(this is a transcription of the speech that Tuisina Ymania Brown and Luz Elena Aranda, Co-Secretaries General of ILGA World, delivered during a plenary at the 2020 ILGA Oceania regional conference, which took place virtually in October 2020)

Good afternoon, Talofa, everyone

Tuisina Ymania Brown: I would like to begin by acknowledging the Kanak nation and its people of Caledonia. You are THE traditional custodians of the land on which this conference hub is beamed from: I pay my respects to your Kanak elders past, present and emerging, and I also extend that respect to any Kanak peoples on this call today.

Thank you, thank you Ken and Vanessa, and thank you everyone here in Oceania for the invite, the recognition and the support.

We are Ymania Brown from your very own region here in Oceania, from Samoa, and Luz Elena Aranda from Mexico, and we are the Co-secretaries General of ILGA World. For those of you who were in Wellington in March 2019, you all elected us to be the first time ever you’ve chosen a bisexual woman and a trans woman to lead ILGA World. So, Luz and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

We acknowledge the Board of ILGA Oceania and its leadership, Laurent and your team in New Caledonia, and your host organisation Diversities NC: thank you for making us feel welcome here online.

Thank you for bringing us together to reinforce this year’s Conference theme, highlighting Mangrove People in Conjunction in giving a voice to populations not often heard, silent, quiet, enduring and existing but MOST AFFECTED.

We stand in solidarity against the oppressors not just of LGBTIQ people, but of other intersectional struggles that affect Oceania – climate change, violence against women, violence and discrimination against LGBTI people.

Luz Elena Aranda: Yes, Ymania and this is so true! As you know, Oceania is a crucial part of ILGA World, the world federation of national and local organisations dedicated to achieving equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people across the globe.

And we have been doing this since 1978 – we speak on behalf of over 1,600 member organisations from 160 countries and territories, who are based in our six regions: Pan Africa ILGA, ILGALAC (Latin America and the Caribbean), ILGA NAC (North America and the Caribbean), ILGA Asia, ILGA-Europe and of course ILGA Oceania – where the fewest of our members come from, but cover the biggest land / ocean mass!

Tuisina Ymania Brown:  Yes, Luz. And what a great theme this year: rather than a thematic theme of descriptive aspirations, you have gone with a reminder. Mangrove People in Conjunction. Conversations and public attention to the plight of Mangrove people. The intersectional struggles of Mangrove people.

Which brings into play issues dear and important to Oceania. Climate change, violence against  women, poverty and economic development, challenging access to health, clean water, food, safety – issues that make your conference not just about LGBTIQ issues, but about your people, our people: your women, your LGBTIQ struggles together with your community struggles to elevate your voices. That is a sign of growth and maturity here in the Pacific which you should continue to do.

More and more we are realising we cannot win this fight alone. We need allies, we need to change our approaches, we need to be more intersectional and that is need to stay together, to work together, to be holding each other and our spaces together, linking our struggles.

Luz Elena Aranda: We must remember that before they pushed us into boxes – L, G, B, T, I, Q, elder, disabled, and more – we were, are and always will be humans, part of the same human family, and because of that what connects ALL of us is so much more than what separates us.

Tuisina Ymania Brown and Luz Elena Aranda, ILGA World Co-Secretaries General (ph. ILGALAC)

It has not been an easy journey for all LGBTIQ family around the world. More and more at ILGA World, we see the same problems in different regions around the world. Our people have been killed, beaten, discriminated against, thrown out of homes, kicked out of countries, ripped out of families, and have even taken their own lives because of LGBTI-phobias and any fear and failure to understand our people, our family.

Here at ILGA Oceania we are coming together under the umbrella of Mangrove People in Conjunction, supporting each other, building bridges with our allies, connecting with our neighbouring Pacific Islands, sharing a safe space to network, share ideas and remind each other how resilient we are as a people.

Tuisina Ymania Brown: Both Luz and I know that our OPPRESSION as LGBTIQ people sometimes feels like an endless cycle of REPRESSION.  Again. And again. And again.
But how great to hear from the South Pacific Commission this morning that they can help as an ally in our fight here in Oceania! We need to find more allies like them in our struggles.
Because both Luz and I know, and feel the same as you all do: we have had enough pain, tears, deaths, violence and discrimination against our LGBTIQ populations.

Luz Elena Aranda: At ILGA World we continue to remind states and governments that as a movement we are NOT asking for any new rights, we are not asking to be put IN FRONT of other people and their rights: all we are fighting for is the basic human rights that everyone else has access to – acceptance, equality, food, shelter, wealth, environment, living in peace in our communities and contributing as worthy citizens and not as second class ones. These are the things we should all have EQUAL access to, but have been denied to us.

Here in this gathering at ILGA Oceania, you have done a great job to ensure that feminist principles are at the centre of your conference, and especially on your conference theme: the feminist principles of giving, caring and nurturing life, of doing no harm, of engaging in transformative change, of nothing for us unless it is by us, and of sharing and collaborating.

Tuisina Ymania Brown: Yes Luz, and we also need to continue to push forward, to not stop, to march, to run, wo walk, to swim, to crawl if we have to, towards our freedoms. They are there – just beyond the horizon, just beyond the waves – if we have the courage to join each other as you have done here at ILGA Oceania in our struggles, in our spaces, in our voices, to make sure we practice and embrace true intersectionality in our fights.

Thank you for reminding us that we are a part of the same system, we are not separate: we share this planet and we MUST work together, and we MUST make sure our populations who need us, like Mangrove Peoples, are supported and have their voices heard.

Luz Elena Aranda and Tuisina Ymania Brown: From us at ILGA World, on behalf of our staff in Geneva and our Board: Thank you / Gracias ILGA Oceania. Thank you, Vanessa, Ken, Laurent and your Board for the opportunity for us to say a few words. We wish you all a great Conference, we wish you all the best. You can reach out to us anytime through the office in Geneva!