European Forum

of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Christian Groups

2011 ILGA Europe - report from Yves Quentin

What always strikes me, Yves Quentin, is the great number of participants (340 this year - a record!) coming from all over Europe and beyond to the ILGA Europe conference. There are a lot of women (40%?), trans (women are rather visible ; it’s hard to say if there are any male transsexuals) and young people (around 25% are under 30).

A good way to meet old friends (on top of those leading the religious workshop, I met Randi, Davis (black activist from the UK) and Geoffrey (from L’Autre Cercle). Sadly we were only 4 members of the EF and I couldn’t get in touch with any Italian LGBT Christians (although Andrea - we met during Europride in Rome - tried his best).

A lot of people (70%?) attend the plenaries and workshops and quite a few ask questions, even if few people take notes and many are “playing” with their laptops.

10 people on the board. There seems to be little difficulty to get women and very young activists to run for elections. Pierre Serne is the only member from France.

ILGA Europe is a big machine (with a powerful staff working full time in Brussels) and a growing budget (1.8M Euros this year – to make all of us, Christian groups, green with envy).

A map of Europe and another one of the world have been published to show the various progress of each state in terms of LGBT rights with a number from 1 to 10 and a colour from red to green. The goal of ILGA is to make the maps greener and the figures higher.

The future of LGBT rights is changing – not always in the right direction : because of the financial crisis a lot of right wing or conservative governments have been or will be elected (for example in Spain - with a possible attempt at repealing the Gay Marriage Law). Will the election of a socialist candidate in France bring a positive change in LGBT rights? French MPs are possibly afraid that legalizing Gay Marriage might lead to Adoption.

The key word is “alliance”: our success seems to be strongly dependent on the number of “allies” we may find in trade unions, human rights groups, even conservative political and religious circles to help us to promote our goals. There is a growing gap about what Christians think and what the Churches teach and LGBT groups may get support from progressive Christians.

We can rejoice to see so many lesbians, gays and trans activists, around the world, elected as MPs or mayors of big towns (Berlin, Quebec, Paris…).

A good workshop led by Joseanne (a vocal and pleasant member of a parents group from Malta), Michael (EF’s male co-president) and Karen (Armenia). It was attended by over 40 participants. The four of us had several contacts during the conference, strengthening our friendship and reinforcing our convictions. We realize how important it is to elicit parents’ help and support to increase our visibility in the Churches. Church officials are often ignorant (more than malevolent) about homosexuality and always speak of ‘’human dignity’’. We should challenge them on this ground. We should also deepen our reflection on the so-called “natural law”. It’s important to be more visible and break the “don’t ask, don’t tell” practice of LGBT Christians in the Churches. We must also question the notion of “tradition”. Was the age-old tradition of slavery a good thing? Isn’t “tradition” a way for the Churches to keep their privileges and refuse to admit they are wrong. We must also question the widespread idea that we are a threat to “family values”.  Isn’t the break-up of families due to other forces than the presence of more visible LGBT people in society?

Next ILGA Europe conference will be in Dublin. In 2013 there was a choice between Copenhagen (so much to offer) and Zagreb (Croatia) in line with its entry into to the EU. The problem with Zagreb is its high level of homophobic violence. But some participants said it was exactly for this reason that we had to go there, to get more media and political attention and so that our presence might reverberate in all the surrounding countries. Zagreb was finally chosen over Copenhagen.