13 DECLARATION OF MONTREAL 2006
International Conference on LGBT Human Rights issues Declaration of Montreal 8/06
February 17, 2006
First Canadian Gay Library at University of Western Ontario
by Terry Vanderheyden
London, Ontario – The University of Western Ontario (UWO) officially opened Canada’s only homosexual library Tuesday, called the Pride Library, at an event attended by approximately 200 people. “ Valentine’s Day at Western is never going to be the same again,” quipped the library’s founder, university professor James Miller, according to a London Free Press report. Miller founded a Gender, Sexuality, and Culture program at UWO. “It’s got to be the queerest Valentine’s Day we’ve had.”
The new library is situated on the main floor of the University’s D.B. Weldon Library, and houses over 5,500 books on a range of homosexual subjects. The help desk in the library has a sign reading “Queeries,” and boasts of a unique search engine that understands “queer” lingo. “ At Western, we embrace diversity as a defining principle of our university, and this facility represents our commitment to providing a social and academic dimension for these individuals and groups,” said UWO President Paul Davenport, according to Western News.
Mathieu Chantelois, host of PrideVision TV’s Read Out, commended the University for creating a place that is great for homosexual persons to meet. “You have something we don’t have in Toronto. I am extremely jealous,” he said. Besides its allure as a place to read and research, it is an ideal location “To flirt, to find boyfriends and girlfriends, that is important as well.”
Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the euthanasia prevention coalition and a UWO alumnus, told LifeSiteNews.com, “I believe that the decision to open a ‘pride’ library means that the administration of UWO and Mr. Davenport in particular, have decided to become known for their outwardly radical positions. We need to respond by not donating to UWO and not sending our children to attend UWO,” he urged.
April 4, 2006
Swimming Olympian Mark Tewksbury reveals his struggles being gay in new book
by Dene Moore Canadian Press, Montreal
After a thrilling gold medal performance at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Canadian swimmer Mark Tewksbury should have been on top of the world. He had both the gold and a bronze medal around his neck, he made the cover of Time magazine and he had dozens of lucrative endorsement deals.
But Mr. Tewksbury had never felt so alone. "I felt like a fraud," he recalled in an interview. The strapping swimmer with the movie-star looks had a secret. He is gay and very few knew about it, not even his family. "Keeping up the image of Canada’s boy next door, while feeling a lot like the girl next door wasn’t very easy," Mr. Tewksbury writes in his new book, Inside Out: Straight Talk from a Gay Jock. The book recounts his childhood in the arm-punching world of jocks, through his first kiss, his ensuing effort to keep his sexuality secret and finally, as he puts it, "home sweet homo." The outspoken athlete, who also won silver at the 1988 Seoul Olympics as well as 13 national titles, is arguably one of the country’s highest-profile gay activists.
He has been inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
This year, he’s co-president of the first-ever World Outgames, set for Montreal this summer. But in the years after 1992, Mr. Tewksbury struggled. "From the outside looking in, it appeared that I was living a dream life," he writes. In real life, he had told his family of his sexual orientation shortly after the Barcelona Games and it didn’t go well. Although his mother is now one of his most ardent supporters, it took time. His first real relationship had fallen apart and he lived in fear of being publicly exposed as a homosexual.
Then, in 1998, Mr. Tewksbury lost a six-figure deal as a motivational speaker for a financial institution because he was "too openly gay." In December, 1998, he became the first Canadian athlete to voluntarily declare his homosexuality. "It’s one thing to have a gay theatre director," Gilles Marchildon of EGALE Canada said. "It’s sort of accepted. "It’s quite another to have an openly gay athlete.
There are gay athletes and Mark is proof of that. We hear less about them because there is, still, a lower tolerance level in professional sports." Inside Out, his second book, will be launched at Montreal’s Blue Metropolis Literary Festival tomorrow and will be available across the country April 20.
May 20, 2006
Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers to tie the knot
On a Friday night in June, constables Jason Tree and David Connors will don their scarlet dress uniforms, stand before family, friends, and coworkers, and be married in what will apparently be the first same-sex marriage in Royal Canadian Mounted Police history. In an interview in their home on Wednesday, the men said they’ve had great support from the national police force, the community, and their families.
The pair, who’ve dated since their days at the University of New Brunswick more than eight years ago, will be married by a justice of the peace on June 30. Each will write his own vows, and each will have a best man. While the couple expects plenty of their fellow officers to attend, they have not yet decided whether they’ll have their colleagues form an honor guard for them. They plan to honeymoon in France and England. (Sirius OutQ News)
June 14, 2006
An Iranian Gay Activist’s-Arsham Parsi-Moving Plea
Yesterday, on June 13 in Toronto, Arsham Parsi, human rights secretary of the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization (PGLO), was the featured speaker at the gala dinner jointly held by Egale Canada (Canada’s national gay rights group) and ARC International (the Canadian-based organization that works on international gay projects).
Parsi, who is under death sentence in Iran for being a gay activist, was recently granted permanent asylum in Canada, and moved there last month from Turkey, where he had been coordinating the efforts to support gay refugees from Iran’s anti-gay reign of terror. I’ve been working with Parsi for a year now as I’ve been reporting on the lethal anti-gay pogrom in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and I’ve been deeply impressed by this selfless young man’s dedication to the Iranian gay freedom struggle, and by his courage.
Below is the text of his moving speech to the Canadian gay activists:
My name is Arsham Parsi. I am the spokesperson and secretary of human rights affairs of the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization. We have been in existence for three years, and through this period we have become recognized by many gay and lesbian organizations throughout the world. We based most of our activities through internet communication. We must communicate solely by internet as we do not have the freedom to work in a public forum in our country. We do not have any sponsors locally in Iran as the religious extremists do not support gay rights, but would rather see all LGBT people silenced.
However, we are recognized by individuals and organizations that have been generous in their financial, political, and moral support. Our main objective in the PGLO is to bring about a safe environment for all LGBTs in Iran whether it be at home, work, school, or in public; Freedom from harassment, torture, imprisonment, and religious intolerance.
I mentioned that I am the spokesperson of this organization, but let me add that I see and value this job far beyond what a regular employee might assume its organizational position to be and work for it. It is the most important thing in my life to be the spokesperson. It is a strong love and devotion that I have within me. There is a Music of Freedom that is in my heart. It is bursting inside me. I want everybody to hear this music, this music of freedom that my brothers and sisters in Iran cannot hear or are not allowed to hear.
I became the spokesperson voluntarily because a voice was needed to be heard above the shrill cries of gay condemnation of the Islamic government. When my transsexual friend committed suicide under the pressure of her society and her family, and I saw her withered body and cold contracted hands on her breast I became the spokesperson.
When my friend, Nima, a young gay man took his life due to police brutality and under the pressure of his family by eating arsenic, and I saw his lifeless body that slept like a beautiful angel I heavily cried and I became the spokesperson.
When I saw my friends in the hallways of the central court of Shiraz, and heard their cries of pain from the lashes that had tortured them I cried too. But this also made me stronger in my desire to speak out. I learned about a gay couple who had celebrated with a private function their new lives together. The security forces discovered this celebration and started to trace this couple. Fortunately, this couple were able to escape detention, and one of them could escape to Turkey.
But we surely know that not many other gay people in Iran have been as successful in getting through their cases and saving their lives. When the Islamic government forbade the access of transsexuals to the public buildings in the big cities of Iran, when a gay man was severely beaten in a park in the central Tehran, when another gay was sentenced to the lash in Esfahan, when a group of my friends were detected in chat rooms and entrapped by the police, when another transsexual was severely beaten to the point where she lost 50 percent of her hearing in one ear, when gays were verbally and sexually abused in a police station in some cities of Iran, and in many other outrageous instances there was no one to speak for them and to reveal to the world what Iranian LGBTs suffer.
We have a critical situation in Iran that must be resolved. Thus, I became the spokesperson of the PGLO to air the grievances and to show the world the true situation of persecutions that we suffer. I call upon all noble-minded people to stop, listen, and make an effort to help us. I had to escape from my homeland as a death warrant was issued by the Islamic government. That is how the Islamic government rewards members of LGBT community for speaking out for human rights. I have gone through many hardships in reaching my new homeland.
Today, I am truly glad to be in a supportive and modern society that is progressive and which understands exactly how I feel. I am speaking tonight because so many of my brothers and sisters are caged birds, unable to sing a song of freedom. I was able to take a flight of freedom through the efforts of PGLO and your help and reach here. Other birds are waiting to fly freely. They need to see a dawn of freedom in Iran.
I am positive that this glorious dawn is not too far from now. I am determined to register the PGLO in Toronto. Iranian LGBT people need to be in a direct and tangible relationship with an organization that claims to be their voice in a broader spectrum. How can they finely experience the sweet taste of unity and togetherness while seating lonely in their rooms? I have arrived in Canada with a burden of responsibility of working for my LGBT friends. With your help we can achieve all we set out to do. I have received a welcome to Canada by very warm hands and I am sure that my hands will be taken with more hands.
Where are those arms that will open and embrace my tired and tormented body? Where are those ears that will listen to my painful stories? And where are those eyes and lips that will console my pains through the words that they can tell me? They exist and I will find them. I am ready to give my hands and offer my shoulders to all my LGBT fellows and friends to put their heads on and cry for their time that has brought them this much of injustice. I will summon their tears and motivate them to change their sighs of regret to the shouts for freedom in the battle against ignorance, outrage and injustice in our society.
June 25, 2006
Iran’s Gay Refugees Find a Safe Haven in Canada
Today’s Toronto Star has a feature piece by David Graham on gay refugees, "Fearless in Canada," (see report #5 below) timed to coincide with the city’s Gay Pride March, also today. The Star article profiles our admirable friend Arsham Parsi (right), human rights secretary of the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization Arsham was recently granted asyluym in Canada; if you missed Arsham’s moving speech at the June 13 dinner of Égale Canada, the country’s national gay rights group, you can read that speech by clicking here. (see report #4 above).
