OutRight Now: Report Back from Advocacy Week and OutSummit

Hi Supporter,

This weekend, on International Human Rights Day, OutRight hosted our second annual OutSummit—40+ speakers from around the world, many of whom were our Advocacy Week participants, 100+ attendees, and panels and workshops on the most poignant issues related to international LGBTIQ human rights. The event was inspiring, empowering, and a huge success!

OutSummit allowed us all a space to reflect on how far we have come as a movement as well as deliberate and strategize how we can push for greater equality and protections for LGBTIQ people everywhere amidst growing conservative pushback around the world.

Our first keynote speaker, US Special Envoy on LGBTI Rights, Randy Berry, set the tone of the conference when he emphasized that civil society is what makes the difference in holding states accountable and in pushing standards of inclusion and progress. This was echoed by our surprise speaker, Vitit Muntarbhorn, the United Nation’s first-ever Independent Expert on SOGI, in his video to kick-off the summit. You can watch him address our attendees and OutSummit here.

Instead of summarizing in my own words what some of the take-aways of the conference were, I would like to share with you some statements and comments from our speakers, who highlighted four themes throughout the day: information, strategies, urgency, and resilience.

In OutSummit’s opening plenary, Looking Back: The Past 25 Years of LGBTIQ Rights, our panelists said:

“We are all in the same boat. Denial of rights to any one member is a denial of rights to all of us.”
—Louis Bradbury, President of the Calamus Foundation, USA


“Movements are born out of community—defying government expectations, taking up space, and dancing.”
—Bin Xu, Director, Common Language, China


“We have to look at what has worked and what we have achieved, the fact that we are here—we have to applaud ourselves—to achieve being here and being visible, this is critical.”
—Steve Letsike, Access Chapter 2, South Africa


“When we doubt the strength of the international system, we must invest in ourselves at the local and regional level.”
—Georges Azzi, co-founder of Helem, Lebanon


“Let’s learn from the mistakes of our history! Let’s not use single issue movement strategies!”
— Aine Duggan, Executive Director of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, Ireland


“We need to collect data about our communities.”
— Clifton Cortez, Senior LGBTIQ Advisor at the World Bank, USA


In considering what is yet to come in these forthcoming years, our panelists on the Looking Forward: A Manifesto for the Trump Years, mentioned:

“Trump’s election revealed how differently I need to work as a media professional.”
— Tiq Milan, National spokesperson for GLAAD, USA


“The best tool is to create our own narratives.”
— Miriam Van Der Have, Co-Chair, OII Europe, The Netherlands


“Our best form of survival is creating our own allies.”
— Rikki Nathanson, Board Member of Sexual Rights Centre, Zimbabwe


“We need structures to be in place regardless of who is the leader. We must invest in the system itself.”
— Jael Castillo-Salazar, Co-founder and President of Our Circle, Belize


“We must think about intersectionality, i.e. multinational corporations, climate change, media justice, etc, and how we can leverage these intersections to make the change we want to see.”
— Alap Shah, OutRight Board member and Senior Product Manager - Digital Mobile Innovation, Capital One, USA

Our final keynote speaker and fearless activist Amir Ashour reminded us:

“It is always time to talk about human rights.”
— Amir Ashour, Founder of IraQueer, Iraq


I and many of our colleagues in the global LGBTIQ movement are guarded in the face or rising conservatism around the world. We worry that not only will states, including the US, de-prioritize LGBTIQ human rights in foreign policy but maybe donors will as well. But this is not the time to take a step back, it is a time to step up. OutSummit strengthened my belief in the strength of a truly global movement. I hope you will continue to join us in this mission.

Jessica Stern,
Executive Director
OutRight Action International