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Outgames: human rights conference

From circumcision to homophobia in sports and more

Glen Callender's packed seminar, The Revolution Will Not Be Circumcised, was one of many sessions at the Outgames' human rights conference this week. Credit: Darren Fleet photo

Wearing only a black “I love my foreskin” T-shirt, Glen Callender pulled ecstatically on his foreskin-draped penis a few feet from the front row.

“I am gong to blow your mind, believe me,” he smiled. “I am about to undermine one of the great sexual myths of our time. The shock of what I am about to do may cause you to pass out.”

He then went on to demonstrate the washing of his penis in an imaginary shower. If you weren’t there, you really missed out.

Callender’s adults-only Thursday morning workshop on the dangers of male circumcision (and the purportedly non-existent science behind it) was one of the many highlights of the Vancouver 2011 Outgames Human Rights conference. In addition to the visual enlightenment, attendees of his packed session were given a condensed rundown on the drawbacks of male circumcision that left the doubters convinced and the bashful a giddy shade of red (the pants never were put back on).

For the past three days, dozens of speakers and hundreds of delegates have assembled at the Sheraton Wall Centre in downtown Vancouver to celebrate and recognize the social struggles behind the idea of the Outgames. Speakers covered a wide range of issues, including youth sexuality, homophobia in schools, hate crimes, seniors’ issues, discrimination in sport and the need for more professional and college athletes to come out.

“It’s really important for people in our community to come to these gatherings to get current on what’s happening in the community,” said Terry Syvenky, who came from Alberta for the week’s events.

“Coming to the Outgames is a way for people to reclaim their space on the field of play where maybe they weren’t made to feel welcome when they were younger.”

Event organizers say approximately 200 people have passed through the human rights conference since it opened on Tuesday.

“Attendance has been good,” says John Boychuk, chair of the Vancouver Outgames.

“We’ve got two and half days to go, and there is still a lot of great things going on out there. If people have the opportunity to come on out and play or support or spectate, please do because these people have come a long way,” he adds.