Friday, June 4, 2010

Conference controversy

First day of the main conference

Today, 4 June 2010, the main conference of the International Congress on Gender Identity and Human Rights officially opened at the Faculty of Law, University of Barcelona. Immediately after the opening plenary, sentiments that have been festering among the international participants started to bubble up to the surface. People lamented the fact that they were working with limited information. The opening plenary coincided with a session that was not announced. Nobody knew where the rooms were for the parallel sessions. I myself was given wrong directions for a workshop I wanted to attend. By the time I found the right room, I was so tired and had gone up and down several flights of stairs.

Many began commenting about the lack of organization and coordination between the local organizers here in Barcelona and the organizers of the pre-conference. As well, the members of the International Executive Committee (IEC) expressly constituted for this historic gathering were feeling powerless over the program that everyone just got on the first day. Most of the sessions turned out to be very Northern Eurocentric in spite of the presence of many participants from Latin America, Asia, North America, Africa, and even Eastern Europe. There was also a seeming tension among the Spanish activists and many of us international participants are getting quite unfairly caught in the middle of their squabble.

No matter, we are here to move our global community of transactivists forward. We did not come here to fight with anyone but instead came here to link forces with our counterparts from other parts of the world. We are here to ensure that transgender human rights are being articulated in our different contexts in a concerted way.

With African participants

I am very to have met so many people here. It humbles me to know of the kind of struggle that other participants have in their home countries. The girls from Africa have told me of their difficulties (see pic above).

With Kenyan girl

The girl from Kenya who is very beautiful wants to be a model but she has found it difficult to look for work in her own country being trans (see pic above).

With Laxmi

A participant from India, Laxmi is a hijra and many of them are the poorest of the poor in Indian society.

With El Salvadorean & Spanish participants

I also took a picture with a girl from El Salvador (in the middle in the pic above) where many transwomen suffer continued violence, marginalization and discrimination.

Afternoon plenary

So it is clear what we all came here to do. We wanted to come up with a document outlining the human rights claims of the global transgender community that will be used to influence equality, diversity and anti-discrimination policy at the international, national and local levels. It is understandable that we may not all agree on how to go about it but I hope we will be able to put our differences aside and work in unison for this very important task. I hope that happens tomorrow.

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