Barry Taylor knew the Human Rights Conference at the 2nd Asia Pacific Outgames was a success on the first night.
Inside Wellington Town Hall that night more than 100 trans and intersex people from around the globe stood chatting waiting for the conference to begin.
“It was the first time all these people had been together in the one room – that they’d been given a chance to network,” Taylor said. “It was amazing. The power of that image just shines through.”
Taylor was pulled into the conference organising committee about 18 months ago.
“The group came together and started to think about the week we wanted to have, what we wanted to achieve,” he said.
“We wanted to set the something in place to make it a regular event – the basis for a regular place to meet, come together every two or three years that was a focus for hum rights dialogue in the Pacific.”
The conference attracted some of the world’s foremost human rights activists and academics, including 2004 UNESCO Human Rights Award winner Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn from Thailand; executive director for the international feminist human rights organisation CREA, Geetanjali Misra from India; Nepal’s openly gay parliamentarian Sunil Babu Pant; and Roger To’oto’oalii Stanley, the founder and inaugural president of the Samoa Fa’afafine Association.
“When we put out a call for expressions of interest we really didn’t know what to expect,” Taylor said.
“We ended up wit 135 expressions of interest. Of course we couldn’t take them all, and some were unable to secure donor funding to present, but we accepted 110 sessions.”
Although born in New Zealand, Taylor is no stranger to the Australian community. He was a founding member of VicBears and is a life member of that group. He is also a past president of Sydney’s Harbour City Bears and Melbourne’s ALSO Foundation.
He returned to New Zealand in 2005 to care for his dying father and has stayed on, working in the suicide prevention field.
Taylor said the trans and intersex gathering was just one of the many powerful moments at the Human Rights Conference.
“Listening to a young man from Vanuatu talk about his first experience walking into gay bar; the group of lesbians and gays from Fiji talking, they brought people to tears,” he said.
“While we can Skype and cyber conference all the time these days, the fact is these face-to-face get-togethers are powerful. People are making connections, forming networks ans sharing stories and passions and creativity with such dignity.”