The International Resource Network (IRN) turned eight this year. The project was conceptualized as a network of academic and community-based researchers, artists, and activists from across the globe in areas related to diverse sexualities and genders. It strives to be an internet portal (www.irnweb.org) for people interested in sexual rights and human rights from the perspective of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer studies. Currently, several boards represent geographic regions of interest: Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, North America and Europe.
To celebrate this exciting and dynamic work, the IRN hosted a one-day symposium on April 30, 2010 at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in Manhattan. Scholars, academics, artists and community organizers representing LGBT communities from around the world came together to discuss the issues of their regions and the information technology responses to and challenges of organizing and researching the experiences of LGBT people.
The day began with a panel of IRN coordinators from Africa (Sybille Nyeck), the Middle East (Rustem Ertug Altinay), North America (Mark Blasius), Latin America (Jasmin Blessing) and Caribbean (Vidyaratha Kisson) regions. The coordinators discussed the history of the IRN and the work accomplished in their regions. Presentations highlighted the IRN e-journals Outliers published by the African region and Sexualidades published by the Latin America region which are available on the IRN website. The Caribbean coordinator discussed the Caribbean Sexuality Gathering that took place in Jamaica in May of 2009, which brought together LGBT people to discuss issues relevant to the community there. The North America coordinator talked about the upcoming meeting in Toronto that will mark the beginning of the IRN’s work in the US and Canada. The Middle East coordinator outlined the plans for the Middle East regional launch, which took place in Turkey in the summer of 2010.
The second panel of the day focused on the use of the Internet to organize LGBT communities in Turkey, South Korea and Guyana and featured the research of Song Pae Cho, Vidyaratha Kisson and Serkan Gorkemli. Serkan Gorkemli’s presentation entitled, “Coming Out, Gay Activism, and the Internet in Turkey” focused on collegiate gay activism and the use of the Internet in Turkey since the 1990’s. The presentation discussed how the Internet not only created space for students to reveal their sexual orientation but also to become collegiate activists. Song Pae Cho’s presentation gave an overview of how the Internet has been used within the past decade of South Korean gay and lesbian organizing to both radically expand the Korean gay and lesbian community and to engage in new forms of sexual rights activism. Vidyartha Kisson discussed the potential of technology to facilitate on line and real world progress for sexual minorities in Guyana and other parts of the Caribbean. His presentation highlighted how Caribbean LGBT organizations have used websites, blogs, yahoo groups and social networking sites to support community building and vital research within the LGBT community. His presentation asked important questions about access to bandwidth and if that access reinforces other divides in the Caribbean LGBT community.
The third panel featured an Artist Talk Back by Parvez Sharma, director of the powerful film A Jihad for Love, which chronicles the experiences of LGBT people in the Muslim world. Sharma described the making of the film as well as the complex issues that are faced by LGBT people in Muslim societies as they grapple with the relationship between religion and sexuality.
The IRN symposium ended with a panel of funders who support LGBT projects that use technology and the Internet as fundamental parts of their work. Dulce Reyes from the Astraea Foundation and Sarah Gunther from the American Jewish World Service described their foundations’ funding priorities and the role of foundations in supporting international and regional LGBT organizing.
The symposium event also marked the launch of the new IRN website www. irnweb.org. The new website allows users to create their own blogs, groups, and e-journals as well as share events, videos and other information with the global LGBT community. With eight years under its belt, the International Resource Network continues to expand and add valuable information to communities across the globe working in the areas of gender and sexuality.