It may be October, but Pride is about to begin.
For three days, starting Oct 10, I’ll be your eyes and ears at the annual international conference of Pride organizations in Montreal.
The 31st annual conference of InterPride, an international association of Pride organizers, will welcome approximately 300 delegates from all over the world — from massive festivals like Toronto's and New York's that attract hundreds of thousands of participants and spectators to small, defiant and sexually daring protests where participants risk violence to march in the streets.
Past conferences have hosted delegates from some of the world’s most hostile environments, including Uganda, Russia and Jamaica, offering them solidarity and support in their fight for rights back home.
North American Pride delegates, who may sometimes lose perspective about the struggles faced by gays and lesbians living in less open countries, get a glimpse into a world where the threat of persecution is a daily fear.
The theme of this year’s conference is Honouring our Past, Building our Future, and will include sessions on LGBT history, the state of LGBT rights around the world, and the fight for acceptance by queer youth.
You can follow my live blog and Twitter feed as the conference unfolds — and as I try to pack in as much as possible. Check out the conference schedule here.
For me, no doubt, the most thrilling moments will be meeting activists from other countries. Activists like Andrew Waiswa, from Jinja, Uganda, who is the founder and executive director of the Gender Equality and Health Organization (GEHO), which operates a network of safehouses for queer people fleeing homophobic families and police.
Highlights of the conference include a presentation on gay-straight alliances, called “Confronting the Ban on GSAs in Ontario’s Taxpayer-Funded Catholic Schools,” and a session on how gay-pride events are used as a tool to improve local and international LGBT human rights.
Other workshops include a session on the history and future of the leather movement and a discussion about security at Pride events, featuring organizers from Boston Pride, who will discuss the lessons they learned following the Boston Marathon bombings. There’s also a session on gender expression and trans folks dubbed “I Have Nothing Against Drag Queens but I Feel They Give Us a Bad Name.”
This year, expect a large contingent from Toronto singing the praises of our city, which will play host to WorldPride in 2014. Toronto Pride’s Kiona Sinclair will lead a session on recruiting, training and retaining Pride volunteers.
So, as InterPride members and Pride organizers from around the world meet to discuss the the victories of past years and the challenges and struggles in the year ahead, follow along, join the online discussion and support the global advocacy that makes a significant difference in LGBT lives every day.