|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
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.
Board Member, SASOD – Guyana