“Plant the seeds of equality,” former member of Parliament Svend Robinson told a lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) workshop, the first event in the lead-up to the 28th world congress of Public Services International in Vienna Sept. 24-28.
After itemizing the legal and legislative advances that Canada has made for LGBT people, Robinson, now a PSI staff member, told participants that the way to equality can be frustrating but there are ultimately victories ahead if union solidarity is maintained.
“We’ve come a long way,” he said of the advances in Canada and elsewhere. “But nothing is possible without the solidarity of the trade union movement.” Among other union initiatives, he cited the CUPE legal battles that helped achieve same-sex benefits and equal marriage rights.
The main opposition to equality for LGBT people comes from the religious right and extreme conservatives, he said. He called on workshop participants, some from as far away as Australia and Costa Rica, to ‘come out’ as part of a strategy to gain equality.
He also identified four other strategic actions: Build progressive alliances, including with progressive religious leaders; tell the truth about paedophilia (that “it is mostly happening in heterosexual families”); force politicians to oppose discrimination (“don’t allow them to oppose equality”); and, share strategies on how to fight for equality.
“Get out there and changez le monde…change the world,” he urged the group of more than 50 LGBT union activists. Robinson comes to PSI from the British Columbia Government Employees’ Union.
‘Homophobia is fatal in Costa Rica’
Costa Rica is run by a dictatorship masquerading as a democracy, Juan Carlos Paniagua, a Costa Rican trade unionist and LGBT activist, told the workshop.
Charging the Costa Rican president has taken the Central American country a step backwards regarding human rights, Paniagua said the government and the media have engaged in a campaign of fear, harassment and mudslinging towards LGBT people.
“I have been intimidated at work,” Paniagua said, listing other acts such as wire tapping and internet campaigning to tarnish the image of LGBT people.
“Homophobia is fatal in Costa Rica,” he added. Many people are driven to suicide government intimidation and religious persecution based on sexual orientation.
PSI launches new LGBT website
PSI also launched its new LBT web site during the workshop. Go to www.world-psi.org/lgbt for a history of PSI’s actions and news about gay persecution in Jamaica, state-sponsored homophobia and a new publication called “Trade unionists together for LGBT rights”.