TV & Radio
Elected and gay: the politics of coming out
LGBT conference. Politicians want abilities recognized
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Openly gay politicians want to be recognized for their competence and not just for their sexual orientation.
This was one of the observations made yesterday by seven current or former elected officials at a workshop at the International Conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Human Rights at the Palais des congres.
The challenges, pitfalls and pluses of being a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered politician were discussed, as was the process to decide when to come "out" in a political career.
Gathered on the dais were Svend Robinson, a former member of Parliament from Burnaby, B.C.; Agnes Maltais, Parti Quebecois member of the National Assembly for Taschereau; Georgina Beyer, a New Zealand legislator who was the world's first transsexual elected to Parliament; Ulrike Lunacek, an MP from Austria; Volker Beck, a member of the German Bundestag; Oras Tynkkynen, a member of the Finnish Parliament, and Joke Swiebel, a Dutch woman who is a former member of the European Parliament.
"For me, coming out (as a parliamentarian) was not a choice. I was already known as a 'femocrat,' " Swiebel said of her long career advocating women's rights.
"Be open and dare to do it," Lunacek said. "Then they can't blackmail you."
"It was a questionable honour to be the first openly gay MP (in Finland) in 2004," Tynkkynen said. "This should have happened 10, 20, 30 years ago."
Maltais came out after she was elected, a fact that started a media storm, she said.
"But the people of Quebec have such generosity. Their attitude was: 'If she has the courage to do this, she'll apply that courage to the job.'
"I want to be known for competence and not just as a flag-bearer for coming out - more like: 'By the way, I'm gay,' " Maltais said.
Beyer told delegates how she came to be a member of the New Zealand Parliament. Born a Maori man, she worked as a stripper and a prostitute before undergoing a full sex-change operation in 1984 and becoming an actress.
She had moved to Carterton, a white, conservative town outside Wellington, in 1990 on a government-funded work study program when she decided to get out of the acting profession.
"In 1991, the government cut funding to unemployment by 25 per cent," Beyer said."I became an advocate for the community."
In 1995, she shocked herself and the country when she was elected mayor of Carterton. In 1999, with the backing of the New Zealand Labour Party, she was elected an MP.
"Becoming a pioneer was a great honour and a burden. The expectations are immense," Beyer said.
"My responsibility is to leave politics as a good example to others."
"I hope to serve as a positive role model and to be known for my area of expertise," Tynkkynen added. "I'd rather be known as a politician who is gay, than 'the gay politician.' "
Attention News/Assignment Editors:
Convocation - 1st World Outgames Montreal 2006
MONTREAL, July 28 /CNW Telbec/ - Over 1,500 delegates participate in the 5 Plenary Sessions and 200 Workshops of the 1st International Conference on LGBT Human Rights.
To watch for today, Friday, 28 July:
9:30-10:30 Conference Plenary Session 3: Latin America
Keynote Speakers: Ms. Maria Berenice Dias; Judge of Appeal,
Court of Justice, State of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil). Ms.
Patria Jiménez; Substitute Senator, former Member of the
Chamber of Deputies, Federal Congress (Mexico). Ms. Mariela
Castro Espin; Director, Centro Nacional de Educacion Sexual
(CENESEX), (Cuba), Room 517 A-B, Palais des Congrès (PdC)
10:30 Press Briefing: Plenary Session 3, Room 524 A, PdC
10:45 Interview session with K. D. Lang, Olympic Stadium,
4545 Pierre-De Coubertin
Please check in at security station at 10:00.
11:00 Workshop : Openly LGBT Politicians, Mr. Svend Robinson,
First openly gay politician in Canada (Canada), Ms. Agnès
Maltais, Deputy, National Assembly of Quebec (Canada),
Ms. Georgina Beyer, the world's first transsexual Member of
Parliament (New Zealand), Ms. Ulrike Lunacek, co-
spokesperson, European Green Party and MP (Austria),
M. Volker Beck, Member, German Bundestag (Germany), M. Oras
Tynkkynen, Member, Parliament of Finland (Finland), Ms. Joke
Swiebel, Co-President of the Conference, 516-B, PdC.
12:30 Press Briefing: Mr. Waheed Alli, businessman and Member of
the House of Lords of Great Britain and Mr. Michael Kirby,
Judge of the High Court of Australia, Room 524, A, PdC.
14:30 Signing of the guest book at Montréal City Hall by Ms.
Martina Navratilova and Mr. Mark Tewksbury, followed by a
Press Briefing, Hall of Honour, Montreal City Hall, 275
Notre-Dame St. East.
15:30 Press Briefing: Plenary Session 4, Room 524 A, PdC
16:00-17:30 Conference Plenary Session 4: Asia and the Pacific
Keynote Speakers: Ms. LI Yin-He; Head of Sociology of the
Marriage and Family section, Institute of Sociology, Chinese
Academy of Social Sciences (China). Mr. Ashok Row Kavi; HIV
Activist and Founder of Bombay Dost, India's first
registered gay magazine (India). Ms. Georgina Beyer; World's
first transsexual Member of Parliament (New Zealand). Ms.
Hina Jilani; Special representative of the UN Secretary
General on Human Rights Defenders (Pakistan).
16:30-17:00 "The Friends for Life Bike Rally"
Departing from Parc des Ecluses (situated at de la Commune
and McGill Sts.) and arriving at 17:00 at Square Viger, in
the presence of Mr. Benoît Labonté, Mayor of the Borough of
Ville-Marie and Mr. Bill Graham, Leader of the Opposition,
Canadian House of Commons.
19:00-21:00 Film Presentation: "Watermarks, Hakoah Lischo" (Israel),
Room 511 A, PdC, "Hullabaloo" (Norway), Room 511 b, PdC, and
"Tying the Knot" (United States), Room 511 C, PdC
19:00-23:00 At Square Viger Tonight (the Square is bordered by St-Denis,
St-Antoine, Berri and Viger Streets)
17:00 - 20:00 Musical Entertainment by Dj Mario Bros
20:00: "Disco Fever Night", hosted by Mado Lamotte with
Stéphane Moraille, Martha Wash and Boule Noire
Program: Nostalgic for the Disco era? With Mado Lamotte as
your host, this is a night you will not soon forget!
18:00-3:00 Party "Mind", Club Metropolis, 58 Ste. Catherine St. East
Media representatives must buy tickets in order to attend
For further information: Pascal Dessureault, (514) 789-3400; Source:
Press Office of the 1st World Outgames