OutRight Executive Director is One of Four Panelists at ILGA-Europe Plenary

At the main plenary panel of the 2015 conference of ILGA-Europe, OutRight Executive Director Jessica Stern joined fellow activists from around the world in addressing the benefits and challenges of cultivating alliances and other partnerships in the work of the LGBTIQ movement. The four-person panel, held on October 30 in Athens, shared its title with the overall event: “Many voices, one movement—Together, mobilised for a just society.”

The first speaker was Geeta Misra, co-founder and executive director of the feminist human rights organization CREA in India. Misra explained how, amid an increasingly conservative social and political environment, Indian activists have forged a consensus around advocacy in favor of "decriminalizing adult consensual sex." This framing not only covers sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) issues, noted Misra, but also effectively incorporates sexual and reproductive health concerns, sex worker rights, and advocacy against marital rape and child sexual abuse.

Mike Jackson of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners in the United Kingdom. was the next speaker. His group's activities were the basis for the film “Pride,” which was set in the Thatcher-era U.K. and dramatized the unlikely partnership that emerged when lesbian and gay Londoners collected funds on behalf of striking coal miners.  He said while trade unions can be strong allies for many progressive causes, they have been under sustained political attack since the 1980s in the U.K. and worldwide.

Speaking next, OutRight’s Stern stated that with the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States, the “U.S. LGBTIQ movement is in a time of introspection…with a lot of activists and others asking ‘what’s next’?” She argued that the U.S movement has an opportunity to now return to goals related to personal liberty, notably for marginalized groups such as trans people, queer youth, and people of color. There is also increasing consciousness about the need for global solidarity, Stern added, as well as awareness of ongoing anti-LGBTI discrimination, gender injustice, police brutality, and other human rights violations within the US, and especially in region of the US South. 

The final speaker was Murat Köylü, external affairs coordinator of the  Kaos GL  in Turkey, who described the multiple crises currently facing his country, including warfare on its borders, civil conflict within the state, massive refugee flows, and social and political turmoil. In a society under such duress, he noted, it is difficult to focus on LGBTIQ-specific issues. Instead, Köylü said, activists in Turkey must form broad alliances with other groups who are seeking social solidarity across lines of religion, ethnicity, region, gender, sexuality, or other status.

The panel was moderated by ILGA World Co-Secretary General Helen Kennedy, who wove together the themes presented by the speakers and challenged them to suggest ways to overcome fragmentation among potential allies within countries and around the world. In all, the 2015 ILGA-Europe conference was the largest ever held and included over 450 participants from more than 50 countries.

Raymond A. Smith, Ph.D., is an adjunct assistant professor of political science at both Columbia University and New York University. 

Left to right: Mike Jackson, Jessica Stern, Geeta Misra, Murat Köylü, and moderator Helen Kennedy