Wikimedia LGBT+/Wikimedia Conference 2015

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Wikimedia LGBT+ User Group representation at the conference

First and foremost, thank you to my fellow WMLGBT+ participants and supporters for allowing me the opportunity to represent this group at the conference. I had a wonderful time seeing familiar faces, meeting staff and leaders from around the world, and learning about the diversity of organizational structures and activities that exist within this wonderful movement. I felt welcome at all times, both as an LGBT individual and as a delegate of a new user group, and people were genuinely curious to learn more about us and our work.

I gave a lightning talk about the Wikimedia LGBT+ User Group and Wiki Loves Pride. I began my introduction with two very important (in my opinion) points: 1) Our group does not have a political agenda; we are not advocating for LGBT rights or asking people to support marriage equality, for example. We are merely asking people to create and improve LGBT-related content, and to document/photograph LGBT culture and history. 2) People are in no way required to identify as LGBT, or any other gender or sexual minority, in order to participate in LGBT-related projects and activities. We simply want people accessing information from Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects to find quality, reliable information about LGBT culture and history, the same way I want there to be quality information about battleships and fungi and The Simpsons. :) I then went on to briefly describe the history of our group and asked chapters and affiliates around the world to support our efforts, either by spreading awareness of our group or participating in campaigns like Wiki Loves Pride by writing about LGBT topics or photographing pride events in their region. (Thank you, Dorothy, for co-presenting and for your work on this year's Wiki Loves Pride campaign thus far!)

By far, my favorite moment of the conference came at the end of the day in which I gave my lightning talk. The conference facilitators asked attendees about what they learned and would 'take home' from the event. One delegate from South Africa stood up and shared that, of all the things that he learned that day, he was most affected and inspired to take action by the LGBT lightning talk. He acknowledged that he had never considered attending a pride event in South Africa out of fear that he would be falsely identified as gay. He was embarrassed by this, and committed himself to attending Johannesburg's pride parade as a volunteer Wikimedian in order to help document and photograph South Africa's LGBT culture. I was so moved that I walked across the room and shook his hand, thanking him for his support and kind words. One of the facilitators, who at first thought I was leaving the room and was going to give me a hard time, quickly changed her tune and said our interaction was the most "heart-warming" of the day. :) Whether or not the delegate from South Africa follows though, I really appreciate his support, admire his open-mindedness, and feel empowered by affecting someone in this way. Throughout the rest of the conference, I received compliments for my talk and the interaction with the S. African delegate.

I have always felt that this group has great potential to contribute to free knowledge and culture, to empower a community, and to have great real-world impact. Having attended this conference, I continue to feel that way, and more so than ever. I experienced first-hand that raising awareness about LGBT culture and history can affect how LGBT+ individuals are perceived. Our mission may be simply to provide accurate information to Wikimedia projects, but the real-life impact of increasing awareness of the global LGBT community and its history and culture can be much, much greater.

Again, thank you for the opportunity. It is impossible for one person to represent an affiliate, especially one as diverse as the global LGBT+ community (within the Wikimedia movement or otherwise), but I hope I did our group justice. Whether I attend again or someone else takes a stab, I am glad we have representation and an opportunity to influence the movement. Do let me know if you have any questions or comments. -Another Believer (talk) 22:04, 29 May 2015 (UTC)

Oh!, a few more thoughts. It was great to finally meet Varnent in person and to catch up with CT Cooper and Dorothy, plus other LGBT-identified supporters and allies. And thanks to those who reminded me to explain the meaning of "LGBT" to those who were less familiar. I had the opportunity to talk to Wikimedians in regions of the world where there is little or no tolerance for LGBT communities. Everyone I spoke with was very accepting and appreciative of our efforts, but I learned so much and left feeling very fortunate and priviledged to live where I do and appreciate the support that I have in my life. -Another Believer (talk) 22:12, 29 May 2015 (UTC)
Thank you for sharing your experiences. I'm really glad the conference was a success for our user group and it was a pleasure to catch-up with yourself and others at the socials. CT Cooper · talk 20:25, 1 June 2015 (UTC)
Thanks for sharing, and thanks to everyone who took time to attend the conference. About how many people attended any presentations or talks related to Wiki LGBT+? Was the lightening talk mentioned something which everyone at the conference attended, or was it just for people who chose it among other presentation options? Blue Rasberry (talk) 20:35, 1 June 2015 (UTC)
The latter. The lightning talks session was one of three occurring simultaneously, the others being Board governance and Learn about the FDC. The lightning talks session was well-attended, as evidenced by these pictures, which I think were taken at the start of the session because I recall there being people standing at the back of the room by the end. If I had to guess, I would estimate a minimum of 30 attendees, possibly as many as 50 by the end of the session. -Another Believer (talk) 22:38, 1 June 2015 (UTC)

I also failed to mention that during the conference I scheduled a very productive strategic marketing meeting with Katherine Maher of the Wikimedia Foundation re: Wiki Loves Pride. I thank her for her time, interest and support. Which reminds me, please be sure to share and/or *like* one or both of the following Facebook posts re: Wiki Loves Pride:

Thanks! -Another Believer (talk) 00:04, 2 June 2015 (UTC)

For anyone who may be interested, you can read the South African delegate's blog post, which includes remarks on the LGBT lightning talk, at this link. -Another Believer (talk) 18:37, 3 June 2015 (UTC)

Thank you, Another Believer, for your time and effort. It's small steps like this one that help us advance. --Ecelan (talk) 10:59, 4 June 2015 (UTC)