Thank you, thank you, thank you, everyone! We are Ymania Brown from Samoa and Luz Elena Aranda from Mexico, and we are the co-Secretaries General of ILGA World: you all elected us in Wellington earlier this year – the first time ever you’ve chosen a bisexual woman and a trans woman to lead ILGA World.

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 ILGA-Europe 2019 conference in Prague, Czech Republic)
Opening photo from Twitter / @ilgaeurope

We both want to express our deep and heartfelt gratitude and thank you to ILGA-Europe – your Board led by your Co-Chairs Darienne Flemington and Micah Grzywnowicz, your staff and volunteers led by Evelyn Paradis, your ILGA World Board representatives Yves Aerts and Anastasia Danilova -, your host organisations Proud and Prague Pride, your amazing supporters and sponsors and, last but not least, to all of you here in beautiful Prague for making us feel welcome in the Czech Repulic.

We also want to acknowledge those who have come before us – the presence of former co-Secretary Generals of ILGA here with us in Prague.

Thank you for bringing us together to reinforce this year’s theme, “Stronger Together”, not just in our work as activists and allies and supporters, but in recognising that our diversity is an untapped strength that will always set us apart from those that seek to continue our oppression, our persecution, our discrimination and our erasure.

You know, ILGA World is 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 more than 1,500 member organisations from 150 countries and territories, who are based in our six regions: Pan Africa ILGA, ILGA Oceania, ILGALAC (Latin America and the Caribbean), ILGA NAC (North America and the Caribbean), ILGA Asia and of course ILGA-Europe where over 600 of our members come from!

“Stronger together”: that is the theme of this year’s ILGA-Europe Conference.

At ILGA World, we have had many victories together as a movement, but sadly we are constantly reminded of how much work we need to do for ALL our people – lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex, trans, queer and all gender-diverse and non-binary indigenous identities!

The sad lived realities for us and our LGBTIQ siblings is that we continue to be under attack continuously, and the attacks are getting stronger and stronger every year: this why we need to stay together, to work together, to be aware, to learn, and to be holding each other and our spaces together, linking our struggles, finding allies that we have more in common with than what separates us through our struggles, and collectively push and fight back.

And that is our day-to-day existence as a movement.
Everyday across the world, we are met with a range of diverse attitudes: some family acceptance (mostly not), some cultural acceptance (mostly not), some employment acceptance, but mostly we are met with rejection. At most times the attitude is dismissive – misgendering, wrong pronouns, online bullying and trolling – and at times we face absolute violence, so much that we continue to be forced to question the legitimacy of our own lives because of who we are and who we love.

We all know this – there is often a disconnect between our countries’ obligations towards the United Nations human rights system and how we are treated as citizens in our own countries – but the tide is slowly turning.
We at ILGA World have been leading LGBTIQ activists such as yourselves and their struggles on to so many victories at the UN and around the world, in so many different communities including here in Europe! You are all a part of those victories and successes and you should all celebrate what you have achieved.

Before we mention some of the victories, though, there are some dangerous trends out there – and this is a warning: some of the content that we will mention here may be triggering to some who have experienced violence.

Around the world, the trends have been the same:

  • attacks through criminalisation of same-sex relations – who we love, who we marry, whom we want to raise a family with
  • attacks through discrimination – from social discrimination to employment to religious, ethnic/national discrimination… it’s all there!
  • the countinuous attacks through hate crimes and criminal assaults – as trans women we are being hunted in parts of the world, as gays we are targeted for ‘conversion’ therapy, as lesbians we are targeted for ‘corrective’ rape, as intersex family members we are forced to undergo ‘corrective’ surgery and refused to have our own right to determine our bodily autonomy – and all of these are violent and inhumane atrocities against our family.
  • attacks during Pride parades, and shutting down Pride parades before they even occur
  • attacks through legislatures, and laws that have been passed – including fake “religious freedoms” legislation.

then add you add on top of this attacks against feminist and race issues, inclusion, decolonisation, and the so-called “gender theory”!

And yet, throughout all of these, we have also celebrated as a community some great wins!

From Pan Africa ILGA: Botswana decriminalised homosexuality!
From ILGA North America: New York banned conversion therapy on minors, New Jersey required public schools to teach LGBTI and disability-inclusive material!
From ILGA Asia: India decriminalised homosexuality, and Taiwan legalised marriage equality!
From ILGA Latin America and Caribbean: Ecuador legalised marriage equality, and Puerto Rico banned conversion therapy for minors!
And from ILGA Oceania: Australia legalised marriage equality!

In Japan, the first openly trans person was elected to a prefectural assembly seat.
In the US, the New York State Legislature banned the legal strategy known as the ‘gay/transgender panic’.
In Australia, the Victorian legislative council voted to amend legislation to allow trans and gender-diverse people to legally change their gender.
South Africa’s Equality Court ruled against the Department of Correctional Services for refusing to allow a transgender inmate from expressing her gender identity.

Even here in Europe, so far in 2019: hate speech based on trans identity and expression was banned in one country; third-gender option on all official documents allowed in another; updating parental language from “mother” and “father” with Parent 1 and Parent 2 happened; some Evangelical / Evangelical Lutheran / Evangelical Reformed Churches stepped up and allowed same-sex marriages to be blessed in their churches; marriage equality and abortion were legalised in Northern Ireland; and Italy elected its first out trans mayor!

And the crown in our achievement as activists: the Human Rights Council in July 2019 voted to renew the mandate for the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity held by Victor Madrigal-Borloz!

We must continue to remind ourselves that we as a movement have never asked for anything more, we have never asked for any new rights, we have never tried put our needs and rights above other citizens. All we are fighting for is the human right to be accepted and treated equally, to exist in peace and harmony within our communities. To be who we are, to love who we want. To have exactly the same rights as other citizens. Nothing more. Nothing less.

And in order to do that, we need spaces like ILGA and its regional conferences like here in Prague with ILGA-Europe, to remind ourselves and our communities of how much we can do if we work together – that we can truly be STONGER TOGETHER, so we thank you ILGA-Europe for reminding us of this promise.

Despite everything happening around the world, the continued attacks against us, both us and ILGA World believe our future is full of anticipated victories.
But we need to hold on to each other.
We need to celebrate and embrace our diversity.
We need to stay in the ring even when they tell us the fight is over.
Because we should never, ever, give up.
Not an inch. Not when our lives, and the lives of our loved ones depend on our fight.

Stronger together, our diversity is our strength. 
All of you, the LGBTIQ citizens of this ILGA Europe and Central Asia Region and your LGBTIQ siblings around the world you’re all survivors, and we will endure, and make no mistake, we as movement, we will not be erased, we will not be taken out, and the only way we can do that is by staying together and celebrating each other.
Because we are stronger together.

So, how do we do it? How do we stay stronger together?

Think of a rope, and its many strands. We find allies and we allow them to join our fight as we support theirs.
We join ILGA, ILGA-Europe and other regions – or any human rights organisation in your area: just join and participate.
We intersect – intersectionality is about joining struggles and movements to achieve common goals.
We continue to find the courage to speak our truth, even when you are alone.
That’s how we stay stronger together!

Let us hear you say it: STRONGER TOGETHER!

Say it one more time with pride, with love, and for all those lives taken from us, and for those that paved the way for us to be here in Prague.

One more time, with love and pride: STRONGER TOGETHER!


Tuisina Ymania Brown and Luz Elena Aranda,
Co-Secretaries General of ILGA World