Legebitra evolved from a non-formal group for gay and lesbian students, established in 1998 at the Student organisation of the University of Ljubljana. Since then the organisation has grown to one of the biggest civil society organisations in the field of LGBTI well-being and rights in Slovenia. Our biggest achievement is structuring Legebitra’s work in a way that enables us to offer comprehensive support to LGBTI people in Slovenia. For example: we manage currently the only LGBTI specific youth centre in Slovenia; offer professional individual and group counselling; offer tests on HIV and STIs and counselling on sexual health outside of health centres; offer legal support to LGBTI persons experiencing discrimination and/or violence and advocate for systemic changes in the field of LGBTI rights. In order to implement such a wide range of support we collaborate with various civil society organisations, public institutions, local and national government. And it is this diversity in our activities and collaborations that makes us unique in our country.
In what ways have young LGBTQI people in your community been affected by the COVID-19 emergency and the lockdowns?
The COVID-19 emergency and particularly the lockdowns, which were not well thought through and were poorly communicated, have increased risk of homelessness among young LGBTI people as some were forced to move back home, which is not necessarily a safe environment for them. The risk factors for domestic or partnership violence have increased. The already existing mental health issues have deepened. For transgender individuals the already poor access to trans specific health care has worsened. A larger number of our users have reported about economic problems they face due to the loss of income. A large percentage of our users are students, whose only income that allowed them to study was student work, which was suspended during lockdowns … It is, therefore, imperative for us, that we are doing everything we can to decrease the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Are there specific ways in which you have supported the community that you would like to highlight and/or share with other European organisations?
We have boosted our presence on social media and actively highlighted the unacceptability of any form of violence during the time of lockdowns. We have provided the necessary support in case of such violence being reported to us. We have provided secure virtual social spaces, for example Online Youth Center, podcasts, live streaming and webinars. Educational, leisure activities and workshops have been provided online. Psycho-social, sexual health and legal counselling and support services have been provided through emails, telephone calls and various video chat tools. We have also conducted a research on access to health care services for transgender people during the COVID-19 pandemic (available here) and trained three Trans Buddies to offer additional support to transgender persons.
What can governments, (national and international) authorities and institutions do more to support the communities you serve throughout this crisis?
The governments, authorities and institutions can design measures to decrease the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that incorporate specific needs of LGBTI people, homeless people, people with migrant backgrounds, people living in poor economic circumstances, people experiencing domestic violence …. They can also design measures to counter the deepening of social inequalities. It is crucial that they work closely with civil society organisations during this process. Our societies need to become more resilient to different types of crises.
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?
If we, as a society, continue as is, the above described situations will continue to deepen. However, we have the knowledge, we have the skills and we have the resources to turn this trend around and start building a more socially just society. What we lack, however, is the political will.