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Beyer: LGBT conference was "inspiring"

Sat 5 Aug 2006 In: New Zealand Daily News

A global LGBT rights conference, held in Montreal last week, was an “empowering” and “most inspiring experience”, reports Labour MP Georgina Beyer, who contributed to both the LGBT Politicians Workshop and the Asia and Pacific Plenary Session. Beyer says New Zealanders often underestimate the impact she has globally, as a speaker and as the world's first transgender MP. “I offered myself publicly to help, if I can be of any use… as a trans person I've experienced significant ups and downs, and people recognise I have a lot to offer.” At the “Out Queer MPs” workshop, Beyer conveyed her experience as a trans MP, elected by a “conservative rural electorate.” She spoke of “how to get into the heart of government.” Canada's first openly gay MP Svend Robinson, and German Green MP Volker Beck – who was attacked by skinheads at Moscow Pride in May this year – also attended the workshop. “I have a lot to share… I didn't stand for Parliament because I was queer, but in spite of it. I was elected by a relatively conservative electorate, not on a single issue, but as a representative of all my constituents on all issues.” Beyer noted the “diabolical situation faced by LGBT, people” in places like Iran and Africa, compared with relative freedom in New Zealand, which doesn't stop us “grizzling”. “We've made huge gains in New Zealand.” Beyer also contributed to the Asia and Pacific Plenary Session. It was a real “wake up call,” said Beyer, to hear of the “dire situation” faced by trans people in Pakistan, as expressed by the “inspirational” Ms Hina Jilani, the special representative of the UN Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders, in Pakistan. Beyer said it was “empowering” to hear how trans people overcome gender identity discrimination in places like Iran and South America. “And let's not forget that nine countries still have the death penalty for being queer, for goodness sake!” Many places are “far worse off” for LGBT people than New Zealand, said Beyer. The conference was of “a high level nature”, with almost 2000 delegates from 100 countries. Wellington education researcher Judie Alison addressed the conference on the “School's Out” programme designed to combat homophobic bullying in schools. At the conclusion of the sessions, delegates released the ‘Montreal Declaration', which charts global LGBT rights, and calls for governments, non-governmental organisations, the United Nations and individuals to work to build respect for the fundamental human rights of LGBT people. The declaration also called for the adoption of a new UN treaty to combat sexuality-based and gender discrimination. The conference was held in conjunction with the inaugural Out Games in Montreal. A real highlight for Beyer was being invited to march into the Olympic Stadium with the 60+-strong New Zealand team. “I didn't expect it. I was absolutely wrapped.”     Ref: (d)

Credit: News Staff

First published: Saturday, 5th August 2006 - 12:00pm

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