The Star also takes a look at the plight of gay refugees from Iran and other countries where homosexuality is persecuted, and why so many have chosen Canada as their refuge. Says the Star: " As Toronto Pride Week reaches its culmination with today’s Pride Parade, one could easily forget that in many parts of the world, it is extremely dangerous to be gay. In some cases, it’s not just the state that harasses and sometimes executes homosexuals, but the intolerant citizenry as well. So, for some foreign-born celebrants and their loved ones, Pride Week’s theme of ‘fearless in 2006’ strikes a particularly resonant chord."
This lengthy article includes quotes from Canadian immigration lawyer and gay activist Michael Battista: " Often, they [gay refugees] have spent a lifetime suppressing, hiding and lying about their sexual orientation to save their lives," says the lawyer, who has spent the past 14 years assisting gays and lesbians who fear harassment, torture and even death if Canada won’t let them in. "Soon after they’ve arrived in Canada they are at a hearing, and they are asked to prove one, that they are homosexual, and two, that they cannot return home," says Battista, who leads about 40 homosexual refugee applicants through the process each year.
" In many cases, they haven’t directly experienced problems of persecution. Because the conditions are so oppressive, they are too fearful to express their sexual orientation or sexual identity in any sense." Battista recalls one of his earliest clients being an older man from Iran who was seeking protection based on his sexual orientation. " But he couldn’t even say the words. He was at the airport in tears of frustration trying to explain to the immigration officer why he was seeking asylum in Canada, and he was saying, `It’s because of who I am. It’s because of who I am,’ and the officer was asking, `Is it political? Is it religious?’
" And finally the officer said, `Are you gay?’ And the poor man burst into tears. That was the first time there had been an official recognition of who he was, his sexual orientation. That story will always stay with me."
For background on the new wave of anti-gay repression in Iran, see my previous Toronto Star articles:
July 21, 2005:–Iran Executes Two Gay Teenagers (Updated);
August 11 — Iran Sources Question Rape Charges in Teen Executions;
August 12 — Two New Gay Executions Scheduled in Iran, Says Iranian Exile Group;
August 17 — Iran’s Deadly Anti-Gay Crackdown: With Two More Executions Scheduled, the Pace of Repression Steps Up.
August 25 — Iran’s Anti-Gay Purge Grows: Reports of New Executions.
September 8 — Iran and the Death of Gay Activism.
September 20 — "They’ll Kill Me" — A Gay Iranian Torture Victim Speaks of His Ordeal ;
September 29 — Iranian Gays Urgently Appeal for Help ;
October 5 –"Shocking New Photo of Hanging of Gay Iranian Teens";
October 6 — Canada Introduces UN Resolution Condemning Iran’s Human Rights Record;
November 24, "Save Us"– A Gay Iranian Who Married His Partner Begs for Help from the West ;
January 12, 2006 — "Kidnapped: Another Gay Iranian Torture Victim Speaks";
January 4, 2006 — "Iran’s Anti-Gay Pogrom";
January 27, 2006 — "A Call to Solidarity: U.S. Gay Groups Must End Their Isolationism;
February 8, 2006 — "An Iranian Trans Torture Victim Speaks from Inside Iran."
February 9, 2006–Stop the Deportation of Saba Rawi;
March 3, 2006– "Dutch to End Freeze on Deportation of Gay Iranians";
March 4, 2006– "Commotion in Dutch Parliament Over Deportation of Gay Iranians.";
March 16, 2006– "England: Another Gay Iranian Faces Deportation";
April 20, 2006– "Dutch Deportations of Gay Iranians on Hold";
April 26, 2006– "iran Hacks Websites to Bury Anti-Gay Pogrom";
May 31, 2006– "Iran Exports Anti-Gay Pogrom to Iraq";
June 14, 2006– "An Iranian Gay Activist’s Moving Plea."
June 25, 2006
Fearless in Canada-a beacon of tolerance and human dignity
Canada is the new home of choice for many homosexuals fleeing repressive countries.
by David Graham
They come from countries where they must hide their identity, where homosexuals are shunned, beaten, even hanged. But now they’ve found refuge in a country that has become a beacon of tolerance and human dignity. Arsham Parsi had barely crossed the border into Turkey when he received the email. It was shattering. Two gay teenagers, it said, had been tortured and publicly hanged in his homeland of Iran. Mahmoud Asgari, 16, and Ayaz Marhoni, 18, were executed because they had contravened strict Islamic morality laws that command the death penalty for gay sex. "I had never met them, but I cried and cried," says the small, immaculately groomed gay activist, who won refugee status in Canada last month.
Parsi, 25, fled Iran in March 2005, the moment he learned through friends that government officials were looking for him. He was in Ankara and applying for asylum in Canada when he learned about the teens’ fate, which could very well have been his own. "The judge has four choices," explains Parsi with remarkably little emotion. "You can be hanged, stoned to death, beheaded or pushed from a precipice." In the mid-1990s, an exiled Iranian gay-rights group, Homan, estimated that 4,000 homosexuals had been executed by the government since 1979. As Toronto Pride Week reaches its culmination with today’s Pride Parade, one could easily forget that in many parts of the world, it is extremely dangerous to be gay.
In some cases, it’s not just the state that harasses and sometimes executes homosexuals, but the intolerant citizenry as well. So, for some foreign-born celebrants and their loved ones, Pride Week’s theme of "fearless in 2006" strikes a particularly resonant chord.
Because it arguably sets the gold standard for gay rights around the world, Canada is the new home of choice for many homosexuals fleeing repressive countries. Only a few other nations (Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain) can match our record of legalizing gay marriage and adoptions by gay and lesbian couples, or our strong anti-discrimination laws. " I think Canada is a beacon of hope for a lot of refugee claimants," says immigration lawyer and gay community activist Michael Battista, who has represented many gays and lesbians seeking refugee status.
"We are known internationally for having one of the fairest refugee determination systems, where a person can actually go face to face with a decision maker and try to persuade that decision maker on the basis of their claim. Where (lesbian, gay, bi and transgendered) asylum seekers are concerned, Canada does have a remarkable reputation. I’ve asked many claimants why they chose Canada, and they tell me, `I first started thinking about it when I heard about the marriage case. I thought this is a country that will respect who I am.’
" Of his homeland, Parsi notes: "Gay men are tortured routinely. When I heard his screams and saw the lash marks on my friend Amir’s back, I felt his pain." Parsi, who lived with his parents in Shiraz and was a manager at a lighting company, knew his activism was punishable by death. By voicing opposition to Islamic laws on the Internet, particularly through the three-year-old Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization, by helping gay men gain access to HIV tests and by secretly distributing condoms, he was putting his life on the line.
Parsi and his Iranian friends lived in constant fear of detection, entrapment by police and blackmail by strangers. Their social life was conducted underground, where house parties were routinely raided by plainclothes police officers, and a private evening of dancing and music could erupt into a nightmare of terror and humiliation. Pressed further into isolation, gay men in Iran use the Internet to communicate with relative anonymity, their conversations filled with stories of harassment, beatings, suicides, executions and "honour killings" by family members. (Iran also bans lesbian relations, punishing offenders initially with whipping. A fourth offence can yield the death sentence.)
Settled in Toronto less than two months, Parsi is enrolled in English courses and hopes to study human rights at university. He continues to raise awareness about conditions in Iran. "I couldn’t continue to do this work while living in Iran," he says. "I would have been killed. But I can do it here … I must pay a `freedom tax’ — I must continue to work to help gays and lesbians at home."
Iran is not the only country where those convicted of consenting adult homosexual relations are subject to the death penalty. According to a study conducted by Daniel Ottosson, a student of public law at Stockholm’s Sodertorn University, similar laws exist in Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and some parts of Nigeria, Somalia and the Chechen Republic in Russia. The whole realm of discrimination and intolerance can get complicated when you factor in religion, cultural values and gaps between official rules and what people will accept.
And in some nations, the laws themselves are complex. Countries including Algeria, Bhutan, Ethiopia, Lebanon and Trinidad and Tobago prohibit consensual homosexual behaviour for both men and women. Others, such as Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Malaysia and Uganda, ban only homosexual behaviour between men.
The International Lesbian and Gay Association, which tracks intolerance around the world, says sex between women is illegal in 51 nations, while sex between men is illegal in 76. Parsi notes that in his native country, homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death, yet sex-change operations are legal — because, he says, they are not mentioned in the Qur’an. In fact, according to an article last year in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper, Tehran is considered the sex-change capital of the world, attracting patients from Eastern Europe and Arab countries.
And, says Parsi, while 27 per cent of gender-reassignment patients genuinely feel they are trapped in the wrong body, at least 45 per cent are actually young gay men who think their chances of survival will be better if they simply became women. He cautions, however, that transgendered people are subject to persecution. In Russia, meanwhile, although homosexuality was decriminalized in 1993, intolerance is endemic. Last month in Moscow, an attempt at a Gay Pride parade met with extreme resistance. Mayor Yuri Luzhkov banned the May 27 parade, prompting a group of gay activists organized by Nikolai Alekseev to march anyway, one by one, toward the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a symbol of Russia’s victory over fascism in World War II.
Police closed the entrance to the tomb, where the activists were harassed and beaten by skinheads and people holding religious icons. Alekseev was arrested but says he has not yet been charged or fined. Though the small "parade" was cut short, in Alekseev’s eyes it was an enormous success. "It was the first time that the Russian media paid so much attention to this issue," he said, speaking by phone last week during a visit to Paris. "Coverage was mostly balanced." The story captured the attention of news organizations around the world. Alekseev was surprised by the reaction, most notably an invitation to debate the issue on a Russian television talk show with a member of the government. "We’ve been writing letters for years," he says. "We got replies that didn’t mean anything. Now it’s on the political agenda."
Victor, 57, was a gay activist and archivist and a university professor in Russia before gaining refugee status in Canada in 2001. "I spent years collecting articles, letters and documents about gays and lesbians in Russia," he says, clutching a manuscript he’s compiled for a book on homophobia in his native country. As the recent attempt at a parade in Moscow revealed, there’s a huge gulf there between legislated and actual tolerance. Victor believes it was too soon for a Pride parade in Moscow and fears the recent fracas will incite more hostility. "We don’t need a gay revolution," he says. "We need a gay evolution."
