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Outgames extends human rights conference

More groups want to participate, organizer says

The North American Outgames Human Rights Conference has been extended from three to six days after various local, national and international queer organizations expressed interest in hosting workshops, organizers say.

“People came to us and asked if they could be a part of the conference,” says Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association [GLISA] president Greg Larocque. “People have understood the importance of talking about LGBTQ human rights.”

Outgames organizers have already held two fundraising events, raising approximately $5,000 to assist youth and seniors wanting to attend the human rights conference.

The cost of attending the conference is $325 for adults and $200 for youth and seniors, says Larocque. He says many young people and seniors live on fixed incomes and might not be financially able to attend the conference if not for bursary assistance to offset entrance fees.

Private community groups hosting workshops for the extended three days of the conference will charge a separate attendance fee, which will go directly to their respective organizations, Larocque adds.

Participating groups include Jer’s Vision: Canada’s Youth Diversity Initiative, the Q Hall of Fame Foundation and Salaam Conference.

Workshop topics planned for the six-day conference include discussions on racism, sexism, discrimination in sport and homophobia in schools.

“LGBTQ issues and education is the last area of oppression that needs to be dealt with,” says James Chamberlain, of the BC Teachers Federation. “This is an area that has been left behind.”

Chamberlain will be co-hosting a workshop called “Queering the School Systems,” which will examine the roles and responsibilities that educators, organizations and political groups have in addressing homophobia in schools.

“It’s about building capacity for different communities in Canada and the States to begin to do the work or to enhance what they already have developed,” he says.

Conference opening and closing plenary speakers include New Zealand short-track Olympic speed skater Blake Skjellerup, who credits his coming out to Pride House at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and transgender concert pianist Sara Davis Buechner.

Larocque says both Skjellerup and Buechner will be sharing stories of their successes and their journeys.

“I’m someone who has weathered a transition as a transgender woman in the public eye,” Buechner explains.

“There’s a lot of commonality between being in music and sport,” she adds, pointing to the roadblocks she experienced after publicly coming out and the tenacity required to pursue a music career in the first place.

“I was pleasantly surprised to be asked [to speak at the conference],” Buechner says. “To me sports, music, art and culture are all a component to the human experience.”