In the middle of her speech at the Colombian Congress, Bogota activist Luisa Verónica Chacón unfurled the trans pride flag and demanded Colombian leaders address violence toward trans women in the country. Luisa was one of nearly a dozen LGBTI elected officials and leaders who told their story in the capitol building – calling for increased political inclusion of marginalized populations including women, indigenous people, people of color and people with disabilities. The rallying cries aimed to counter the increasingly hostile attitude toward LGBTI and other marginalized populations in many parts of Latin America, South America, the Caribbean and the United States, and the erosion of democratic values by newly empowered nationalistic leaders.
The event at the capitol marked the start of our 4th LGBTI Political Leaders of the Americas conference in Bogota – held in partnership with local organization Caribe Afirmativo – where more than 300 LGBTI elected officials and leaders from throughout the Western Hemisphere are gathering to strategize how best to increase LGBTI political inclusion. The theme is “Democracy Demands Equality,” and Aziza Lake, senator from Antigua and Barbuda, explained it well at the capitol event: “We can never truly say that western society is democratic if we are still denying equal rights to marginalized communities and people.”
Throughout our three-day conference, LGBTI elected officials and activists will speak to the need for LGBTI people to run for office, lobby lawmakers and political parties, and educate our community on candidates who support or oppose equality. The challenges vary widely by country, with Venezuelans leading an uprising against Nicolas Maduro, Nicaraguans leading street protests against Daniel Ortega and Brazilians facing the most homophobic and transphobic president in the hemisphere if not the world. But the solution is the same: increased LGBTI political inclusion will move us toward equality.
Throughout this Friday and Saturday – May 17 and 18 – you can watch the plenaries live and follow the conversation on Twitter with hashtag #LGBTIleaders and #liderazgosLGBTI. The agenda listing the plenaries is available online.