May 21, 2020

May Member of the Month – FELGTB

IGLYO Focus, IGLYO, Members

The FELGTB began its journey back in 1992 aiming to fight against all forms of discrimination lesbian, gay, trans and bisexual people faced in all areas of Spanish society. FELGTB is the result of the joining of forces between different organisations all over the country which engaged with public institutions at the national level. The FELGTB is defined as a secular entity with no specific political affiliation, committed to the social normalisation of the LGTBI community and fighting against all discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

For many years, the FELGTB has had a youth group within its structural organisation. It is a specific identity space for young LGBTI members. They lead the youth discourse for sexual orientation, family, and gender diversity. It is a group known for the great LGBTI activists it counts amongst its members. Every year, the youth group organises its annual conference “Jóvenes sin Armarios” (Youth Without Closets) in a different place of the country. This conference is celebrated as a space for empowerment and a training school for young LGBTI activists from all territories of the country. We are about to celebrate the 20th edition of this annual conference which is a point of reference for all schools of activism for young LGTBI across the country. 

The number of federated entities grows every year, and currently the FELGTB is an umbrella organisation uniting 55 organisations distributed throughout the country. We all have the same commitment and we work as a team advocating for LGBTI rights at a national level, uniting our voices, which makes us the leading LGTBI organisation in Spain. This is so, not only because of the important milestones that we have achieved with our advocacy and political impact on public institutions, but also because we are present in practically every corner of our country. Adding up the diversity of more than fifty entities and working together, we created a powerful political speech that leads the national LGTBI activism.

A few milestones we are proud to have contributed to over the years 

In what ways have young LGBTQI people in your community been affected by the COVID-19 emergency and the lockdowns?

The health crisis of COVID-19 has had a significant impact on LGTBI children and teenagers in our country, because of the confinement we have been forced to experience. In this sense, we highlight the complex reality suffered by some LGTBI pre-teens and adolescents who have been confined with families who do not accept their orientation or  identity, suffering the misunderstanding and hatred of the people with whom they live. This situation has affected trans minors especially, who are confined with families who do not accept their transition processes and keep calling them by their deadname and expressly rejecting their gender expression.

This is also especially hard for young people who return to their residences in rural settings, where they not only suffer the misunderstanding of families who do not accept them, but also the explicit LGTBI-phobia of their communities. In this case, we have also detected that some young people have been forced to leave their family home, due to the unsustainable situation they had been living with their families, encountering serious difficulties in finding an affordable home. 

In addition, we have detected a increase in cases of cyberbullying significant through social networks. While face-to-face academic activity has been suspended by the health crisis, bullies use the virtual “classrooms” of educational centers for social networks, to humiliate, insult and intimidate LGTBI kids and teenagers, increasing the social vulnerability that our community suffers.

Finally, we cannot forget that the health crisis of COVID-19 has also caused an intense economic and social crisis in our country. With the total halt of the economic activity, causing an incessant increase in layoffsy, young people have been particularly affected. We are seeing more incidents than ever of LGTBI youth being fired. A demographic that already had a hard time accessing a job under equal and equitable terms and labour conditions. This is further damaging for trans people, who had a significantly high unemployment rate before the pandemic.

Are there specific ways in which you have supported the community that you would like to highlight and/or share with other organisations?

The FELGTB youth group has been focusing on taking care of young LGTBI people in situations of vulnerability caused by the COVID-19 health crisis, in multiple ways:

On the one hand, we have fought to make the vulnerabilities suffered by the LGTBI population in the face of this pandemic visible. We have released numerous reports on our social networks and in traditional media. Recently, we launched the “Armarios Compartidos” (Shared Closets) campaign. We are also informing public institutions of the needs and problems we are detecting; we are pressuring and lobbying them with specific demands regarding the situation of the LGTBI community during this lockdown. The youth group also held a meeting with the National Youth Institute (INJUVE), in which we had the opportunity to share the specific situation LGBTI young people during this confinement. 

On the other hand, we have launched a hotline to accompany and care for the LGTBI population, the “Línea Arcoíris” (Rainbow Line). Thanks to this service, many young LGTBI people have been able to contact us, so that we can provide them with resources and support, given the complex situation they are suffering due to the confinement. Queries to this service have increased significantly since the start of the confinement. 

And, finally, we have launched live videos through social networks, to provide information regarding different topics for the LGTBI population, through the “Espacio Arcoíris” (Rainbow Space) program. The youth group collaborated with 3 live workshops. In the first one, we gave advice for the LGTBI population that suffers homophobia during confinement. In the second one, we talked about the Drag King culture. And lastly, for the third one, we presented different non-conventional sex-affective relationships models. We had a lot of followers watching our live workshops on Instagram.

What can governments, (national and international) authorities and institutions do more to support the communities you serve throughout this crisis?

All governments and institutions must focus on protecting the LGTBI community affected by the coronavirus health crisis. It is their duty to make all available resources accessible to prevent this health crisis from becoming an unsustainable social crisis that will aggravate our situation. It could push our rights back and make us return to the starting point after all these years working so hard for our rights. 

The main needs and demands of the LGTBI community must be listened to, in order to develop and put public policies in place that are in line with what civil society – specialised in sexual orientation, family and gender diversity – are working on. Subsequently, there must be explicit support with a sufficient budgetary allocation to protect our community, not only reinforcing the assistance programs of our entities through public subsidies, but also promoting political actions from the public administrations, creating comprehensive protection. 

Finally, the LGTBI community must be taken into account in all its intersectionality in the social measures that governments apply to help the most vulnerable people. These measures must assure that we are included in the public lines of social action to survive the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus

There are reasons to believe that the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to be a part of our lives for 1-3 years. In what way do you think that prolonged lockdowns and/or other preventive measures will impact your work and LGBTQI+ youth in your country?

The health crisis of COVID-19 has shown us the most vulnerable face of young LGTBI people, highlighting that we are on the front line of social exclusion in situations like the one we are currently experiencing. In this sense, our work should continue to focus on consolidating support services for the young LGTBI population, to provide resources and guide them in their multiple problems. 

On the other hand, we believe that it is vital to continue building safe spaces, in which we can support each other and work together to defend the rights of our community. In this sense, we will have to adapt our work, taking into account that face-to-face spaces will be increasingly scarce and we should start promoting networking through online tools, with innovative initiatives that do not re-inforce “digital” discrimination caused by the “digital access” divide.

LGTBI entities must continue working day by day for the full social integration of youth in all their diversity, assuring that their rights, freedoms, and opportunities remain intact after this crisis.

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