Last night I attended the awards ceremony of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, also known as IGLHRC (apparently pronounced "iggleherc"). No one likes the name, and my proposal, IGLBTHRC (igbilthric?), has not yet been accepted, but their work is world-renowned.
The Master of Ceremonies, the famous (or, perhaps, infamous) comic actor Alan Cumming, was resplendent in a lavender striped suit (similar to the one in the picture, except, well, lavender). He was alternately serious, as befits the serious issues besetting international human rights, and light, as befits the celebration of an organization that has been fighting the good fight for 21 years.
The main honoree was Jeff Sharlet, who received the Outspoken Award. He is the journalist who is best well known for his work "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism At The Heart of American Power," and his exposure of The Family's work in Uganda on the "Kill The Gays" Bill. The biggest star not to attend the event was Rachel Maddow, who, however, sent her avatar to introduce Mr. Sharlet (in the form of a pre-recorded video), and to praise IGLHRC.
IGLHRC is worthy of praise. The most important thing I learned from this event is what IGLHRC actually does, which is simultaneously surprising and moving.
There is some tension in the LGBT community about galas and dinners and awards events that non-profits use to highlight their work and fund their organization. Some are concerned about elitism, some about whether the work done is useful, and some about the where the money goes.
First of all, what does IGLHRC do? It is an international organization addressing human rights violations against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and people with HIV/AIDS.
It was founded by Julie Dorf in 1990, and incorporated as a US non-profit organization in 1991. Though initially focused on human rights abuses in Russia, it is now active in many parts of the world, including the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. IGLHRC has offices in New York City, Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, and Manila.
Last year, the United Nations Economic and Social Council voted to accredit IGLHRC as one of the NGO's granted consultative status. This allows IGLHRC to attend U.N meetings, contribute statements, and collaborate with United Nations agencies.
I asked Cary Alan Johnson, the Executive Director, what the organization plans to focus on in the years ahead. He said they are focusing on supporting LGBT movements around the world, particularly in Africa, South America, and Asia. In addition, they plan to use their consultative status at the United Nations to become more involved in advocacy for LGBT rights on the world stage.
This focus was already in evidence when an excellent film about the LGBT community in Mongolia was shown. I was particularly moved by the interview with a trans person, who subsequently had to flee the country because of death threats. The Mongolian LGBT Centre is this year's awardee of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission's Felipa de Souza award, which we discussed in a post last week.
While there are some who have concerns about how we raise money, and concerns about galas and dinners and awards, etc., the fact is that the amazing work of IGLHRC, and other equally worthy organizations, would not be possible without the fundraising work that supports the real work of activism.
Note: The Bilerico Project was a media sponsor of the IGLHRC event.