|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
From 17 to 18 August 2013, the second China Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) Community Leader Conference successfully took place in Beijing. Emphasizing the participation of communities whose voice remains largely underrepresented in China's LGBT movement, representatives of the lesbian, gay & straight community shared the stage with (among others) leaders of organizations focusing on wives of gay men, bisexuality, transgender issues, disabled LGBT, parents of LGBT, SM, sex workers and HIV/AIDS issues.
Both developed and underdeveloped regions were represented, with leaders from far-away regions such as Tibet and Xinjiang also joining in the debates. The Conference also saw the participation of a small delegation of activists based outside of Mainland China, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, UK, and US-based representatives. In total, more than 140 LGBT activists, representing 70 organizations and over 28 different regions in China actively participated in the conference, which signifies an increase of more than 50 % compared to the attendance of the first Conference organized in 2012.
Focusing on the topic Anti-Discrimination and Advocacy, Conference delegates shared their experiences conducting anti-discrimination and advocacy activities on the Mainland, and held intensive debates about the development of ideas, tactics and future directions for the LGBT movement in China. The 2-day conference consisted of 3 keynote speeches, 9 workshops on different themes and a plenary debate. The conference also saw the premiere of a Queer Comrades documentary on the 2012 China LGBT Community Leader Conference, urging delegates to reflect on what changed during the past year and what progress has been made.
The conference was hosted by the Beijing Gender Health Education Institute. It was preceded by a one-day China LGBT Community Consultation hosted by UNDP, and followed by a one-day Research-focused Get-together organized by the China Queer Working Group.
Welcoming everybody to the conference, Executive Director of the Beijing Gender Health Education Institute Xiaogang Wei said: "It's important for all of us participants at this conference to agree and find common ground, yet at the same it's also very important for us to disagree. Our confrontations spur on the reflections and discussions within the LGBT community. As long as we quarrel in order to guide our movement in more democratic and diverse directions, we're doing meaningful work."
Sexual Orientation & Law researcher Guo Xiaofei opened the conference with a keynote speech entitled: Legal and Public Policy Advocacy within the LGBT Anti-Discrimination Movement. In his speech, he said: "I think that LGBT-related issues will increasingly be connected to legal issues and to larger questions surrounding the Law in China. The LGBT community needs to prepare itself, and needs to consider how it will react and interact with future social and legal debates."
The second keynote speech centred around the responsibility of the LGBT community to work together on anti-discrimination with other marginalized groups in society. Several disabled members of the LGBT-community, including blind activist Han Zhen, physically impaired activist Li Jinyan, and deaf-mute activist Xiao Ling, shared their stories and moved the audience with their courageous tales of pride. Head of the Beijing-based One Plus One Disabled Persons' Cultural Development Centre Xie Yan expressed his happiness at being included in the LGBT Conference, and stressed the need for marginalized groups to work together on anti-discrimination. He said: "In China, there's too much emphasis on compassion for the disabled community, and there's too little attention towards rights. There's no talk about rights. When there's too much emphasis on compassion, we can't find other ways or channels to solve our issues."
The third keynote speech was held by Cai Yiping, feminist activist and executive committee member at Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era, who informed the delegates about how to integrate United Nations mechanisms into their activist and advocacy work.
Throughout the duration of the conference, 9 workshops were held on the topics of Media Strategies for the Anti-Discrimination Movement, Street Actions and the Anti-Discrimination Movement", Seeing Discrimination - Discrimination Inside and Outside of the LGBT Community", The Use of Surveying and Recording for Community-based Anti-Discrimination Advocacy", "Risk-Assessment and -Avoidance within the LGBT Movement" , "On-Campus Advocacy", "HIV/AIDS and the Anti-Discrimination Movement", "Progress and Predicaments of Transgender-related Anti-Discrimination", and "Legal and Public Policy Advocacy within the Anti-Discrimination Movement. The workshops formed the main arena for delegates to express their opinions and to learn from each others' experiences.
Ruan Zuichun, feminist activist representing Guangzhou's Sinner-B organization, asserted: "At next year's conference, I hope that there will be less discrimination within the LGBT community itself. I hope that more people will put on diversity glasses to look at this movement, and to consider its issues." Sa Jie, representative of the Beijing Lesbian Center, said: "There are a lot of young people here today. I am mainly involved with events for older lesbians. I hope that all of you can pay more attention to us." Xiao Han, the Changsha activist recently detained for his role in organizing the Changsha LGBT Pride Parade, said: "I really think that we need to continue organizing pride parades and similar events. They will only be influential if they happen every year." It was the first time for deaf-mute activist Xiao Ling to participate in the conference. He said: "I got to know a lot of people at this Conference. I feel like I've been set free. If any of you know deaf people, please contact me. I hope that next year more deaf people will participate in this Conference."
Da Tou, representative of the Chinese Lala Alliance, and Wei Wei, researcher at the East China Normal University, summarized the key points of the conference on the last conference day. Wei Wei said: "We need to consider how we can unite the LGBT movement with the development of the larger civil society in China." Da Tou said: "Do we have the same identity? Do we have the same thoughts? Are we pursuing the same things? Are we facing the same difficulties? We have to keep up our introspection and we have to keep engaging in dialogues to build up a more democratic, equal and diverse movement. Social movements are movements about people. The growth of social movements is built upon the growth of the activists participating in them."
At the plenary debate, which was held at the end of the conference, all participants were allotted a short moment to share their personal thoughts about the Conference and their hopes for the future. Several people asserted that the LGBT movement in China needs to continue to include marginalized communities both within and without its own circles, reflecting many of the debates held during the past days. Most delegates expressed that their passion for LGBT work was (re)invigorated by the conference. and expressed hopes for a brighter future not only for the LGBT movement but for China's civil society in general.
Summaries of the workshops and the debates will be posted in Chinese on the website of the Beijing Gender Health Education Institute: http://www.bghei.org/