OutRight’s award ceremony held in the United Nations exclusive Delegates Dining room, was attended by more than 300 activists, human rights defenders, diplomats and dignitaries. The evening’s host, performer and artist Mx. Justin Vivian Bond, shared the stage with presenter Congressman Mark Takano and honourees Caleb Orozco, Unibam Belize, OutSpoken award recipient Logo TV, accepted by Pam Post, Vice President of original programming and series development, and OutStanding Awardee Blanche Wiesen Cook, prize-winning biographer of Eleanor Roosevelt. Special guests included Tracey Norman, pioneering transgender model.
Caleb Orozco, Executive Director of LGBTIQ organisation, Unibam, stole the show with his reflection on the struggles and successes of overturning Belize’s anti-sodomy law and changing the landscape of LGBTIQ rights in Belize and beyond. Kenita Placide, OutRight’s Caribbean Advisor, presented Orozco with the prestigious award and commented on the changing situation for LGBTIQ individuals in the Caribbean:
“Is change happening? There’s a conversation that is happening that was not happening previously. We can speak to our governments, we can speak to our missions, we can speak to our ambassadors. But most importantly, we can speak to the media without hiding our faces any more.”
Poised and proud, Caleb Orozco accepted the award amidst a standing ovation, saying:
“I connect with Felipe de Souza because she was whipped into submission, but my defiance allowed me not to. She was exiled from home, but my family support allowed me to fight. Changing the landscape of Belize was tough. I know all too well that I could not have won my legal battle to bring down the sodomy law in Belize if it wasn’t for international pressure complemented with national mobilisation.
Freedom doesn’t come without a fight, and it does not continue without vigilance. We all know too well how rights can be ripped away, how bigoted leaders can turn the clock on our gains. It is in this need to be vigilant and the responsibility I owe myself and my fellow LGBTIQ community that I will continue to push against the oppression that silences LGBTIQ voices.”
Speaking about the linkages between OutRight’s mission and Eleanor Roosevelt, Blanche Wiesen Cook, winner of OutRight’s OutStanding Award, said:
“Eleanor Roosevelt’s spirit is central to OutRight’s spirit. Her love for all people, her commitment to dignity, work, education, housing, health, for all people across the globe.”
Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International, closed the evening reflecting:
On May 15, 2017, OutRight Action International honoured Caleb Orozco, the man who successfully challenged Belize’s sodomy law and won, with the Felipa De Sousa Award at the organisation’s annual gala, a Celebration of Courage.
“What happened in the US election in November matters globally, not just for those of us who are US citizens. Without knowing it or being prepared for it, we left behind a decade where the US had become a champion for LGBTI rights across the world… When one government fails – the US or any other – there are 192 other governments that are members of the United Nations that are responsible for upholding LGBTI rights. And OutRight serves as a watchdog and needle in the side of every one of them. We’re here to remind governments that LGBTI rights are human rights and human rights are LGBTI rights.”