As well as examples of achievements regarding public policy and LGBTI citizenship in Latin America, the conference also promoted the exchange of experiences about different forms of doing LGBTI politics in the international arena. Specialists and activists with advocacy experience in international policy spaces, such as the UN, OAS and others, helped to lead group discussions on ‘International mechanisms for the assurance of LGBTI rights’ as well as the plenary, ‘UN commitments on the promotion of LGBT rights and citizenship in Latin America and the Caribbean’.
Mauro Cabral for example, a trans activist from GATE, presented his reflections on the Yogyakarta Principles in the application of international laws in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity. One central question he raised, referred to the legitimacy of gender identity, as one engages with the state, especially in relation to intersex and/or trans people. Despite international legislation recognising the right to self-definition of gender identity, and the assurance where state initiative exists, of the conditions for the realisation of the body in terms of this identity, current practices leave off from the premise of the immaturity of intersex and trans people, to be able to reach decisions about medical interventions of their bodies.
Cabral argued that, even amongst movements for freedom of expression of gender identity and sexual orientation, there comes a tendency to reify the adoption of a universal norm that permits people one – and only one – gender identity, even though the expression of gender doesn’t always correspond, necessarily, to the gender identity of an individual. The Yogyakarta Principles indicate that already existing international legislation recommends that states should offer access to body modification treatments, and, at the same time, defends the depathologisation of trans and intersex people. The question that then remains is: how can we apply these two principles, concomitantly? “And if I want the state to recognise me in the way that I define myself, do I have to show the state what I have between my legs?”, he added.
On the panel dealing with the commitments of the UN to the LGBTI rights in Latin America, despite the presence of four distinct programmes, the focus of all the presentations was on confronting the HIV/AIDS epidemic in terms of policies directed to gay men, MSM, and trans people. There were no initiatives presented, which related to lesbians, or bisexuals, or initiatives related to other aspects of life, such as housing, education, or employment.
Brazilian trans activist Fernanda Benvenutty, observed that “people are dying of heart attacks, because of high blood pressure problems, arthrosis, sclerosis, renal problems, of oncology, of various other things. Why do we (LGBTs) only have the right to be treated and cared for when we have Aids?”, adding, “for me, to be physically and psychologically well, I have to have adequate education, health, housing, employment, there needs to be the capacity to have these things. Because the promotion (of health) is this: it’s the guarantee of the right to health, housing, a living wage, and all of this, so that you don’t sicken”.
On the last day of the conference, Gloria Careaga and Pedro Paradiso co-ordinated a workshop on practices and experiences in international advocacy, with the presence of around 20 activists from across the region, with whom they shared some techniques which had already brought positive results, to policies relating to sexuality, in international decision-making spaces such as in the UN General Assembly, in December 2008. In this case, a delegation of LGBT activists worked hard to organise a “rally” in search of commitment from the largest possible number of countries to a declaration that confirms the principle of non-discrimination, and requests human rights to be applied equally to all human beings, independent of their sexual orientation or gender identity.