, learning and sharing. The format of the conference repeated from yesterday - two plenary sessions for all delegates, and two workshop sessions where delegates selected to attend one of about fifteen choices.

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.

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