Victor, who had married a lesbian for appearances (a common practice there) in 1983, felt an impending sense of danger just before leaving Russia — particularly on one occasion when two plainclothes police officers approached him and asked if he would collaborate with them, presumably to out colleagues. "I was in shock," he recalls. "My apartment was full of gay papers that I’d spent my life collecting. I would be an enemy for my community." Fearful, he smuggled his incriminating papers out of the country with the assistance of lesbian friends and made his way to Canada. Now, though he struggles to assimilate, he yearns for home and "would really like to go back one day to continue my gay studies and to see old friends."
Immigration lawyer Battista understands how difficult it is for many gay people to seek asylum in Canada. "Often, they have spent a lifetime suppressing, hiding and lying about their sexual orientation to save their lives," says the lawyer, who has spent the past 14 years assisting gays and lesbians who fear harassment, torture and even death if Canada won’t let them in. "Soon after they’ve arrived in Canada they are at a hearing, and they are asked to prove one, that they are homosexual, and two, that they cannot return home," says Battista, who leads about 40 homosexual refugee applicants through the process each year.
"In many cases, they haven’t directly experienced problems of persecution. Because the conditions are so oppressive, they are too fearful to express their sexual orientation or sexual identity in any sense." Battista recalls one of his earliest clients being an older man from Iran who was seeking protection based on his sexual orientation. "But he couldn’t even say the words. He was at the airport in tears of frustration trying to explain to the immigration officer why he was seeking asylum in Canada, and he was saying, `It’s because of who I am. It’s because of who I am,’ and the officer was asking, `Is it political? Is it religious?’
"And finally the officer said, `Are you gay?’ And the poor man burst into tears. That was the first time there had been an official recognition of who he was, his sexual orientation. That story will always stay with me." Some gay refugees come here via the United States. A 35-year-old Turkish woman who asked that her name not be used lived in the United States illegally for 17 years before seeking asylum in Canada.
She had moved to New York as a teenager on a student visa, worked at low-paying jobs — at Wendy’s until her English improved, then in factories that required little or no documentation. In 2003, she fell in love and disclosed her illegal status to her partner. But the Turkish woman could not get refugee status. In the States, unlike Canada, one cannot sponsor one’s same-sex partner for immigration. And according to U.S. immigration law, says Battista, there is, "considerable emphasis placed on proving past personal persecution."
In Canada, it’s enough to prove that the threat exists. But that was a challenge, the Turkish woman says, because "we couldn’t find anything about lesbians in Turkey. There are no laws about being lesbian in Turkey." On Battista’s recommendation, the women filed a claim as a "refugee family." While the Turkish woman was the lead claimant, they won as a couple. "Her fear of returning to Turkey was recognized as justified by the refugee board," says Battista.
Vajdon Sohaili, 34, left Zimbabwe when he was 18. Like the Turkish woman, he moved to the United States with a student visa and stayed illegally. "I lived with the constant fear of being deported to Zimbabwe," he says of his country of origin, where male homosexuality is illegal. "And after 9/11, the fear deepened." Sohaili worked as a personal assistant in southern California, fell in love with an American citizen in 2000 and, as the prospect of living a committed life with someone became a reality, he realized he’d have to legalize his status. But it wasn’t going to happen in the States, so Sohaili and his boyfriend came to Canada on May 2, 2005.
They travelled the route of many refugees, driving to Buffalo and contacting Vive La Casa, a non-profit organization that walked them through the initial red tape and helped them get their interview at the border. What if they couldn’t get asylum in Canada? To be together, they were even considering going to Zimbabwe, though the prospect was chilling. "The people of Zimbabwe are pushed to the extreme of economic hardship," says Sohaili. "It is not beyond the realm of possibility that some people would blackmail us, to profit from out vulnerable situation. It was a very dark moment … I still get nervous when I think about it."
But Sohaili was successful and now works in Toronto in communications. He says his American partner is "wounded deeply" by the way they were treated in the United States. By not allowing him to identify Sohaili as his partner, "they rejected his right to have a family." Though he’s grateful to live in Toronto, Sohaili can’t repress the nagging guilt that perhaps he should have gone back to Zimbabwe, risked the persecution and become "an activist for change. I will always admire people who fight, who are visible."
In 1992, Canada was one of the first countries to interpret the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees to allow people to make claims based on sexual orientation. "Then," says Battista, "as an awareness grew that this was a valid basis for making a claim, my clientele grew. And as Canada’s laws began recognizing same-sex relationships, and as they diverged from the laws south of the border, there were more clients from the United States wanting to come here to enjoy a quality of life they don’t have there."
Gay refugees make up about one-quarter of Battista’s cases, with the remainder involving sponsorships — Canadians in relationships with people from other countries with whom they’ve lived for at least a year — or skilled workers (mostly American) who simply want to move here. The refugees come from all over the world, he says. "I can’t think of a place that I have not been involved in representing people."
To win a refugee case involving homosexuals, immigration lawyers have to establish two things: that their client is in fact gay, and that there is a risk of persecution in the client’s country of origin. Immigration lawyer Max Berger, who has handled many refugee claims based on sexual orientation, acknowledges that there are false claims. But, he counters, "the system is full of bogus refugee claimants, whether they are citing political or religious discrimination. There is a core of genuine cases and a cluster of copycat cases."
Berger even predicts false refugee claimants will attend today’s Pride parade to get photos they can present at their hearings. And he recalls an initial interview with one man who claimed refugee status based on his sexual orientation, then asked, "If this is successful can I sponsor my fiancée?"The answer was no. Proving homosexuality can be difficult. Often it comes down to the decision maker’s intuition, a sort of professional gaydar. "It’s a real roll of the dice," says Battista. "The same decision maker dealing with a claimant from Indonesia, where there are no laws against homosexuality, went positive on that claim, then with another one from Singapore (where male homosexuality is illegal), she went negative.
" It makes it easier if the claimant is from a country where it is illegal to be gay. But it’s not a slam-dunk.You have a country like Singapore (where) there is a real dearth of evidence of persecution of gay men, not because it doesn’t happen but because gay people are afraid to come forward to tell their stories. So it would be easy for a refugee decision maker to reject the claim. " Also, Battista continues, "the majority of refugee decision makers are not gay or lesbian, and there are certain heterosexual biases that prevent someone from truly being able to evaluate whether or not someone is gay or lesbian.
"This summer, the fellow whose lash marks so troubled Parsi — 24-year-old Amir — will move to Canada from Iran. Two years ago, he was caught in a massive Internet entrapment sweep that targeted gays throughout his country. Amir was horrified when he realized he’d made a date to meet a member of Iran’s secret sex police, and he was punished with 100 lashes, administered in public. But this was not his first run-in with the law. Amir was earlier arrested in a police raid on a house party. For his first offence, he was fined and released because the authorities could not prove sex had taken place. With two strikes against him, Amir’s life was in peril.
So he followed Parsi’s path to freedom, first through Turkey and now, soon, to refugee status in Canada. The Canadian Embassy in Ankara relayed the good news to Parsi."My friend Amir is coming," he says tearfully. "He’s in Turkey. He’s been accepted."
July 15, 2005
Montreal, Chicago battling for gay sports fans: Upstart Out Games event has early edge in registering athletes
by Lou Chibbaro Jr., firstname.lastname@example.org.
A breakaway organization promoting an international gay and lesbian sports competition in Montreal in July 2006 called Out Games has registered more athletes and teams than its rival Gay Games event, which is set to take place in Chicago two weeks earlier. But supporters of both events say it’s too soon to determine which one will draw the most participants and spectators as both sides wage an aggressive campaign to sign up paid registrants. The two sides are pushing their campaigns through upscale Web sites accessible in several languages. Elected officials and business leaders in both cities have joined the gay organizers to help promote the two events in an unprecedented effort to lure millions of gay tourist dollars to their hometowns.
At first, many gay sports enthusiasts predicted the two competing events would lead to a financial disaster for both and would dilute and split apart what had become a unified quadrennial gay event. Now, some are wondering whether the competition has triggered an unprecedented professionalism and such an overwhelming desire to come out ahead of the other that both events might turn out better than past Gay Games – both in attendance and the financial bottom line.
As of this week, officials with Out Games announced that 5,600 participants had registered and paid in full or in part to compete in the Montreal games, including at least 1,500 Americans. Gay Games officials said about 3,000 participants who paid their registration fees in full have signed up to participate in the Chicago events. Both sides said the participants who signed up come from more than 20 countries, with most expected to come from North America. Each side predicts at least 12,000 participants will attend their respective events.
Competing for more than athletes
The two sides are also competing to line up gay choruses and bands from Europe and North America. In recent years, the Gay Games evolved into a cultural festival as well as an athletic event, with extravaganza performances by choruses, bands and top-name entertainers taking place at stadiums where the opening and closing ceremonies are held.
"We still don’t know where most of our teams will go," said Brent Minor, president of Team D.C., an umbrella group that represents more than two-dozen D.C. area gay and lesbian sports teams and groups, ranging from soccer and golf to swimming and volleyball. "Team D.C. voted to support our participants, whichever event they choose to attend," Minor said. Minor said members of some of the D.C. teams, as well as teams in other cities, are taking a wait-and-see posture to determine which city will capture the top competition in a category of sporting event – such as soccer or swimming.
The San Francisco-based Federation of Gay Games, which was formed by the late gay Olympic athlete Tom Waddell in the 1980s, is credited with starting what has become known as an international gay and lesbian sports "movement." Waddell almost single-handedly put together the first Gay Games competition in San Francisco in 1982 following a legal ruling initiated by the International Olympics Committee that forced him to drop the name "Gay Olympics." The gay international sporting competition continued every four years since that time under the Gay Games title, growing each year in numbers. The founding event in 1982 drew 1,350 gay and lesbian athletes mostly from North America and Europe, according to Roger Brigham, communications director for the Federation of Gay Games.
