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Belissa Andia, Trans activist from Peru was elected on the Board of the re-born ILTGA LAC
Regional Conference: ILGA-LAC renamed ILTGA LAC

in CHILE, 19/10/2004

Secularisation, civic duties, and the inclusion of gender identity in the LGBT rights movement were the main themes of the 3rd Latin American and Caribbean conference of ILGA in Santiago de Chile

The third in a series, the ILGA-LAC (Latin American and Caribbean) conference, held in Santiago de Chile September 14th-17th was witness to a strong lesbian and transgender presence, in line with the wishes of its main sponsor, the Netherlands Novib-Oxfam foundation, and the organising committee, a coalition of Chilean associations, led by Carlos Sanchez of the Luis Gautier National Workers Union.

Throughout the week, approximately 120 delegates – including for the first time 2 activists from Cuba – coming from some of the 110 ILGA-LAC member groups debated the work and action plan for the region for the years to come. The results of these negotiations were then discussed and voted on point by point in plenary session during the conference.

The importance of inclusion quickly became one of the main rallying points for the delegates. Confronted with the intolerance that anyone outside of “the heterosexual norm” faces, participants in the conference took a systematic approach to reviewing all ILGA LAC documents to make them as inclusive as possible, with a special view on transgender persons. They asked that the terms lesbophobia, and transphobia would explicitly be added to homophobia in the future in all documents issued by the regional secretariat. The importance of ethnicity, the need to improve connections with youth groups and the need to better apprehend the history of the LGBT movement were also brought up at the conference.

The adding of a “T” for transsexual/transgender individuals to the “ILGA” part of “ILGA-LAC” will be without a doubt the most memorable decision of the conference; ILGA-LAC has therefore disappeared to be replaced by “ILTGA-LAC.” The other ILGA members present in Santiago supported their transsexual/transgender colleagues in their decision to include and make more visible the “trans” presence in ILTGA. Following this logic, three representatives (instead of two), one gay, one lesbian, and one trans, were elected for each of the 5 sub-regions of ILTGA-LAC (the Andes, Southern region, Brazil, Mexico, Central America). Delegates at the conference have also made known that they will submit a proposal at the next ILGA world conference in 2006 in Geneva calling on participants to make the same name change for the entire ILGA.

Latin America and the Caribbean are now represented by 3 regional delegates: Belissa Andia from the Runa Institute for Gender Studies in Peru; Beto de Jesus from the Edson Neris Institute in Brazil; and Patria Jiménez the El Closet de Sor Juana group in Mexico. This last group’s head quarters in Mexico City will also serve as the office for ILTGA-LAC secretariat.

Kursad Kahramanoglu, Co-Secretary General of ILGA, present at the conference, brought home the importance of keeping up the efforts to support the Brazilian resolution on sexual orientation in the United Nations. He also reminded the delegates of ILGA’s determination to see gender identity added to the language of the resolution. “The Latin American LGBT movement must act together to ensure that Brazil reintroduces its text next year and that other Latin American countries officially sponsor the text as well.” The Secretary general used this occasion to promote the Brazilian resolution by meeting Venezuela's Ambassador to Chile and the Director of Human Rights of the Chilean Government.

Mr. Kahramanoglu also took advantage of his presence at the conference to promote the idea of a worldwide day against homophobia.

As the title of the conference “Homosexualities, globalisation, and social movements in Latin America” indicates, the delegates did not limit their agenda to only LGBT issues. Renewing and reviving past alliances with feminist movements and consolidating relations with other social movements were at the heart of the debate. The participants were particularly adamant that the concept of civic rights not only include basic human rights for sexual and racial minorities, but also economic and political rights for these groups as well. Local LGBT activists underlined the importance of the debate on globalisation and its direct impact on the ability of LGBT people to exercise their civic rights. The action plan coming out of the conference explicitly mentions the AFTA (American Free Trade Area) treaty that is currently under consideration, and its possible effects on access to medical care in the region.

Delegates also brought up the issue of the participation of LGBT groups in the recent social forums in the region (Chile, Porto Alegre). While the majority of the participants expressed their happiness that sexual diversity has gained a special place in previous forums, others made clear their desire that LGBT groups be present in all the working groups so that sexual diversity be represented in all areas of discussion.

Finally, the conference wanted to make clear what it considers primordial for the promotion of LGBT rights in the region, secularism. Indeed, the rise in power and increased political activity of various Churches and other fundamentalist religious organisations in Latin America is a worrisome development for LGBT groups in the region and the delegates call on the entire LGBT community to remain vigilant.

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