Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The 2nd International Conference on LGBT Human Rights

Finally, the World Outgames 2009 is over and I am back home safe. I am still nursing my jet lag though. I flew into Manila on Monday afternoon, August 3, and I have been very sleepy and lethargic since. Every night beginning Monday, I have been waking up at around 3 am. I would then be up for an hour or so (sometimes more) until sleep beckons again. The last week has been really hellish. I have not slept well and have been waking up bedraggled and a little haggard so I hope to overcome this within the week.

As I promised in my last post, I will talk about the 2nd International Conference on LGBT Human Rights. The conference was the main reason why I went to Copenhagen. It was one of three tracks that the Outgames offered to its participants, the other two being Sports and Culture. The conference was scheduled from July 27-29 and those three days covered 6 plenary sessions (one in the morning and one in the afternoon of each day) and more than 100 workshops dealing with nine conference themes: Human Rights & Politics, Out for Business, Workers Out!, Culture & Media, Health, Education, Sport, Family & Relationships, and Sexuality, Pleasure & Body Politics.

Georgina speaking

The plenary sessions had two distinguished trans-identified women speaking on different days: Amaranta Gomez Regalado, an indigenous transwoman, to be exact a Muxe from Mexico and Georgina Beyer, who is of Maori descent and the first transsexual woman in the world to be elected Mayor and Member of Parliament in New Zealand (see her pic above). As I may have mentioned in other posts, I have been looking forward to hearing Georgina speak and meeting her in person at last. For many trans people across the world, Georgina is one of our many heroines. She has led a truly inspiring life from being a sex worker to becoming a cabaret performer. Then from that she went on to become an actress and later became the first out trans woman to be elected Mayor and member of the New Zealand Parliament.

Georgina was a dynamite in person. The word that comes to mind now is "fierce". She truly is, in the words of Cosmo magazine, a fun, fearless female. She was so full of energy, life and wit. When she spoke, she commanded the attention of the plenary hall completely. You could see that every single lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender person in that room was hanging on to her every word. More importantly too, you could also feel that Georgina had nothing but love for all. With every word she uttered, she was raising us all up. It was also splendid that she chose not to speak behind the lectern provided for the keynote speakers. Instead, like anyone who is so attuned to themselves and comfortable in their own skin, she chose to move freely on stage, talking candidly, comfortably and tenderly to the worldwide LGBT community that loves her so. It was truly an honor seeing her in this light.

After the plenary session where she spoke, I could not hide my agitation waiting for her to come out. I was chatting with some people outside the hall who had nothing but high praises for Georgina, when at the corner of my eye, I saw her come out of the plenary hall. I immediately excused myself and rushed to her. She was speaking to another trans activist and I just cut in and introduced myself. I handed my camera to one of the women I was talking to who also rushed to Georgina's side and told her to take pictures immediately ( see my pic with Georgina below).

Meeting Georgina

I felt like a giddy fan when Georgina shook my hand and told me that she had met someone from the Philippines the night before. I told her that I was a big fan of hers. I adored her and just wanted to thank her for the inspiration she has given to so many trans people across the world. By her life and her achievements, she has empowered many of us who have only known defeat. By her example, she has shown the LGBT community the heights that one could reach if they just believed in themselves and the power of their dreams. By simply being herself, she has demonstrated to the whole world that change is possible and that that change can be facilitated one person at a time by people like Georgina who live their lives openly, honestly and as humanly possible as can be.

It was such a thrill meeting Georgie Girl as Georgina is fondly called. That moniker incidentally is also the title of a movie based on her life released in 2001. It's always momentous to finally meet people you hold in such high esteem and it becomes even more a treat when they turn out as expected. This was my experience meeting Georgina in person but I know that such a thing does not happen all the time which led a writer friend of mine to once quip "Even the gods when approached lose their halos." Georgina did not lose her halo at the 2nd International Conference on LGBT Human Rights. What's more I think she became even more prominent in the eyes of the global LGBT community. Her presence there added to her myth and mystique. I do wish her all the happiness in the world.

Aside form Georgina I also had the privilege of meeting transgender rights advocates and allies from other parts of the world. I met people from South and Southeast Asia, Africa, North America, Latin America and Europe (see pic below). It was really a life-changing experience to know that we are everywhere and that our issues share similarities wherever we are in the world. More importantly, it was heart-warming to know that there are people in every nation and continent standing up for the human right to be oneself and to live a life of dignity.

With other transgender rights advocates

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