Pat Baillie, Out & Equal Director of Training & Professional Development, will be contributing to the Out & Equal blog while she is on the road for a month, traveling and training. Pat is currently in London for the Global LGBT Workplace Summit, which is taking place July 5 & 6, 2012.
by Pat Baillie | While the rest of the staff was working to set up registration and going through the last planning steps to kick off the Global LGBT Workplace Summit, I got a chance to head over to a World Pride workshop.
The day-long workshop was on working toward the Decriminalization of Homosexuality around the world. There were over 25 activists present, some representing countries where it is illegal to even be LGBT. I heard what it is like to live in places like Sri Lanka, Jamaica, India, South Africa and of course, the UK. It was inspiring to hear how those who live, work, and continue to fight for human rights and LGBT recognition. I heard strategies on how LGBT education is included as part of HIV/AIDS funded programs and how to battle against religious attacks by talking at the grassroots level, one person at a time, were key ways change happens in the Caribbean and Africa. I also had the opportunity to hear more about the work being done in India as they work to repeal Section 377 which prohibits homosexuality. One of the most surprising insights, in my opinion, was from South Africa. Sexual orientation is part of their constitution, but there are still widespread attacks and homophobia. Corrective rape, for women who are lesbians, is still the norm and women in general do not sleep well unless they live in a guarded compound. There was discussion on the themes of homophobia being a colonial export and the view of homosexuality as a western concept that has been brought into these cultures both needing to be addressed. The grassroots efforts to show that prior to influences by the British, there were examples of variations on sexuality and gender in these cultures (similar to the Two Spirits of the First Nations tribes in the United States) help to make this education key. There have even been several attempts, globally, to re-criminalize homosexuality.
There is a lot to think about as we evaluate how the United States is doing on an international stage. To me, this information felt like a wake-up call and reminded me of the need to fight complacency within the U.S. LGBT community. I took lots of notes and will share those insights in future forums. I invited several of the attendees to our conference. The learning curve is still ramping up!