Monday, July 13, 2015

The Inaugural Meeting on LGBTI Political Leadership in Latin America and the Caribbean




Caribbean delegation at the conference
The Inaugural Meeting on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Political Leadership in Latin America and the Caribbean was held in Lima, Peru from September 4 – 6, 2014. The meeting, organized by PromSex (Peru), Caribe Afirmativo (Columbia) and The Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute (United States), saw more than 150 attendees representing organizations in more than 20 countries across Latin America and  the Caribbean including Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia,  Peru, Columbia, United States, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Bahamas, Barbados, St. Lucia and others.
Over the course of three days, we were engaged in stimulating discussions on a number of areas in which LGBTI persons can contribute towards a political movement in their respective countries. We were specifically challenged to use the knowledge as best as we can to increase our political involvement.
The hosting of this inaugural meeting at a time when our country was facing political uncertainty due to the lack of Local Government Elections and the possibility of General Elections was not lost on me as I took in the words and advice from the speakers in attendance while I listened to their strategies, struggles and experiences. The inspiration drawn from the progress made by our brothers and sisters from Latin America provided an impetus to return to Guyana and become more active in the work that is being done by advocates across all fields.


Part of the Caribbean contingent in Peru
Throughout our meeting there were several different plenary sessions which covered many areas and featured a plethora of different participants as they discussed various topics such as Assessing the Progress and Challenges in the future of LGBTI persons in Political Leadership, The Challenges and Strategies of LGBTI Leaders in Political Parties, and The Challenge of Integrating one’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity into a Political Agenda.  While there were many of these sessions, there were also several smaller workshops which provided specific insights on various agendas, including being provided with key information and tools that are necessary towards creating a good campaign.
On many of the panels sat persons who brought their unique style and diverse experience to share as there were discussions that featured LBGTI persons who are part of the political process in their cities such as the Mayor of Long Beach California. There were high-level government employees, lawyers, political scientists, and university professors from the many countries in attendance.
These sessions were often well moderated but as a testament to the stimulating nature of the discussions, many of the sessions lasted longer than the projected time as the attendees engaged in discussions. The questions were many by those in the audience and the experts did a fabulous job of answering, engaging the audience and providing their opinions and expertise on areas that they were questioned about. Maria Rachid who is a legislator from Argentina was a particular star with the crowd and there was indisputable respect for her and the work that she has done in her native country while also running a successful campaign to be elected by the public to hold office.
While for many of us in Guyana and across the Caribbean who still linger in the shadows of colonialism, expired traditions and outdated laws may raise an eyebrow at the thought of an openly LGBTI persons even remotely considering the idea being part of a political leadership, we should not let that thought derail our involvement. While in Peru we were given first-hand accounts of the strides that individual advocates were able to achieve such as Carlos Bruce who is an openly gay Congressman in Peru; Maria Rachid, lesbian Lawmaker from Argentina and others. We were reminded that simply being an active part of a movement or part of a group represents a level of participation which is firstly a start; we must then build on that start.
Selfie
At the end of this, which was my first international meeting representing SASOD, I came away with a sense of belonging and motivation. I came away feeling so energized that after reaching home and realizing that I was in four countries in less than a day trying to get back here. I was still motivated by many of the words and experiences that were shared. I came away after forming bonds with fellow advocates from the Caribbean which includes Colin Robinson (CAISO – Trinidad & Tobago), Erin Greene (SASH – Bahamas), Kenita Placide (United & Strong – St. Lucia), Mark Clifford (Pride in Action – Jamaica) and Peter Wickham (CADRES – Barbados) which I hope and trust will mature in great relationships that will help towards advancing the cause of LBGTI persons throughout Guyana and the Caribbean.

Carl Greaves
Board Member, SASOD – Guyana