by Bianca Miglioretto*

For five days, from 3 to 6 November 2008, it was normal in Ibis Hotel in Vienna, Austria to be lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual. I was not in doubt whether I would “out” myself to new people I would meet.

The 24th World Conference of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) was such a great experience as LGBT from more than 80 countries converged and conversed. There was no need to fear for discrimination, particularly homophobia. No one gave me the usual pitiful look expressing, "but she could have found a husband."

But the conference also revealed the different realities LGBT people face in the different countries. Brazil, Nepal, the Netherlands, South Africa and Spain are some countries which have adopted laws protecting LGBTs. Some countries have even recognised same sex partnerships. But more LGBT people remain at risk in Nigeria, India, Panama and Saudi-Arabia. In some cases, LGBTs face imprisonment, if not the death penalty for living their lives as they choose.

As ILGA focuses its energies towards the United Nations, with the hope that it become the third LGBT organisation to be accredited, the conference's emphasis on LGBT human rights is not surprising. More than ever, the Yogyakarta Principles has become the rallying point for ILGA. Drafted by international law experts in late 2006, the Yogyakarta Principles validate the human rights which governments must accord to LGBTs based on existing international treaties.

But within the larger LGBT movements, we see the marginalisation of transgender people when in fact, it is the transgenders who challenge heteronormativity and binary gender thinking the most.

Indeed our perception of equality has to go beyond the binary gender concepts while we remain cautious that the rethinking would not result in marginalising women's rights.

During this conference, the ILGA General Assembly took an important decision in this direction. Prior to the conference, the ILGA World leadership consisted of a female and a male secretaries general, an arrangement which was unfriendly to transgenders who neither identify themselves as female nor male and therefore, could never had the chance to take on leadership positions. The number of seats was maintained. But it was decided that of the two secretaries general, one must identify herself as a woman. This means that a transgender may now be elected to the leadership without having to define her or his gender identity.

* Bianca Miglioretto is the community radio officer of Isis International.

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