Aside

Gay rights and solidarity- Part 1: what’s in it for the straights?!

The international day against homophobia and trans-phobia (and bi-phobia and pan-phobia and…) 2012 is right around the corner. It’s also around this time of the year that a lot of us (or at least me) start thinking about the concept of homophobia. I mean…seriously, what the hell is homophobia?! We all know how it works and how  the whole cycle thing goes. But the question that eludes me is why is there this hate thing in the first place?! What do people get from it?!

Well…where did it come from?!

Luckily, I came across what I would call the best conceptualization of homophobia (and probably of any other related type of discrimination) in the book of Sherry Woolf “Sexuality and Socialism“. She, as any well-behaved socialist, links homophobia to the capitalist system and class struggle. Now even if you were not a huge lefty fan, I really suggest that you hear this one out cause it makes a lot of sense. The way she puts it is that because of class struggle, it would be in the benefit of the employer (authority, capital head…) to limit the opposition of the worker (employee, people….). How does one do that?! You simply divide them and let them picker and compete among each other.

Hmm..then homophobia and discrimination is just a bunch of people competing?! 

Yeah sort of but not really. Let’s first jump over the mess of how exactly did homophobia gets instilled in people since a lot of us have an idea about that (thought it’s actually very interesting to take a look at it), and get to the part of how things turns out to be. What we have now is that a straight person in a given building might throw a couple of homophobic swears at his transgender neighbor. So what?! Well it gets very hard for these two to get together and ask their landlord to fix the water system in that building later. Now take that and expand it a little more to basic civil rights. Homophobia, in Woolf’s words, is not sign of power and strength, its “a sign of powerlessness”. An oppressed class is divided by those in power, in this “powerlessness” they compete with each other and build up illusions of power and control. In that sense, this is not true competition because both sides are bound to lose. There is no winning team in this equation.

Got it…what do you think we should do?!

Well, the first step is that we need to realize that homophobia is not a one sided phenomenon. It’s a mutual interaction between two parties who “think” they are on opposite sides. What the LGBTIQ community needs to do now is build its network of straight allies. And I’m not talking about the scarce friends here and there and other joyful supporters (although those folks do rock!!). I’m talking about a bunch of fierce activists who realize that gay rights are not a “gay issue” but rather a civil rights issue that affects the whole of society.

(A pic that I found on the net. GSA clubs at schools in the US are still a major controversy – at least to right conservatives – probably since they have proved in many occasions their ability to mobilize the student body to stand up to unfair and at times bigoted school policies)

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AIDS2012: Catching up with the deadline

 

 

So the AIDS2012 is around the corner and the big Feb 15th deadline is only 3 days away. But you can still register and be part of this huge and important conference.

 

The AIDS2012 is a major event for all those who are interested in HIV/AIDS-related advocacy. The conference attracts thousands of participants and many of them are fierce activists who have always managed to spice things at some point during the past conferences. Most notable is that many decisions and call-to-actions are made during this event that directs the work for the coming years.

Despite the importance of the event to the health and human rights of LGBTIQ, issues concerning these populations have been poorly represented at International AIDS Conferences in the past. At the last International AIDS Conference, only 2.6% and 1.1% of all sessions were dedicated to MSM and transgender issues respectively. It is time for this to change (MSMGF, 2012).

That’s why I encourage anyone who is interested to apply for the conference since it’s a very rich and satisfying experience. You can apply on behalf of your organization/network or even on a personal basis but the first usually makes it easier to get a scholarship.

Since the deadline is so close, I suggest that you do the following;

  1. Go to to the website and and create your conference profile here –> http://profile.aids2012.org (you’ll need to do this even if are applying on behalf of an organization/network)
  2. Complete a scholarship request. Scholarships are available for registration fee, travel, accommodation and/or stipend (the decision on the amount of the scholarship that you will receive depends on your contribution to the conference and how much can you communicate the information back home). The scholarships are available to people from resource-limited settings and communities, researchers, young people, community activists and civil society representatives.
  3. Even if you do not have a scientific abstract to submit, you can still submit a project/activity abstract. There are tons of satellite activities that take place alongside the conference. One of the major outlets that you can contribute to is through the YouthVillage. This year the Youth programme task force is collaborating with YouthForce DC to organize the YouthVillage. I suggest that you see what kind of an interesting activity that you can do and submit it. For information, you can contact them at youth@aids2012.org. They are very friendly and welcoming and usually reply to your emails fast, so don’t hesitate to email them if want more information on the type of activities that you can do.

There are a couple of things to remember here. First is that you can fill the scholarship application and the youth activity/project through your personal conference profile. You don’t have to do everything now but I suggest that you create your conference profile first and apply for the scholarship then you can submit the activity/project later on and link it to your profile. Remember that the deadline is 15th of February, so you should do it now if you want to make it.

What happens if you don’t submit a project/activity?

Nothing really. You can still attend the conference but you more likely to get a scholarship if have an abstract/project/activity accepted at the conference.

What if I didn’t get a scholarship? or if I didn’t get a full scholarship?

Well, there are other options. There first is to find someone to sponsor you. There are a lot of funders out there who are willing to fund this kind of things if you write a convincing proposal.
One of my friends managed to get a fund for 10 young persons to the last conference in 2010 this way. During the IHRA conference last year, one of the participants that I met there told me that she did a fundraiser party to be able to participate in the conference. Get creative 🙂

Also, starting 1st of April, you can submit a volunteer application at the conference. They usually accept all volunteering applicants. You get a free pass to the entire conference outside your shift times (which might also coincide with the sessions that you want to attend). You also get a stipend and a lunch per day but no support for visa, accommodation or travel. (p.s. for accommodation you check possible hostlers center or even http://www.couchsurfing.org/ for the adventurous one).

P.s.: Book your ticket from the conference website if you are going to cover it since they offer a 20% discount. The Visa will cost you between150$-200$ and takes a lot of time to be issued so apply for it early on! Anyway if you have any questions, you can refer to the conference website at aid2012.org and if you can’t find what you want email them directly.