Freedom to Love, Loving Freedom

Tired but happy, after the first full day at the LGBT Human Rights Conference at the WORLD OUTGAMES 2009 in Copenhagen. We got up early and took the Metro to a very modern Danish broadcasting centre, where our conference of 750+ delegates from 80+ countries came together as part of the World Outgames. The theme of the Conference, “Freedom to Love, Love of Freedom,” expressed the feeling of many. It was a joy to see Canada’s own Svend Robinson welcome delegates as co-chair of the conference. His leadership on LGBT issues in Canada is legendary, but he’s also worked internationally for human rights.

The opening plenary honoured Axel Axgil. He and his partner were the first same sex couple in the world to gain a legally recognized civil union, in Denmark in 1989. He is now 95 years old.

Great speakers – John Amaechi, former NBA player, and Virginia Apuzzo who spoke about “Stonewall 40 years. ” I come from a time when we had no name,” she said in her deep gravelly voice. “I believed my life was to be a series of denials.” But Stonewall compelled her to speak out and act. “Stonewall took place in a tinder box of change, for women, farmworkers, union rights.” She told us our job was to “fashion the message for the next generation.” We must be vigilant she said, because justice is fragile.

I later attended a workshop on Sports and Human Rights – not something I had anticipated attending – but John Amaechi was so excellent, I wanted to hear more. His own story is remarkable and his dedication to ensuring equality and human rights within sports is inspiring.

Later I participated in a panel on LGBT politics and political parties, with a new, out MP from Nepal and several others. It was good to tell folks about the good and long record of the NDP in championing LGBT rights. Bill Siksay, MP, is also attending, and as LGBT critic for the NDP is doing outstanding work for our caucus and the LGBT community. His bill calling for the protection of transgender rights in Canada is badly needed.

The diversity at the conference is quite something, with delegates from from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

Many folks see Canada as very advanced – and we are because of people like Svend, and groups like EGALE, but still we told people, nothing is taken for granted with our hard-won rights – the movement of all people struggling for equality and voice and power must remain vigilant, united and strong.

So it’s the end of a long day! I’ve met many of the athletes from Canada, and it’s fabulous to connect, find out who people are, and feel this great sense of Canadian solidarity.

Now time to sleep – Kim took amazing pictures all day – for and small videoettes. We’ve got lots more to do!