IGLYO memories 1984-1988



Participants at the first IGLYO conference include Albert Dijkstra, Henri Van Schijndel, Gerard Spruijt, Rob Meerman, Marion Zweet, Rob Stoop, Elisabeth Gram, George Lüder, and Olav Wendelborg.


In 1984, the Dutch Gay Youth Platform (LHJO) hosted the first International Gay Youth Congress and Festival in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The participants regarded the event as such a success they decided to arrange a follow-up. In 1985, Ireland’s National Gay Federation hosted the second Congress in Dublin.

First IGLYO Conference

The first International Gay Youth Conference entitled Friendship and Desire took place in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. In total, 63 activists from various countries participated in the congress while the festival attracted even more local interest. Interestingly, the events during the week focused on creative ways to approach lesbian and gay issues: theatre, video, dance, body paint, writing, and photography. Mrs. Luimstra, the City Council Aldermen for Culture, opened the event at the COC Amsterdam.


Second International Gay Youth Information Pool

Ireland’s National Gay Federation hosted the second International Gay Youth Information Pool Conference in Dublin. At this conference, the International Gay Youth Congress (soon to be IGLYO) called upon the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association to recognise the needs, rights, and aspirations of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and to adopt a positive and progressive policy towards the issues of the community. Homosexuality in Ireland was still criminalized in that year. The Congress also called upon the World Health Organisation to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses, and UK education authorities to remove minimum age limits from the conditions of registration and funding for gay youth groups.


Participants in the second year of IGLYO activities included Nibeue Lingas, Elisabeth Gran, Olav Wendelborg, Geir Arveng, Gary Henshaw, John Laffan, Tonie Walsh (President of the National Gay Federation at the time), and Brian Murray.

Steps Towards an Organisation

At the Dublin conference, plans were made to collect and distribute information about lesbian, gay, and bisexual young people and their groups. The youth group of Norway volunteered to organise the International Gay Youth Information Pool (IGYIP), as well as host the Third Congress. At a meeting shortly after the congress, the international steering committee was formed with representatives from NGP Youth Group, Ireland; Ungdomsgruppa DNF-48 Oslo, Norway; Ungdomsgruppen LBL, Denmark; LHJO, the Netherlands; and the IGYIP-secretariat. During that year the Steering Committee met three times: Copenhagen in September, Malmö in January, and Amsterdam in May.


The task for the first steering committee was to articulate the organisation’s statutes and establish a congress to be held in 1987. Vibeke Lingas, Geir Arveng, Are Eliassen, Olav Wendelborg, Gary Henshaw,Neal Cavalier-Smith, George Lüder, Rob Stoop, Marco Cornelisse, Marcel Teerling, Dominique Visser, Gerard Spruijt, and Elisabeth Gran were members involved in establishing IGLYO as a permanent organisation.


At the end of the conference in Oslo, IGLYO was founded as a permanent organisation for lesbian and gay youth. From this point on the organisation adopted the title IGLYO: International Lesbian Gay Youth Organisation. The congress decided to establish a steering committee of five elected members from different countries plus the coordinator of the secretariat and a representative from the conference organisers. It was also decided to set the upper age limit of 26 for elected persons and conference attendants. The secretariat of the organisation was placed in Oslo for a period of two years. At the conference in this year, the organisation published a preliminary list of lesbian and gay youth groups – participants from over fifteen countries on three continents were included on this list.

Pink Youthquake

The youth group of DNF-48 hosted the third International Gay Youth Conference entitled Pink Youthquake in Oslo, Norway. Workshops in this year addressed recruiting more women to the organisation, having children and building families, bisexuality, and religion. In the statement summaries of the conference report, the congress calls for lesbian and gay people to be included in sex education curriculum, and allowances to raise children regardless of their sex, sexuality, or lifestyle. The congress also demanded member states of the Council of Europe remove all laws discriminating against citizens because of their homosexuality, and requested that Amnesty International extend its mandate to include people arrested because of their homosexuality. The conference participants were invited to a reception by the mayor in Oslo’s famous Radhuset.


