ILGA origins: How the World Conference was born

Hey! Hi! Hello!

This article is part of a series of blog posts that ILGA World will publishin the run-up to the 2022 ILGA World Conference. This article was written for ILGA World by Priscila Palomares & Sebastián Romero


So… I know! Reading, right? Who even does that anymore? How vintage.

Don’t worry, we’ll make it a quick one. We just want to tell you a little bit about this cool thing that happened almost half a century ago. What do you say we travel to the U.K. for a sec? Don’t panic, no masks will be required, it’s Covid-safe and we’ll do it with our…



Let’s go back to 1978. Coventry, United Kingdom.

Ah. The air feels lighter here, doesn’t it? Less polluted for sure. As you’ll quickly realize, things are different at this time. There are no cellphones, not to mention smartphones. There are no coffee shops at every corner. If you want to “Google” something, you’ll have to get an encyclopedia. People still read newspapers here. People still watch movies on VHS cassettes. The Berlin Wall is still up. The soundtrack of Grease plays non-stop on the radio. Taylor Swift has not been born yet.


But you know what else is happening?

At this very moment, activists from Australia and America to Italy and France, from the Netherlands and Denmark to Scotland, Ireland, and England are gathering to discuss a super important issue. What issue, you ask? The terrible human rights violations faced by our communities.

It is here, in August 1978, at a remote corner of the city of Coventry, that these representatives will get together and decide to form IGA, the International Gay Association. It won’t be until 1986 that the L is added to the name. On this day, IGA would declare their two core aims:

  • to maximise the effectiveness of gay organisations by coordinating political action on an international level in pursuit of gay rights, and in particular to apply concerted political pressure on governments and international institutions
  • to set up an information centre to distribute information on gay matters between organisations to promote a wider knowledge of oppression and identify areas where international political pressure could be applied. You can learn more about this here.

They will vow to guide other organizations and foundations. Help them. Pave the way. Create a community where views are shared, policies are questioned, and change is made.



So. We’re back in the safe space of the present. You can Uber Eat your lunch now. Euphoria’s season finale just went down. There’s a new Wordle word ready for you to guess. And almost half a century after its conception, ILGA is now a federation of 1,700 organisations from over 160 countries and territories campaigning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex human rights.

And let’s call it how it is, yeah? There has been a tremendous amount of change since that first meeting back in 1978. In many places, being part of our community is no longer criminalised. In some of these places you can even marry, you can adopt kids, you can have a transition and proper medical attention without abusive preconditions, you can “come out” without fearing for your life. But…

Let’s not forget two things:

First, these advances were only possible as hundreds of activists around the world – including those who started the then-IGA, those who have contributed to make ILGA World what it is today, those who run its fierce member organisations, and countless more – have continued to push to advance equality worldwide.

And second, perhaps more importantly, let’s not forget that there’s still a lot of work that can be done.

Alas. Why are we telling you this? (Well, to begin with, cuz we like historical gossip. Who doesn’t?)

Because of this second thing: change is still needed, work is still needed. For the first time since the pandemic started, the association will be having its thirtieth world conference… and YOU are invited!

It is at these type of conferences, just as it happened all those years ago in that historic meeting, where the shape of the lives of millions of LGBTIQ people can be changed. During the first week of May (2 to 6) leaders and activists from all over the world will be gathering. And the theme this year, the focus, will be on none other than LGBTIQ youth. So, if you’re interested, either because you want to help today’s youth or because you’re a part of it, please join us!

Anyway. I told you it would be just a sec.

Thanks for stopping by and make sure to do so again soon.

The 2022 ILGA World Conference will take place from 2 to 6 May 2022 in Long Beach, LA, California, United States, hosted by the It Gets Better Project.

Registration is open until 21 March 2022 under the current fees, but late registration will also be possible until 18 April 2022 with increased fees. Make sure you register now to secure your place!