The number of participants jumped to 12,500 in New York City in 1994, climbed to a record 13,000 in Amsterdam in 1998 and dropped back to 11,000 in Sidney, Australia in 2002, Brigham said. Shortly before the Sidney games were held, the FGG named Montreal the winner in a competition among gay sporting associations to sponsor the 2006 Gay Games. A short time later, the Montreal organizing committee, Montreal 2006, says it lined up generous sponsors from some of Canada’s largest corporations and persuaded the governments of Montreal, Quebec, and the national Canadian government to sign on as "partners" to the event and to kick in $1 million each to help finance the games. The committee called those developments historic, saying Canada’s entire governmental establishment had endorsed and agreed to help subsidize an international gay sporting event.
What happened next takes on an entirely different perspective and interpretation among the Gay Games and Out Games leaders. The Gay Games in Sydney, while hailed as a highly successful sports event, turned into a financial disaster, with millions of dollars in debt and gay and gay-friendly vendors left holding the bag with unpaid bills. Coming on the heels of similar financial problems with the previous two Gay Games in Amsterdam and New York, the FGG pushed through a series of rules changes that required the Montreal committee to turn over financial control of the event to the FGG. Up until that time, the committees for the host cities had full financial control over the events.
Former Olympic swimmer Mark Tewksbury has taken a lead role in preparing for the first Out Games, scheduled for next summer in Montreal. Among other things, the FGG wanted Montreal to scale back its initial budget from 24,000 participants to 12,000, saying a 24,000 turnout appeared unrealistic and could lead to financial problems similar to Sydney’s. FGG officials also requested that Montreal not link its sporting events to a planned international gay rights conference and to Montreal’s annual Gay Pride event known as Diversit . In addition, the FGG objected to the Montreal committee’s plans to link the Game Games to various circuit parties that have been associated with Diversit . "This just came out of the blue after we put together a detailed and what we thought was a highly successful business plan," said Mark Tewksbury, an Olympic athlete and one of the Canadians organizing the Montreal Games.
Tewksbury and other leaders of Montreal 2006 called the FGG rule changes unfair. They point out that nearly all of Montreal’s plans for the 2006 Gay Games – the projected 24,000 participants, the link to the Diversit Gay Pride festivities, and the international gay conference – were submitted to the FGG as part of Montreal’s bid for the games. No one raised objections to any of these proposals at that time, Tewksbury said.
Brigham, the communications director for FGG, said the organization’s international governing body, which includes representatives from nations in Europe and North America, approved the rules changes after assessing the financial problems encountered by Gay Games committees in New York, Amsterdam and Sydney. "The income projections have always been overblown," he said. "We are concerned about hurting local gay businesses," he said, noting that gay-owned businesses that have provided services to help put on the games often have been stiffed when the committees run out of money.
Brigham said FGG officials also decided – based on what he said was consultation with gay sporting teams in North America and abroad – that the Gay Games should stick to its original role as a sports event, with some performing arts and cultural activities like gay chorus and band performances. Linking the games with other events such as circuit parties, political conferences, and Pride events – as proposed by Montreal – would not be consistent with the Gay Games and its "mission" to promote the gay sports movement, Brigham said. According to Brigham, the FGG would have approved a larger budget to accommodate more than 12,000 participants later in the process, if Montreal succeeded in signing on more participants.
Negotiations break down
Nearly two years of negotiations followed. Each side has disputed claims by the other over the reasons the negotiations ultimately broke down. In November 2003, Montreal 2006 stunned the gay sports establishment by saying it would hold its own international gay sports competition in Montreal on the dates initially designated for the Gay Games: July 29ûAug. 5, 2006.
The group announced later that it had formed a new entity the Gay & Lesbian International Sports Association – and would take bids for Out Games II in 2010.
In March 2004, the FGG named Chicago as the host city for the "official" 2006 Gay Games. A newly formed Chicago organizing committee, Chicago Games, Inc., has since formed and hired gay corporate executive and past Gay Games athlete Brian McGuinness as CEO of the new organization. McGuinness is a Chicago native who learned to speak French while serving for three years as finance director for an international media company based in Paris, the Chicago Games Web site says.
With Montreal working hard to attract European participation, Chicago Games has been touting McGuinness’s international background and finance skills in what is shaping up as a heated public relations campaign between the two cities.
The Chicago mayor and the Illinois governor has each endorsed the Gay Games, and Chicago’s business establishment and Chamber of Commerce are pulling out all the stops to promote the event, said Kevin Beyer, chair of the Chicago Games Marketing Committee.
Olympic decathlete Tom Waddell helped organize the first Gay Games in 1982. Waddell died in 1987. Last year, Montreal 2006 hired Rachel Corbet as executive director of Montreal 2006. Corbet has extensive experience working with international sports events in Canada and Europe. Like McGuinness, she has a growing staff of full-time employees and comfortable office space in a prestigious downtown office building to help her promote the Out Games events.
Corbet said she is hopeful that both events will be successful but predicted the Out Games would surpass the Gay Games in future years to become the main international gay sporting competition. She dismissed calls by some Gay Games supporters that Out Games should become a North American gay sports competition similar to the yearly Euro Games, which are held each year except during the year of the Gay Games. She predicts the opposite might happen – that the Gay Games will shrink in participation and be forced to limit its role to North American teams.
"It is hard for a lot of GLBT people to come to the U.S.," she said, pointing to U.S. immigration policies that ban people with HIV from entering the country unless they get a special waiver. She also points to hostility toward the U.S. war in Iraq and to President Bush in general by many Europeans. With Canada’s decision this year to legalize same-sex marriage and with Montreal’s reputation for being North America’s most gay-friendly city, Corbet said, Montreal is likely to attract far more participants from countries outside of North America.
Boyer and Brigham strongly dispute this assessment. The two note that the U.S. routinely waives its immigration restrictions for people with HIV for special events like the Gay Games. They point to Chicago’s reputation as a gay-friendly city, with a large gay community and pro-gay laws.
Live broadcasts planned
Boyer said another draw for Chicago is the decision by the newly formed gay cable television network, QTV, to provide live television coverage of the Gay Games for six-to-eight hours a day for the entire eight-day event. QTV is waiving its fee for the game by unscrambling its channel to allow any cable TV subscriber to watch the games if their local cable company carries the QTV network, Boyer said.
"Yes, there is competition between these events," Boyer said. He said the gay sports movement has grown dramatically in the U.S. and Europe since the last time a U.S. city has hosted the Gay Games in 1994. With thousands more participating in gay sports competitions in their home cities and countries, there could be ample participation to push the attendance in both Chicago and Montreal to more than 12,000.
July 21, 2006
Montreal events split crowd
by Mark J. Konkol, Rummana Hussain and Kendrick Marshall, Staff Reporters
As the Gay Games winds down in Chicago, organizers of a rival gay sports extravaganza — the World Out Games — are gearing up for the inaugural event in Montreal on July 29. Out Games was born after the Gay Games Federation yanked its sanctioning from Montreal — its first choice as host city — and later decided on Chicago. That forced many athletes to choose between the two competitions, and created an unwanted rift in the gay community, many Gay Games participants said. "I wish [Out Games] well, but I’d rather see us all working together, putting all our resources in one event," said a 45-year-old female bodybuilder from Ferndale, Mich., who goes only by the name Forrest.
While Gay Games spokesman Kevin Boyer said the creation of Out Games hasn’t put a damper on the success of Chicago’s Gay Games, some competitors said this week it’s clear that the field of competition has been diluted. "Based on principle I will not go up there. I appreciate the spirit of games and the unity, so the fact that it’s been diluted doesn’t sit well with me," said Ray Belmonte, a figure skater from Chicago. "[Gay Games] totally would be bigger if not for Out Games. I know a lot of Europeans decided to go to Montreal. But if Montreal wasn’t an option they’d probably be here."
Many Gay Games athletes — who are mostly American — elected to compete in Chicago rather than Montreal because it was cheaper, convenient and has a bigger legacy. "I pretty much decided I was going to come here," bodybuilder Sidney Aquino of Washington, D.C. said. "It’s more established. In a way, I kind of don’t think there’s any need to have another competition. It takes away a lot of the solidarity of the gay athletes." Figure skater Burton Powley of Des Moines, Iowa, competed here and plans to drive his motor home to Montreal for Out Games. He said many of his competitors are using the Chicago contest as a warmup for Out Games, where the figure skating competition will be held in the Olympic ice arena.
But for sentimental reasons, Gay Games is always his first choice. "This is the official games and has that long history of being here since the 1980s," he said. Many competitors were forced to choose between games either because they couldn’t afford both trips or get the time off work. "I think most people would have decided to attend the Out Games if it was not scheduled a few days after the Games in Chicago," swimmer Jack Mackenroth said. "All the athletes are not able to afford traveling expenses to another place. It’s not realistic."
July 22, 2006
Gay community at home in Montreal–Gay, lesbian influences infuse city’s culture
by Mark Abley
It’s a sporting event with a difference. A lot of differences, in fact. True, the 1st World Outgames will include mainstream sports like soccer, rowing, tennis and cycling. But the games also promise competitions in bridge, dancesport, physique and something called Outsplash. The Outgames will hit Montreal next weekend. Organizers say that between July 29 and Aug. 5, thousands of athletes and tens of thousands of spectators from around the world will be involved. Almost all the athletes — and, no doubt, many of the spectators — will belong to the cumbersomely named LGBT community: lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people.
What’s more intriguing (okay, I speak as a loser of any imaginable competition in dancesport or physique) is the talkfest that precedes the games. From Wednesday to Saturday, Montreal will host the International Conference on LGBT Human Rights. Workshops will focus on the struggles of lesbians and gays in countries like Kyrgyzstan, Cuba and Zimbabwe. An impressive set of speakers — many of them from nations where homosexuality is widely scorned — will address up to 2,000 delegates. The conference is expected to give its blessing to the "Declaration of Montreal," a major statement on lesbian and gay rights worldwide. That statement will be presented as a challenge to individual governments and the United Nations. Next Saturday, when the Outgames open at Olympic Stadium, athletes Mark Tewkesbury and Martina Navratilova will give the declaration its first public voice.