We are still searching for further information about 1987. Please help us by submitting your memories!

People Our Parents Warned us About

At the conference in London, the membership adopted the organisation statutes as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN 1948) and the European Convention on Human Rights (Rome 1953) as guiding documents for IGLYO. In this year, IGLYO went from being founded to being established. At the general meeting it was also decided that bureau members could serve in office for a maximum of four years, and that the bureau shall include both men and women provided both genders are nominated. The membership decided that IGLYO would apply for membership in the European Coordination Bureau for International Non-Governmental Youth Organisations (ECB). In this year, IGLYO makes clear that it supports the UN resolution on political and cultural boycotts of South Africa, and will not accept any members or organisations that are included under the boycott.

“Kiss In” Protest

The forth IGLYO conference entitled People Our Parents Warned Us About was held in London, England. The location was chosen to help launch the newly formed organisation, and to challenge the discriminatory age of consent in the UK. In the conference statements, the organisation called upon the government to immediately withdraw all laws discriminating against homosexuals because of their sexuality, and took aim at Ireland where sex between two members of the same gender was still illegal.

The major event in this year was the “Kiss In” demonstration held in London’s Piccadilly Circus on August 7, 1987. As the major event of the organisation’s fourth international conference, the demonstration protested the “privacy” clause of Britain’s 1967 Sexual Offences Act that forbid gays and lesbians to kiss or hold hands in public, and also the age of consent which at that time was 21 for gay men (and 16 for heterosexuals). The “Kiss In” joined a number of IGLYO demonstrations that year hoping to raise awareness of a “sexual apartheid” in Britain. The demonstration achieved significant media coverage with articles in a number of popular gay publications: Capital Gay, The Advocate, and The Body Politic.


In this year the secretariat moved from Oslo to Amsterdam.

We are still searching for further information about 1988. Please help us by submitting your memories!

Penpal Project Begins

In 1988 IGLYO started its highly successful penpal project. The organisation advertised in various publications the opportunity for LGBTQ youth to get in contact with one another. Youth from all over the world wrote to the headquarters to request the list of pen pals of other LGBTQ youth. For many, the penpal project introduced them to their first lesbian or gay friend. Most of the letters in the archive express a desperate need to talk to someone like themselves, others request nondescript packaging for fear of being outted, and some describe the hardship and discrimination endured at home. For over 10 years, or until the internet made the project obsolete, IGLYO provided a link for countless LGBTQ youth to correspond with international counterparts who faced the same issues they did. Organisation volunteers worked on this project over the years and helped change the realities of LGBTQ youth throughout the world.

Controversy in Berlin

The fifth IGLYO conference entitled Discrimination – The Enemy Within Us was held in Berlin, Germany. At this conference, IGLYO wrote an open letter to the Austrian government voicing its disapproval with the country’s strict anti-homosexuality laws. Other topics of note included racism, sexism, sexual violence and abuse, ageing, internal discrimination and homophobia, as well as a meeting with gays and lesbians from East Berlin and the GDR.

The major event from the conference in Berlin was the organisation’s evection from Dallas in Dalhem in the German-American Volksfest intended to promote German-American relations on August 2, 1988. The official statement from Lieutenant Colonel John J. McNulty III of the United State’s Army was that members “were asked to leave the American-German Volksfest because they were sexually behaving in a manner not socially acceptable in public, regardless of sexual preference.” IGLYO members wrote accounts of verbal and threatened physical abuse by members of the U.S. Army and West Berlin police. Days later, to raise awareness of their evection from the festival, IGLYO arranged an anti-American demonstration and was awarded a court order to protest. A number of American representatives, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson, offered to question the expulsion on IGLYO’s behalf. The Honourable Gerry E. Studds on the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives ultimately took up the organisation’s cause in letters to the U.S. Army and a class action suit against the U.S. Department of Defense. The event in Berlin was documented in many international lesbian and gay publications.

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