Thursday, July 13, 2006

The International LGBT Human Rights Conference in Montreal

It may be that i am a space cadet, or it may be that so little outreach has been done locally, but i just noticed that there is an “International LGBT Human Rights” conference planned as part of the Outgames happening in Montreal this summer… i only clued into this when reading the Gazette this morning i saw that most of the attendees have actually not received their travel visas back from the Harper government yet!

Out of curiosity more than hope for much relevant, i went to the LBGT Conference website.

What was i thinking?!?

At five hundred dollars a pop (which, for you out of towners, does not include accommodations) you can be sure that there’ll be a mix of “professional human rights activists”, folks sponsored by NGOs, a variety of opportunistic politicians, and probably just the tiniest sprinkling of token grassroots folks to act as a fig leaf for everyone else…

Back in 1989 when the Fifth World AIDS Conference was held in Montreal there was of course an even more blatant split between those who were officially attending and those who were actually concerned by the conference. So radical activists from Montreal, Toronto and NYC (amongst other places) stormed the conference, and amongst other things forced the organizers to issue free passes. This was possible because even though most of the official attendees were probably “progressive” people who sympathized with the activists and people living with AIDS, the spectacle of a world conference to discuss AIDS which had made no effort to include actual people living with the disease was shocking and easily understood.

Today, despite Will and Grace and Cheney’s lesbian offspring the actual situation of queers around the world is similarly dire. Especially as right-wing Islam, the most visible force opposing imperialism, is itself more deeply homophobic than the 20th century anti-colonial movements. Truly those who have tumbled outside the bounds of “normal” are caught between a rock and hard place… and imperialism (which is so often complicit in fundamentalism’s spread) is of course no solution.

And yet there is little consciousness of any conflict of interests or positions (what in a different context might be termed a “class conflict”) between those organizing and attending the International Conference on LGBT Human Rights and those whose lives will be being discussed – indeed the official line (if anybody bothered to elaborate one) would probably be that the former are representing the interests of the latter.

Which is really too bad. NGOs don’t represent me any more than a conference which invites Charest’s Minister of Justice Yvon Marcoux and Montreal’s Mayor Tremblay to give keynote speeches at the opening dinner. There may be a lot of interest – even of critical importance – being discussed in some of the workshops, but by so heavily investing in First World homosexuality’s fantasy relationship with the ruling class, by being so top-heavy with judges, politicians, etc. (who gives a fuck if they’re queer?), by charging over $500 to attend and by tying their entire perspective so tightly to NGOism… well, i think this conference is likely to be no more representative than the Fifth World AIDS Conference threatened to be… just i’m pretty sure most queers won’t be protesting…

Oh, and did i mention that the Outgames which are organizing the conference are evicting street youth from Viger Square?

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