It’s fitting that the declaration should bear the name of Montreal. For even if the organizers are exaggerating wildly when they claim the city is home to 340,000 gays and lesbians, this is surely one of the gayest places on the planet. Work still needs to be done, of course, before young gays and lesbians, and those from certain immigrant communities, can feel safe and confident in their sexuality. Fifi and faggot are still high school insults here. But on a mainstream, official level, the attitude toward gays and lesbians has moved beyond mere tolerance to active welcome.
Big business is onside — the games’ sponsors include Bell Canada, Labatt, Air Canada and VIA Rail. At the opening reception, delegates are scheduled to hear from Montreal’s mayor, Quebec’s justice minister and the UN high commissioner for human rights, Louise Arbour. (Federal representation is, at the time of writing, unclear.) Yet, there’s a deeper reason why Montreal is the Outgames’ ideal site. For the past generation, Montreal’s culture — indeed, the culture of the entire province — has been profoundly imbued by gay and lesbian influence. Indeed, it’s tough to think of modern Quebec culture without its enormous gay and lesbian contribution.
You think I’m overstating the matter? Just try to imagine Quebec literature and theatre without Robert Lepage, Marie-Claire Blais, Michel Tremblay, Yves Jacques and Nicole Brossard. In dance and poetry, visual art and music, the list goes on and on. Aptly, Quebec’s most popular movie in recent memory, C.R.A.Z.Y., tells a hilarious and touching story of a boy growing up gay in Montreal in the ’60s and ’70s. Even on television, a realm where gays and lesbians in most places need to exercise extreme discretion, Quebec broadcasters like Claude Charron, Daniel Pinard and Claude Rajotte are openly gay. This is a province, in short, where homosexuality has traded stigma for cachet.
Politics treads in culture’s footsteps. Charron was once a minister in René Lévesque’s cabinet. He was followed into public life by the likes of André Boulerice, Réal Ménard and Agnès Maltais, the province’s culture minister under Lucien Bouchard and the official spokesperson for the Oui campaign during the 1995 referendum. All the politicians in the above paragraph were sovereignists, elected for either the Parti Québécois or the Bloc Québécois. Without the Bloc’s steadfast support, Paul Martin’s minority Liberal government could never have legalized same-sex marriage in Canada. And last fall, the PQ chose a gay man, André Boisclair, as its leader.
Yet, just as Ontario stretches far beyond Toronto, not just physically but also psychologically, so, too, Quebec includes more than just Montreal. And in more rural, traditionally minded areas of the province — areas where culture matters less than it does in a metropolis — Boisclair’s sexual orientation may be a hindrance. The areas of Quebec where Stephen Harper’s Conservatives did well in the 2006 federal election overlap closely with the areas where the third-ranked provincial party, l’Action démocratique du Québec, is also strong. And in May, a leading ADQ official, Yvon Picotte, made a couple of snide remarks about Boisclair’s homosexuality. (He apologized quickly.)
Picotte’s comments won’t do the ADQ any favours in Montreal, where it’s already feeble. But they might not hurt the party in other regions of the province. The Outgames are made for Montreal. Would they create such a positive Outsplash in Rimouski or Sept Îles?
Mark Abley is a Montreal writer and former reporter with the Montreal Gazette.
July 23, 2006
Straight talk on being gay–Three gay Haligonians share their thoughts on stereotypes, the pride parade, acceptance, and being out in Halifax
by David Rodenhiser
Every year, most media coverage of Pride Week focuses on the 3/4amboyant. While that’s certainly a vibrant part of Halifax’s gay and lesbian community, it’s important that those of us in the straight majority don’t fall into thinking in stereotypes. No one watching the Natal Day parade believes pre-pubescent baton-twirlers in tiny skirts and grown men in clown makeup embody the entire heterosexual lifestyle. So, why would some folks presume that vamping drag queens and burly biker dykes typify all gays and lesbians?
Homo homo-sapiens are our workmates, neighbours, friends and relatives. They’re doctors, lawyers, politicians, teachers, bartenders and retail clerks. Some are even moms and dads. To mark today’s conclusion of Pride Week, here are three proud Haligonians to give us the straight truth on being gay.
Bio: Born in Truro, grew up in Clarks Harbour and Toronto. Now in her third year as a lawyer, Meade, 41, previously worked as an equity of1/2cer with Acadia University and the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society. Currently single, she owns a house on the Northwest Arm. She’ll sprint in the 100 and 200 metres next week at the inaugural World Out Games in Montreal. On stereotypes: "Gays and lesbians aren’t attracted to everyone of their same sex. Often, I have found that some straight people can feel threatened: This gay person, I wonder if they’re going to hit on me?’ Do you hit on every person of the opposite sex? Well, no. Then, what would make you think that we would be predators upon anyone that we see of our same sex?"
On being shunned by her church: "My father is a Baptist minister, and I grew up very much in the church and at one point was considering entering the ministry, but really, ultimately realized that it would be a very tough road to go if I was going to be true to myself … I left my faith in the church, but I did not leave my faith in God." (Meade now preaches periodically at Halifax’s Safe Harbour Church). On acceptance versus tolerance: "Tolerance is, OK, be gay if you want, but I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to hear about it. But you can be gay, that’s 1/2ne – we’ll hire you.’ Acceptance is when I am treated just the same as anyone else."
On being gay in Halifax in 2006: "For some people, not all, obviously, that aspect of who I am is not given unwarranted signi1/2cance, and that’s great. It’s just yet another feature of who I am. When I did have a partner, it was a given that I would be bringing her with me to events at my law 1/2rm." Words of wisdom: "Part and parcel with society’s acceptance of us comes our own acceptance of ourselves, because we are products of our socialization in our society. The same negative thoughts and homophobia that we grew up dealing with, quite often we’ve internalized it in ourselves."
Bio: Originally from Minnesota, Schwenger, 63, has been an English professor at Mount St. Vincent University for 31 years. He lives on Queen Street with his partner of 18 years.
On stereotypes: "What some straight people – happily, I think, the minority – still think about gay people is that they’re predatory; that there is this thing called the homosexual agenda,’ and that people are always looking to make converts or to prey upon innocent victims. The whole Lindsay Willow case is an example of how deeply rooted that scenario is in the minds of some particularly obtuse and blinkered people."
On the gay spectrum: "There’s an enormous range in the gay community, moving from super-macho tough guys to super-effeminate, and lots of digressions and detours in between."
On the Pride parade: "For a gay person, there’s nothing like the thrill of marching right down the middle of a major street like Spring Garden Road, lined on both sides with people who are happy to see you. It’s just an incredible adrenaline rush. For that reason, my partner says it’s better than Christmas."
On committed love: "This is a real relationship, and one which my straight friends have quite often told me they envy. I know I’m a lucky man, and so is he."
Words of wisdom: "I don’t mind talking about the fact that I’m gay, but I don’t make a huge point about it. Being gay is not the most important thing in the world to me … Being gay is not a full-time job any more than being straight is a full-time job."
Bio: Born and raised in a small town near Oshawa, Ont., Tompkins, 35, moved to Nova Scotia in the late 1980s. Now a real-estate agent, she previously worked for 15 years as a veterinary technician. She and her partner, Daily News columnist Candy Palmater, have been together 1/2ve years and own a house in Dartmouth.
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On stereotypes: "The Pride parade is a parade. When you look at a regular parade, like a Christmas parade, we don’t judge straight people based on their little tutus and their little clown hats, because if we did, this whole society would be pretty messed up. So why do some people judge us all as the same? A lot of us don’t want to be a part of (the parade), because we get that stereotype slapped upon us. You see a lot of people watching from the sidelines … There’s too many stereotypes in this world; I don’t need another one."
On being gay in Halifax in 2006: "It’s great, actually. You can really, truly be yourself and nobody will bother you. There are more people who are more afraid of you than there are who would beat on you, or anything like that. (Laughs.) But you can be yourself here … Candy and I have a big beautiful house in a suburb area with a lot of straight couples with kids, and we 1/2t right in there."
Words of wisdom: "If you’re really sure of yourself, and you’re really positive, and you just basically be who you are, nobody will bug you. If you’re of any size, colour, shape, whatever, it doesn’t matter."
July 27, 2006
‘Alternative’ OutGames kicks off in Montreal
From correspondents in Montreal
Rowing, hockey, marathon, square dancing and best bondage or leather outfit competitions are all events at the first Out Games, preceded by the opening today of a human rights conference. Organisers of this "alternative" gay games said they expect some 12,000 amateur athletes, thousands of spectators and delegates from 100 countries for the rights conference. Co-president and swimmer Mark Tewksbury, a gold medallist in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, said he hoped the event would also nurture tolerance in sports. "Homophobia is rampant in professional sports. The locker room mentality says we can’t develop in a virile, masculine world. Showing a feminine side is considered a sign of weakness, and makes us vulnerable to attacks," he told Montreal French-language magazine L’actualite.
Tewksbury and tennis legend Martina Navratilova will open the sports competitions on Sunday after the three-day rights conference with a "Declaration of Montreal" on gay rights. The games’ 35 competition include synchronised swimming, karate, basketball, weight-lifting, golf and wrestling. Up to 20 per cent of athletes at the Montreal games are heterosexual, organisers said. Millions of dollars in tourist spending are also at stake as the city tries to foment a reputation as a gay-friendly vacation hot spot, tourism officials said. "The Right to Be Different" rights conference will bring together 2000 delegates to discuss human rights and include a keynote speech by UN Human Rights head Louise Arbour.
The conference aims is to promote gay, lesbian and transsexual rights worldwide, particularly in countries which ignore or trample on them, organisers said. "The goal is to get an official declaration at the United Nations asking for recognition of gay rights. There are rights for children, women, handicapped people, but no gay rights," Out Games director Louise Roy said. "There are still UN members who oppose gay rights, but we hope to take small steps that will eventually bring us to the recognition of gay rights. In Canada, we’re less preoccupied with such because we’ve already achieved equal rights, but there are many countries where it remains very difficult to be gay," she said.
