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Outgames subsidises developing world participants

Human rights conference at the games empowers LGBT individuals to confront discrimination in their home countries

In an effort to help bring together people from countries in the developing world that suppress open expressions of homosexuality, the 2009 Copenhagen Outgames’ Outreach Program will subsidize participants of their “Love of Freedom–Freedom from Love” conference.

The three-day conference will focus on the concerns and issues of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) individuals, who will participate in the 2009 Copenhagen Outgames – an international event started in Montreal in 2006 that offers LGBT individuals and supporters the chance to compete in athletic tournaments of 38 different disciplines.

Stephen Barris, the head of Communications at the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), thought it was crucial that conference attendees represented diverse areas of the world.

“[The Outreach program] creates a space, a platform where people who can’t afford to travel can share the work they’re doing,” Barris said.

Expected to bring together 1,000 attendees without regard to their sexual orientation, the conference will focus on the global struggle to fight discrimination against LGBT individuals. It will feature keynote speakers, including gay Muslim filmmaker Parvez Sharma, and up 90 workshops on themes ranging from family and relationships to LGBT history.

Julie Thaarup, the project manager for Copenhagen’s 2009 Outreach, explained why the participation of delegates from the developing world was crucial.

“The conference will create awareness and build knowledge so that participants can affect change in their country,” Thaarup said.

Bruce Amoroto, the coordinator of Team Pilipinas, further explained the importance of the conference.

“For gays and lesbians who are either out or not out it builds on their confidence,” said Amoroto. “When they go back to their country, they can share with other people, and inspire them to come out or be strong with whatever discrimination they have here in the country. “People are still not comfortable or fully accepting so these are communities who live silently.”

Amoroto added that Team Pilipinas – named after the Filipino word for the Philippines – is a good example of more localized outreach by Outgames participants: the team networks with smaller LGBT communities through sports that allow locals to share ideas and information about sexual diversity without attracting hostile attention.

“To be able to talk about sexual health, sexual rights, and sexual diversity you need to take other avenues that won’t be strongly opposed by [Catholic] church and other conservatives,” said Amoroto.

The added that although the intensity has decreased in recent years, bystanders of Manila’s annual Pride March still heckle and call the participants names.

While the Outreach Program only grants funding to enable individuals to attend the conference, chosen applicants can apply for additional funding for sporting and cultural events at the Outgames.

The program aims to fund 200 people from Eastern Europe and 200 from the Developing World, with an equal number of men and women. The program has so far secured enough funding to subsidize 130 participants. 170 applications have been received.

The online application requires hopefuls to declare their annual income, list any sport, cultural, human rights, or community organizations they are involved in, and submit a 100-word explanation of why they would like to participate in the 2009 Outgames. The Outreach Program will be accepting applications until October 1.