TAIPEI, TAIWAN – Because many LGBTQI people still face discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE) in Asia and the Pacific (APAC), particularly where SOGIE cannot be self-determined, are not fully recognized, or even fully expressed, LGBT leaders from the region gathered at the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association (ILGA) Asia Conference 2015.
According to ILGA’s Ruth Baldaccino, “many of us know of the challenges faced by (LGBT people) in the region”, and – for that matter – “there are still regions that are less represented.”
Baldaccino, nonetheless, remained optimistic in saying that “beyond the linguistic differences, the cultural diversity of the region… we find a lot of commonalities that link us all. Our passion for this, our commitment for human rights and our concern for human rights are only a few things that connect us,” Baldaccino said.
CONTROVERSY (AS IT HAPPENS)
Ironically, even if this year’s gathering highlighted the need for LGBTQI people to have the power for self-determination, controversy marred the opening of the event in Taipei, Taiwan with the erroneous naming of trans participants who were identified using their assigned names at birth, not their preferred names upon registration.
Nisha Ayub of Malaysia-based SEED said to Outrage Magazine that “many may think this is a trivial thing, but self-identification is an issue that greatly affects particularly the trans community.”
The disappointment is even more pronounced because the event is by and for LGBT people – a boo-boo that may be “expected” (even if not welcomed) if this is a cisgender event, and not from an LGBT event.
For Raine Cortes – from the ISEAN secretariat – gatherings like this should be “very sensitive about SOGIE. After all, we are the very people fighting for self-determination,” she said. “It is always disheartening when things like this happen maybe due to lack of proper coordination.”
Ayub said that the move is now to “take steps to amend this issue, and to ensure that it doesn’t happen again in future gatherings.”
Asia is the biggest continent in the world, but even LGBTQI activists (not just their constituents) “continue to struggle against injustice arrests, kidnaps and punishments done by States, as well as (face) legal and social discrimination.”
ILGA believes that “now is the moment for everyone’s body and soul to be independent from the past as well as the present predicaments. It is time for us to learn from experiences and form strategies in order to create an effective and sustainable movement that leads to change and an Asia with equality.”