Closing ceremonies will be held on August 5. An offshoot of the Federation of Gay Games, which held its seventh meet in Chicago last week, the Montreal event aimed for a more ambitious mission than its predecessor after the city was overlooked to host the original games. Its goal is to foster tolerance and understanding, and to build bridges between the gay community and broader society, rather than simply celebrate gay pride – the focus of the Gay Games since its inception in San Francisco in 1982.
July 28, 2006
Gay politicians want respect
by Anne Sutherland
Montreal – Openly gay politicians want to be known for their competence and not just for being gay. This was one of the observations made by seven elected officials during workshop Friday at an international conference on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human rights being held at the Palais des Congrès in conjunction with the First World Outgames. The challenges, pitfalls and pluses of being a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender politician were discussed, as was the decision making process on when to come ‘out’ in a political career.
Gathered on the dais were Svend Robinson, former Liberal MP from Burnaby B.C., Agnès Maltais, member of the Quebec National Assembly, Georgina Byers, the world’s first transsexual Member of Parliament in her native New Zealand, Ulrike Lunacek, an MP from Austria, Volker Beck, with the German government, Oras Tynkkynen, MP in Finland and Joke Swiebel, a former member of the Netherlands Labour party
July 29, 2006
Navratilova supports Outgames
By Bill Beacon
Montreal (CP) – The first World Outgames will bring much-needed visibility to the gay and lesbian community, tennis star Martina Navratilova said Friday. She called the July-29-Aug. 5 games "a way to be visible to the outside world. "It’s very easy to discriminate when it’s against a group of people you don’t know, but once you put a face on the group, it’s much more difficult to do so. So it’s very important for us to be out there and let the heterosexual community know who we are and what we’re all about and sports is a great way of putting that out there."
Navratilova, one of the all-time greats of women’s tennis with 18 grand slam tournament wins, and Olympic swimming gold medallist Mark Tewksbury, the co-president of the games organizing committee, are to read a Declaration of Montreal at the opening ceremonies on Saturday. The World Outgames are expected to draw 13,000 gay, lesbian and transgender participants from more than 100 countries in 35 sports and games – from hockey to tennis, pool and bridge – and six cultural competitions in events like cheerleading, square dancing and a gay staple – dressing in leather.
The games were preceded by a three-day conference on gay and lesbian human rights in which Navratilova took part. The competitions are open to gay and straight participants and anyone can enter. And they are sanctioned by the world governing bodies of the various sports. The Outgames fall a week after the completion of a similar event, the Gay Games, which were originally to be held in Montreal but were moved to Chicago after a series of disputes between Gay Games officials and the Montreal organizing committee.
The Montreal committee organized its own event through a new international games committee, which has already awarded the 2009 Outgames to Copenhagen. Navratilova and Tewksbury, two of the most prominent openly gay athletes, signed the guestbook at City Hall with mayor Gerald Tremblay, who Navratilova called "a fabulous mayor who is well ahead of his time as far as social issues are concerned." That tied it 1-1 for the day in remarks about politicians. Earlier Friday, singer k.d. lang slammed Prime Minister Stephen Harper for not attending the games. Lang said Harper chose to "support intolerance" by not making an appearance. A spokesman for the prime minister said other Conservative MPs will attend and that he was unable to accept every invitation he receives to public events.
Lang is to sing at the opening ceremonies at Olympic Stadium, along with Quebec chanteuse Diane Dufresne and other acts, including the acclaimed Cirque du Soleil. It was uncertain how many people would attend. This week, organizers concerned at slow sales for the ceremonies offered two-for-one tickets. Navratilova will not compete in the games, although the 49-year-old will return to Montreal in August to defend the doubles title she won with German Anna-Lena Groenefeld at last year’s Rogers Cup tournament.
The Prague native was one of the first top athletes to declare her sexual orientation at the height of her career in the 1980s.
"It was a matter of dignity, of being who I am, and also hopefully making it easier for the next generation to be out and proud," she said. She also urged other gay athletes to identify themselves, although she admitted it would be difficult in the "macho" world of men’s team sports.
"I would like to see more athletes in individual sports like golf and tennis be a little more brave and come out," she added. "(Sports like) swimming, and track and field. where you’re judged only on your performance, you really have no excuse. "And I think you owe it to society, to the next generation, to be out and to be a good example of who we are.
July 29, 2006
k.d. chides PM for ignoring gay sports gathering
Montreal – Prime Minister Stephen Harper has chosen to "support intolerance" by refusing to attend an international gathering of gay athletes, k.d. lang said yesterday. The singer, shown at right, was critical of her fellow Albertan for failing to support the World Outgames, which is expected to attract up to 13,000 gay, bisexual and transgendered athletes when it begins today in Montreal.
"It’s a sad statement that the national leader of a country that’s one of the most progressive countries in the world chooses to support intolerance," lang said. However, the gay community shouldn’t take the PM’s absence personally, she said.
Quebec Premier Jean Charest, interim Liberal leader Bill Graham and the Bloc Quebecois’ Gilles Duceppe will all make appearances at the games. A spokesperson for the prime minister said Harper is too busy to be at every event he’s invited to attend.
August 6, 2006
Athletes contest first ‘Outgames’
by Alasdair Sandford
The first World Outgames have ended in Montreal, where 12,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) athletes came together for a celebration of sport, culture and human rights. It was more like a party than a closing ceremony. A team from Germany held up cards spelling out "Merci Montreal". Up on stage, Liza Minelli delighted the athletes with her renditions of Cabaret and New York, New York. As the lights shone around the Olympic Stadium, some danced while others embraced.
Mark Tewksbury, the Outgames’ co-president and a swimming gold medallist from the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, was visibly moved as he declared the games closed. "Here we are not second class citizens," he said. There had been similar scenes the previous Saturday, when some 40,000 spectators greeted the competitors in the same arena for the opening ceremony. The tennis icon Martina Navratilova was given a rapturous reception as she and Mark Tewksbury read out a new human rights declaration in defence of LGBT people.
Montreal has not witnessed an event on this scale since the city hosted the 1976 Olympics almost exactly 30 years ago. At the heart of the "village" district, a kilometre-long stretch of the rue St Catherine has been a continuous street festival. Companies pledged their support in billboard advertisements everywhere. Huge rainbow flags hung from balconies; others were pinned up in restaurant and shop windows. Medal winners were congratulated by passers-by on the metro. As often happens in amateur competition, the events themselves – which ranged from athletics and powerlifting, to dancesport and bridge – often attracted more participants and their friends than external spectators. But for Mark Tewksbury, it didn’t matter that the small rostrum in the entrance hall to the Olympic pool had little of the grandeur of Barcelona 1992.
The Canadian also won gold in Montreal – seeing off a challenge from Daniel Veatch, another former Olympian who swam for Team USA at Seoul 1988 – to win the 100 metres backstroke. Tewksbury documented his own painful coming out process in the world of top level sport in his book Inside Out. "The Olympics ask us to be better athletes," he said. "The Outgames ask us to be better people." Normally in these situations I say ‘do you two fancy each other?’ and they separate straightaway English referee Sprinter André Mitchell from Toronto, where he’s trained with former Olympic champion Donovan Bailey, won five gold medals and one silver. The American Lan Tritsch’s time of 39.92 seconds for the 100 metres may have been 30 seconds outside the world record – but it was no mean feat for an 81-year-old, and he too won gold in his age group.
On the whole the games ran smoothly, despite the odd hiccup – such as when Dutch athlete Agnes Elling turned up for the women’s 100 metres hurdles to find she was the only competitor.
Some competitions pitted lovers and partners against each other. Fabrice from the Paris-Lyon Arc-en-ciel football team found himself marking his boyfriend Sebastien, playing for Belgium’s Pink Devils. The French team’s 7-0 victory failed to damage their relationship.
During the same match the whistle blew after some pushing and shoving in the penalty area. The English referee took aside the two offending players. "Normally in these situations I say ‘do you two fancy each other?’ and they separate straightaway," he chided them. "In your case I suppose I’ll just have to say ‘at least wait till afterwards’."
Confusingly for many people, the Outgames are distinct from this year’s Gay Games which took place in Chicago last month. These were originally due to be held in Montreal but were moved after a series of disputes between Gay Games officials and the Montreal organising committee. Outgames competitors came from more than a hundred nations, including several developing countries thanks to a special bursary programme. Not all went as planned: a team from Cameroon – a country known for its repression of homosexuals – was refused entry by Canadian immigration.
The motto of the games was "We play for real". For the organisers, they have been about fostering tolerance in sport to enable gay and lesbian athletes to compete openly, free from discrimination and exclusion. Martina Navratilova said the Outgames were important to "let the heterosexual community know who we are and what we’re all about". In Montreal it’s certainly a case of "mission accomplished".
DECLARATION OF MONTREAL 2006
International Conference on LGBT Human Rights issues Declaration of Montreal
The Outgames included an International Conference on LGBT Human Rights held in Montreal immediately prior to the games themselves, from July 26 to July 29. With attendance of some 2,000 participants, it was the largest conference on LGBT rights ever held. The four-day conference consisted of five plenary sessions on the United States and Canada, Africa and the Arab World, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific, and Europe, in addition to the opening and closing sessions. Keynote speakers included Gérald Tremblay, Gene Robinson, Mark Tewksbury, Irshad Manji, Mariela Castro, Georgina Beyer, Waheed Alli, Martin Cauchon, and Martina Navrátilová.
Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, delivered an especially well-received speech at the opening dinner, which gave particular encouragement to the conference’s goal of recognition at the United Nations. There were also more than a hundred workshops on more specific themes, as well as programmes of workshops on sport, business, and international affairs.
The conference concluded with the issuance of the Declaration of Montreal on LGBT Human Rights, a declaration that will be submitted to the United Nations. Intended as a starting point in listing the demands of the international LGBT movement, this declaration on LGBT rights will be presented to the United Nations.
Among its demands are:
. an end to criminalization of same-sex sexual activity;
. government action against hate crimes and support for LGBT human rights defenders;
. the end of morality-based restrictions and the thwarting of LGBT groups in the fight against HIV/AIDS;
. the right to asylum for persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity;
. status for ILGA and other LGBT rights organizations on the UN Human Rights Council;
. cooperation and coordination among LGBT rights movements in the Global North and Global South;
. same-sex marriage and adoption rights;
. access to health care for the specific needs of LGBT people;
. funding for sex reassignment surgery.
