I Exist Too, 2023 – international forum aims to improve LGBTIQ+ rights in maritime industry


A forum organised by a Newcastle University student and to be held in Panama aims to improve the visibility and rights of LGBTIQ+ people in the shipping industry.

I Exist Too, 2023 is believed to be the first forum to focus on improving the working lives of LGBTIQ+ people in the maritime industry. The one-day event is to be held on 25th May at the InterContinental Miramar Panama, Panama City and will examine topics including the importance of equal rights, the role of maritime unions in protecting LGBTIQ+ rights, opportunities to improve the Maritime Labour Convention, and the inclusion of LGBTIQ+ people in the world of work.

It has been organised by Panamanian PhD student Gustavo Abdiel Aguilar-Miranda (pictured), who worked in the sector before joining Newcastle University’s School of Modern Languages to study for a doctorate. During his studies, he found there was no previous research on LGBTIQ+ experiences in the sector.

Gustavo hopes I Exist Too will help to strengthen the access and career development of LGBTIQ+ people within the maritime industry and lead to the establishment of inclusive policies whose emphasis is linked to improving lived experiences, the recognition of human rights, and the promotion of a safer environment for all, especially the LGBITQ+ population.

Tim Stew, the UK ambassador to Panama, will speak at the opening of the forum. The event will bring together speakers from 14 different countries, who will share their knowledge and experiences in six panels and two presentations. Additionally, Panamanian LGBTIQ+ organisations will serve as moderators for these panels, ensuring diverse perspectives are represented and heard. They will be joined by academic experts, members of LGBTIQ+ organisations, union representatives, maritime industry professionals, United Nations agencies, and maritime organisations from around the world.

Gustavo said: “A comprehensive intervention in the maritime sector is essential to protect the rights and well-being of LGBTIQ+ individuals. It’s crucial to remember that true inclusion means leaving no one behind. If we fail to do so, we’re only fighting for the privilege of a few at the cost of many. I’m optimistic that this project will help promote the humanisation and improvement of the maritime industry culture.

“We must work together to ensure that the needs of the LGBTQ+ population are not overlooked or silenced, and that we continue to make progress towards a more equitable and just society.”

I Exist Too will also be livestreamed. You can register .