The global LGBTI family has come together in Aotearoa New Zealand this week for the ILGA World Conference: more than 500 persons from almost 100 countries have gathered in Wellington celebrating the past and strategising for the future of this diverse movement.
Hosted by three local organisations – Tīwhanawhana, RainbowYOUTH and Intersex Trust Aotearoa New Zealand – the event marks 40 years since the establishment of The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), the global organisation advancing the human rights of LGBTI persons.
“This is the first time that ILGA holds its world conference in Oceania,” said André du Plessis, Executive Director of ILGA. “This is an historic occasion for our global family to learn about the unique Pacific perspectives on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, and sex characteristics. Many of us come from countries where being who we are puts us at risk, but we feel welcome here, and we are truly grateful to the Host Rōpū and the 100 volunteers who have made this conference possible”.
Sadly, the conference happens at a tragic time for New Zealand: “We mourn with you and all the people of Aotearoa and the world for the horrific loss in Christchurch last week,” said Ruth Baldacchino and Helen Kennedy, Co-Secretaries General of ILGA. “We stand in solidarity, sorrow and love with the Muslim community here. Queer people are not strangers to hate: they are us; and we are you. In the gloom, in the darkness, in the storm: we will shine a light for you.”
With more than 70 sessions and 14 pre-conferences, the ILGA World Conference has opened up spaces for the most marginalised and least visible communities in our global family. For the first time in the history of the event, pre-conferences were dedicated to address what it means to be LGBTI and indigenous, a sex worker, or a young person.