The borough of Ville-Marie and the Montreal city council became the first governments in the world to officially adopt the Declaration. The New Democratic Party became the first political party to do so; accordingly, on September 20, 2006, it presented a motion in the House of Commons calling on the Canadian government to abide by the Declaration.
DECLARATION OF MONTREAL 2006
‘ All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’. This famous first
sentence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted almost sixty years
ago by the General Assembly of the United Nations, still contains in a nutshell our
political agenda, as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, transitioned
and intersexual persons.
The world has gradually accepted that individual human beings have different
sexes, racial or ethnic origins, and religions, and that these differences must be
respected and not be used as reasons for discrimination. But most countries still do
not accept two other aspects of human diversity: that people have different sexual
orientations and different gender identities; that two women or two men can fall in
love with each other; and that a person’s identity, as female or male or neither, is
not always determined by the type of body into which they were born.
Refusal to accept and respect these differences means that oppression of LGBT
people is still a daily reality in most parts of the world. In some countries,
discrimination and violence against LGBT people are getting worse. But more and
more, brave individuals and groups are standing up for LGBT human rights in every
region of the world. In particular, LGBT individuals and groups in Asia, Africa, Latin
America and Eastern Europe no longer accept prejudice and discrimination, and are
becoming increasingly impatient to achieve freedom and equality. But progress is
very uneven and is not automatic. Worldwide, we are seeing advances and
Progress in realizing LGBT human rights demands multi-layered change in all parts
of the world: rights must be secured, laws changed, new policies designed and
implemented, and institutional practices adapted. LGBT individuals and groups are
the prime agents of change. But we will only win if we enlist others as allies in our
struggle. The purpose of this declaration is to list and explain the changes that we
need, and build an agenda for global action.
1. ESSENTIAL RIGHTS
A first demand is to safeguard and protect the most basic rights of LGBT people, rights which are well established
and not legally controversial.
(a) Protection against state and private violence
• Nine countries punish homosexuality with the death penalty – a human rights violation in itself, regardless
of the reason for imposing the sentence.
• Extrajudicially, we witness in many countries torture and other violence against – and sometimes killings of
– LGBT individuals simply because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. These hate crimes are
committed by private actors (with the active help or passive condonation of public officials, as at some
pride marches), or by police, soldiers and other public officials themselves. These hate crimes against LGBT
individuals are a subject of growing concern; many states are failing in their obligation to protect LGBT
persons from this violence.
• In many parts of the world, LGBT individuals are still forced to marry a person of the opposite sex against
their will, and risk heavy penalties (including violence and death at the hands of members of their families)
if they try to escape such arrangements. Forced marriages are indisputably a human rights violation that
must be combated.
• Intersexual individuals experience a particular form of violence, in the form of genital mutilation resulting
from unnecessary post-birth surgery designed to make them conform to a rigid binary model of physical
(b) Freedom of expression, assembly and association
• In a number of countries, LGBT human rights groups and courageous LGBT individuals see their rights to
free expression, assembly and association blocked by hostile public authorities. Pride marches are denied
permits, journalists are jailed, clubs are closed, and NGOs are refused registration. Without the essential
right of LGBT non-governmental organisations to carry on their work, free of repressive and discriminatory
restrictions, it can become impossible to campaign for the reform of discriminatory laws LGBT activists are
entitled to protection and support, and to express themselves without fear of recrimination, just like other
human rights defenders.
(c) Freedom to engage in (private, consensual, adult) same-sex sexual activity
• Seventy-five countries – over one third of the countries in the world – still have laws in place criminalizing
same-sex sexual acts between consenting adults. Acts that harm nobody. Under international human rights
standards, this violates the right to privacy, as recognised by the UN Human Rights Committee in its Toonen
decision in 1994, and is also discrimination: a refusal to recognise the equal dignity and worth of LGBT
individuals. Even where such laws are not enforced in practice, they stigmatise, perpetuate prejudices,
encourage blackmail and intimidation, and serve as justifications for other forms of discrimination.
__ We urge the international community to put pressure on the governments of countries that keep
violating the essential human rights of LGBT people.
__ We demand an immediate end to use of the death penalty worldwide–especially for the so-called
“ crime” of same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults.
__ We demand that national governments and international organisations develop and implement
effective policies to prevent, investigate and punish hate crimes based on sexual orientation or
__ We demand that genital surgery on intersexual persons be prohibited unless they are old enough
to understand it and consent to it.
__ We demand that international organizations (at the global and regional levels) systematically
monitor the human rights situation of LGBT people and widely publicize their findings.
__ We call on the international community to protect and give political and financial support to LGBT
human rights defenders and organisations, in particular in those countries of the world where
LGBT persons still have to fear for their lives or their safety on a daily basis.
__ We demand that national governments and international organisations make their international
development aid conditional on real progress concerning respect for human rights, including the
human rights of LGBT people.
__ We demand the repeal of all laws criminalizing private, consensual, adult, same-sex sexual activity.
2. GLOBAL ISSUES
A world where LGBT human rights are systematically violated, is a world where nobody can feel safe and free. ‘All
human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated’ (World Conference on Human Rights,
LGBT identities or practices have existed and continue to exist in every culture and corner of the world; they are
simply part of the human condition. Fighting ignorance and prejudice remains our first priority. More information
about LGBT persons, and more openness on the part of LGBT persons (when this can be done safely), are conditions
for further progress to be made.
__ We therefore call for the preparation of a world-wide information campaign.
__ We ask the organizers of the International Conference on LGBT Human Rights at the 2nd World
Outgames in Copenhagen in 2009 to launch such a campaign.
__ We demand the support of like-minded NGOs and sympathetic governments in the preparation
and running of the campaign.
LGBT people do not live on an island, but form part of all societies, and rightly expect that their situations and their
demands will be taken into account in formulating all public policies. Accordingly, LGBT human rights must be
mainstreamed into global debates about social and political issues. This can only be achieved if the international
LGBT human rights movement takes part in wider struggles, such as the fight for development and fair trade,
worldwide social and economic rights, and international peace and stability. LGBT human rights may seem a far cry
in a those parts of the world where coping with poverty and violence top the daily agenda. Working to overcome
these problems, however, should include working for better living conditions for LGBT individuals.
One crucial global issue is the HIV/AIDS pandemic. "Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS." That is UN
Development Goal number 6, with a target date of 2015, endorsed by 189 Heads of State and Government in 2000.
This goal can only be reached by deploying a human-rights-based approach that includes the human rights of LGBT
individuals. Criminalizing sexual activity between men, and banning freedom of expression for LGBT groups, still
common practices in some countries, have a directly detrimental effect on the prevention of HIV/AIDS. Access to
information, adequate health services, and the elimination of violence and discrimination are crucial for both the
prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.
__ We urge governments to stop thwarting LGBT groups which spread information on the
prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS among LGBT individuals, but instead to make it their own
responsibility to include LGBT people in their fight against HIV/AIDS.
__ We urge donor countries and international institutions to step up their aid programmes for the
prevention of HIV/AIDS, and work with local LGBT health groups to ensure that LGBT people are
included in these programmes.
__ We demand the removal of morality-based restrictions on HIV/AIDS education, prevention and
treatment campaigns, including restrictions on promoting the use of condoms.
Another global issue is asylum. Our primary goal is to work for a safe environment in every country, so that LGBT
people do not need to leave their countries because of fear for their lives. But every nation has an obligation to grant
asylum to persons persecuted on the basis of their race, religion, political opinion and the like. LGBT persons who
have a well-founded fear of persecution, by state or non-state actors, based on their sexual orientation or gender
identity, must find similar protection within the framework of the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention. A growing
number of countries explicitly interpret this Convention in this way. And so does the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees. We think that more countries should follow their example.
__ We demand that national governments explicitly recognize in their national laws and practices a
right to asylum based on a well-founded fear of persecution because of sexual orientation or
__ We demand that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees step up his actions to convince national
governments to implement the Guidelines on Gender-related Persecution, adopted in 2002.
A third global issue: migration. The world is getting smaller and smaller; more and more people travel the world,
make friends, and meet lovers who sometimes become partners. But most countries deny to bi-national same-sex
couples the right of one partner to sponsor the other for immigration, which different-sex married couples take for
granted. Even same-sex couples who have a marriage certificate or a registered partnership, recognized by the
country of origin of one of the partners, cannot be sure of their status when they move somewhere else.
__ We demand of our respective national governments residence rights for our partners from abroad
under the same conditions as different-sex married couples, without discrimination based on sex,
sexual orientation or gender identity.
__ We demand that international treaties on these matters be reformed and grant same-sex couples
the same rights as different-sex married couples.
The United Nations has so far been unwilling or unable to recognize that LGBT rights are human rights, and fully
incorporate LGBT issues into its human rights work. Some specific UN treaty bodies and special rapporteurs have
taken LGBT rights into account. But in 2005, the UN Commission on Human Rights refused for the third time to
decide on a general resolution on ‘Human Rights and Sexual Orientation’, first tabled by Brazil in 2003. And in 2006,
the Economic and Social Council of the UN for the third time refused to grant consultative status to ILGA – the
International Lesbian and Gay Association – as in 1992, in 1994 (when the consultative status granted in 1993 was
suspended) and in 2002.
We will continue knocking on the door of the United Nations. We do not accept that a world organisation can be
closed to a specific part of the Earth’s population, and can decide that it does not want to deal with their issues.
__ We therefore urge governments to put LGBT human rights on the agenda of the new UN Human
Rights Council, and to work for the adoption of a text, that will give a mandate to the Council and
to other UN bodies to deal with LGBT human rights as a normal part of their work.
__ We demand that ILGA and other LGBT organisations be granted the place they deserve among the
many other NGOs that are entitled to consult with the Human Rights Council.
__ We urge the Human Rights Committee and other UN treaty bodies to integrate the systematic
monitoring of LGBT human rights into their work.
__ We call upon lawyers, human rights institutions, and NGOs to continue studying which human
rights of LGBT individuals are protected by existing international human rights treaties, and
whether there are any gaps in the protection these treaties provide. This could lead to a discussion
of the potential benefits of a UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Sexual Orientation
and Gender Identity Discrimination (CESOGID).
__ We urge all UN Special Procedures to address LGBT human rights issues within their relevant
3. THE DIVERSE LGBT COMMUNITY
Our demand that the heterosexual, non-transgender majority respect our human rights and our diversity does not
stop at our own doorstep. We must also work to build an LGBT community that is open to all, and offers fair chances
to everyone, regardless of their sex, race, religion, disability, age, economic status or other similar characteristic.
We must fight discrimination within our own ranks. We cannot tolerate sexism and racism inside our movement. We
are Muslims, Christians, Jews, non-believers, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, and humanists. Among us, we have every form
of disability, members of every age group, and members of every social and economic class.
The growing visibility and activism of LGBT groups in the Global South must be taken into account. We must work as
hard as we can to make it possible for LGBT activists from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe to
participate in the global LGBT human rights movement on an equal footing. Our long-term goal, as resources permit,
should be much more proportionate representation of the Global South at international LGBT conferences. We must
remember that 88% of LGBT people live in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe.
The unequal position of women inside the our movement reflects the still unequal power relations between women
and men in the world as a whole. Despite all the progress made over the last few decades, women are still le
deuxième sexe, and lesbian women are no exception. We must therefore seek more co-operation with the women’s
movement, and stress our common ground. The commonality is our right to control our own bodies and to choose
how we live our own lives. Our joint goal is to challenge the rigidity of the fixed roles allocated to women and men,
and the dominance of heterosexual male norms and interests. This joint goal is not something marginal, but is part of
the core business of the LGBT human rights movement.
Transgender, transsexual, transitioned and intersexual individuals have become a more and more visible part of our
movement, and have seen some of their demands taken on board. Non-transgender lesbian, gay and bisexual
persons will have to recognise that questioning the meaning of sex, and challenging rigid gender roles, are in fact
two sides of the same coin. Transgender issues therefore should be considered as part and parcel of our common
struggle for equality and dignity.
__ We recommend that international LGBT organisations expand their pools of candidates for
leadership positions by offering training courses, information seminars and the like to new –
female, male or transgender – activists from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe.
__ We ask the organizers of the International Conference on LGBT Human Rights at the 2nd World
Outgames in Copenhagen in 2009 to make an extra effort to realise an equal participation of
women and men, to maximise participation from the Global South and from ethnic and cultural
minorities, and to ensure full inclusion of transgender people and issues.
__ We would also like to see at that conference more workshops on the role of women inside and
outside our movement, and on increasing co-operation with the women’s movement.
4. PARTICIPATION IN SOCIETY
In many countries, the fight against discriminatory rules and practices, started more than fifty years ago, has brought
success. We are proud of the victories of the international LGBT human rights movement.
As such we count:
• the elimination of homosexuality from the official list of psychiatric diseases;
• the long list of countries that have abolished discriminatory criminal laws;
• new constitutional equality clauses that explicitly mention sexual orientation;
• the growing number of countries, states, provinces, territories, counties or cities that have outlawed
discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity;
• the still small, but growing, number of countries that have opened up legal marriage to same-sex couples;
• the more substantial increase in the number of countries that recognize registered same-sex partnerships;
• the increasing openness of LGBT people in public life in many countries, so that openly LGBT artists or
politicians, for example, are no longer so unusual;
• the changes in public opinion that make it possible for LGBT individuals to be themselves and live their lives
as they wish, without fear; and
• the growing number of public and private institutions, including human rights organisations, trade unions
and other NGOs, that make it their responsibility to integrate the protection of LGBT human rights into
their daily work
These successes are only part of the story, and are valid for only a small part of the world. Much work still needs to be
done. Over time, all sectors of society must be scrutinized for existing rules and practices that still hinder the free,
open and equal participation of LGBT individuals. Among these sectors, specific priorities for action must be decided
by the LGBT human rights movement in each country, depending on their local circumstances.
__ We demand that all governments develop and implement a comprehensive policy against sexual
orientation and gender identity discrimination in all sectors of society. This should preferably be done
within the framework of an overall anti-discrimination policy designed to tackle all forms of discrimination
in all spheres of life on all grounds – but without sweeping LGBT issues under the carpet.
__ We demand that such an anti-discrimination policy focus on both legal equality, ending second-class
treatment by the state, as well as on social equality, fighting discrimination and prejudice throughout
society, including on the part of private parties.
__ We demand that national parliaments hold their respective governments accountable; guaranteeing the
rights of all citizens, including LGBT citizens.
__ We demand that LGBT experts and organization be involved in the planning and execution of such policies
and that the effects be properly monitored;
__ We demand that LGBT human rights issues be mainstreamed in overall governmental policy-making. This
means that, before decisions are taken, the effects of policy proposals on the situation of LGBT individuals
must be identified and taken into account.
__ We urge international LGBT organisations to
__ continue to monitor national policy-making on LGBT issues,
__ design comparable indicators of progress and improve their databases documenting
legislation and practices in different countries around the world.
__ distribute information on best practices.
Fair chances in employment or business are essential for LGBT individuals to be economically independent,
maintain self-esteem, and lead a fulfilling and productive life. Sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination in
the workplace must be combated by all parties concerned, working together on the basis of well-designed
programmes, that are properly monitored.
__ We therefore endorse the Plans of Action adopted yesterday by the "Workers Out!" and "Out for
Business!" conferences and will support the activities they have planned for the future.
__ We demand that governments and public institution set a good example, by eliminating
discrimination against their LGBT employees, and promoting their equality and safety in the
LGBT people are not isolated individuals. We fall in love, and establish relationships and families – however
configured. For many of us, these relationships and families are the most important parts of our lives. Unless they are
legally recognized, our rights to equality and dignity cannot be fully secured. Indeed, many countries are willing to
grant us equality in every area of our lives except in relation to our relationships and families, to ensure that our
relationships and families are stigmatized as inferior. As a matter of simple equality, same-sex couples are entitled to
the full range of relationship options available to different-sex couples, including marriage for those who choose it.
Similarly, LGBT individuals and same-sex couples who are parents, or wish to become parents, are entitled to equal
rights, and to equal access to the full range of parenting options available to heterosexual individuals and differentsex
couples, including adoption, fostering, and use of medically assisted procreation. Doing justice to the changing
realities of family life also entails recognizing and granting equal rights to non-marital relationships, and extending
this option to all couples, without discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.
__ We therefore demand that all governments that have not yet done so reform family law in order
to reflect the growing diversity of family life,
__ by opening-up legal marriage to same-sex couples,
__ introducing similar partnership rights for all unmarried couples, and
__ ensuring equal access for all to every option for parenthood.
Education, the media, health care, and religion are social institutions of crucial importance to the success or failure
of the struggle for LGBT human rights. Each has its own role to play and its own contribution to make.
__ We demand that the competent (national or local) government authorities in charge of education
policies, including school boards
__ include lessons on LGBT human rights in the school curriculum; and
__ take action to combat intimidation and violence against LGBT pupils and teachers.
__ We demand that the mainstream media contribute to breaking down stereotypes, and promote a
realistic visibility of LGBT people.
__ We demand that health care facilities and individual health care providers be open to the special
health needs of LGBT people, fight prejudice, and supply relevant information on a nondiscriminatory
__ We demand that governments permit all medical treatment necessary for gender reassignment,
that they fund such treatment to the same extent that their resources permit them to fund other
medically necessary treatment, and that they amend their legislation so as to permit a transgender
person to change their legal sex to the one that corresponds to their gender identity.
__ We urge religious institutions and non-confessional organisations to put into practice the
principles of tolerance and equality towards LGBT individuals among their own ranks, and to
contribute to the fight for LGBT human rights in the world at large.
5. CREATING SOCIAL CHANGE
The legal, political and social changes that will bring LGBT individuals equal rights do not serve our interests only. In a
society where some people are oppressed, nobody can be free and equal. Bringing about the changes we want must
therefore be the result of the combined efforts of the LGBT human rights movement and other groups and
organisations, which share our vision and our goals.
__ We call on LGBT organizations to continue their fight for LGBT human rights in all countries, as well
as at the international level, by
__ mobilizing their rank and file, enlarging their constituencies and broadening their bases
of financial support;
__ promoting better cooperation, coordination and solidarity among the LGBT communities
within countries, and throughout the world;
__ making more LGBT and non-LGBT individuals aware of the need of further global action,
and invoking their sense of solidarity;
__ building strategic alliances and co-operation between different organisations and
institutions inside and outside of the LGBT human rights movement;
__ strengthening their knowledge and expertise and making their actions more
__ encouraging LGBT cultural activities, so as to show a living reality and use culture to get
the message of LGBT equality across.
__ We call on trade unions, professional organisations and NGOs working for human rights and social
welfare to participate in our fight against discrimination, to lend us their support, and to share
__ We call on national and international companies to grant equal opportunities to their LGBT
workers, cater for the needs of their LGBT customers, and meet their social responsibility by
supporting the global fight for LGBT human rights.
__ We call on religious institutions and non-confessional organisations to help their LGBT members
to overcome traditional prejudices and fight homophobia among their own ranks and in the
__ We call on funders to ensure that funding programmes support NGOs in working towards legal
and social equality for LGBT people, by advancing all of the objectives set out in this Declaration.
__ We call on national governments to protect the rights and promote the interests and well-being of
all their citizens, including their LGBT citizens.
__ We call on the international community to include LGBT human rights in the international human
rights agenda, and to support and protect LGBT human rights defenders.
__ And – last but not least – we call on all countries in the world, and on the United Nations, to
recognise and promote the 17th of May of each year as the International Day against Homophobia.
These are our demands. It will take tremendous courage, great personal sacrifice, and countless hours of hard work by many thousands of LGBT activists and friends of the global LGBT community. But our goal, equal rights for every LGBT person in every country of the world, can be and will be achieved.