IGLYO memories 1999-2003
Board members in 1999 were Miha Lobnik (Slovenia), Arjos Vendrig (The Netherlands), Roweena Russell (Ireland), Faika El-Nagashi (Austria), Andreas Söderland (Sweden).
Remco van Dam worked in the Amsterdam secretary.
Learn to Live, Learn to Love
In April 1999, IGLYO organised a seminar in the European Youth Centre in Strasbourg on Continuity.
The fifteenth IGLYO conference entitled Learn to Live, Learn to Love was held in Barcelona, Spain from July 28th until August the 3rd. The major focus of this conference was on education and more specifically on developing ways to introduce LGBTQ issues into school curriculum and youth groups – queer issues are persistently considered a taboo issue in regular school systems. IGLYO recognized the role that LGBT organisations could play in ‘repairing the damage caused by the taboo’ as well as ‘changing the attitude in the school system.’ Issues discussed at this conference included queer history, the situation for LGBTQ people in Bahrain, how to set up a LGBTQ youth group, and sex education in Spain.
This year Roweena Russel (Ireland), Fainna Grossman (Germany), Andre Söderland (Sweden), Miha Lobnik (Slovenia) Silvia Bonzio (Italy) and Gudni were involved on the board.
Remco van Dam worked in the Amsterdam secretary.
Amsterdam Office Closes
During this year the Amsterdam office closes down, and new IGLYO offices opens in Stockholm and Ljubljana. The contract with the only paid staff member (Remco van Dam) could not be extended due to financial difficulties. The monetary support received in previous years from the European Commission was no longer received. The reason for opening an office in Ljubljana was described by the board as the need to bridge the gap between east and west. The board concluded that the only way of doing so was to ‘live such an experience and function within the difference.’ This year IGLYO also ended its mandate in the advisory committee of the Council of Europe of the European Youth Forum. Due to the inability to pay membership fees to the Youth Forum IGLYO was no longer able to participate in its activities.
IGLYO participated in the Coventry Action for the millennium conference, where it facilitated the sexuality component of the event. By participating, IGLYO aimed to address the existence of discriminating legislature, as well as discrimination through ‘social convention.’ It was an important step in strengthening alliances with other minority organisations. The conference report describes that a number of conference participants ‘came out’ as a result of the workshop’s positive environment.
IGLYO’s First Women’s Conference
In this year, IGLYO’s first Women’s Conference took place in Berlin, Germany. The event was a ‘women only’ activity where self-defined women discussed issues such as health, violence, safe-sex, and feminist politics. The relevance of the conference was emphasized to acknowledge that women’s participation in IGLYO events was considerably lower than men’s participation.
The sixteenth IGLYO conference entitled We Are Family (the meaning of family for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered youth) took place in Stockholm, Sweden. At the event, space was offered for discussing people’s personal experiences with their biological families, as well as with a ‘family of their own.’ High priority was given to participants coming from countries in Central and Eastern Europe. According to the organizers this was necessary because of differing perspectives on the concept of family (1 father, 1 mother and children). The conference included a men’s space, organised for the first time next to a women’s space. Some of the questions raised during the men’s space included: “Why do men need partners?”, and “Why do they need more partners? “
The study session Networking took place at the European Youth Centre in Budapest. It was a skill based training session where competencies such as communication, funding, negotiation and planning were addressed. The event provided a unique opportunity to involve ‘isolated groups’ from Russia and Romania.
Kris Vanhemelryck joins the board informally as a ‘guest board member’.
In this year, the Stockholm office closed down making the Ljubljana office the main IGLYO contact point.
On behalf of IGLYO, Kris Vanhemelryck attended the European Union Hearing EU Enlargement, A Gay Perspective, which was organised in Brussels, Belgium, on the 25th of June 2001. The public hearing aimed at evaluating the position of lesbian women and gay men in the accession countries of the European Union. It was organised by the Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights, an informal body of the European Parliament consisting of three members of European Parliament (MEP’s): Joke Swiebel, Michael Cashman, and Patsy Sorensen.
Cooperation with OBESU
In this year, IGLYO was supposed to organize the conference Minorities within minorities, in Tallinn, Estonia, but the conference never took place. Only in 2004 the true reason for this was revealed when IGLYO found out that the responsible board member had been sentenced for committing various illegal transactions. The responsible board member had informed the board that the study session did not take place due to ‘disagreements’ between prep team members. The money was never seen and the responsible board member did not respond to any correspondence sent to him. Due to lack of financial resources no conference was organized this year.
In March a study session on Social exclusion in high schools convened in cooperation with the Organising Bureau for European Student Unions (OBESSU) in the European Youth Centre in Budapest, Hungary. This was the start of an ongoing cooperation between the two organisations, both recognizing the mutual benefit of such cooperation. By means of non-formal education, the topic of social exclusion was explored – the use of ‘theatre of the oppressed,’ as well as other forms of role-play. The event report concludes that the study session was very successful, and that further cooperation was desirable.
This year IGLYO published an ‘Education manual’ for member organisations, which included practical guidance to running LGBT youth activities. The manual dealt with issues such as group facilitation, media, money, and organising events.
This year Kris Vanhemelryck (Belgium), Bogdan Stefan (Romania), Rita Paulos de Silva (Portugal) and Konstantin Sudakov (Kyrgyzstan) were elected as board members during the General Meeting which took place in January in Ljubljana. Kris Vanhemelryck functioned as chairperson of the organisation. Miha Lobnik continueed to work voluntarily for the secretariat in Ljubljana. The new board met for the first time in Amsterdam in June, where an ‘introduction training to the board’ is organised by COC Netherlands.
Youth Policy Development in Albania
A General Meeting took place in January in Ljubljana, Slovenia alongside the accession hearing. Due to the lack of resources, IGLYO was not able to provide travel bursaries to participants.
Rita Paulos da Silva and Kris Vanhemelryck represented IGLYO at the ILGA-Europe conference, which took place in Lisbon, Portugal. Contacts between the two organisations over past years had not been very strong, hence the attendance at the conference was seen as an important step to strengthen the ties between the two organisations.
IGLYO participated in the seminar Youth policy development in Albania, which was organised by the European Youth Forum in cooperation with the Council of Europe. In his report, IGLYO representative Michael Schmitt criticizes the the Federation for Young European Greens (FYEG) for pushing ‘ecological issues’ to the core of the agenda, taking away focus from other emerging issues. At the event, former IGLYO member Dennis van der Veur ran a workshop on project cycle management, using his work with the Romanian LGBT organisation ACCEPT as an example. This helped open a door to discuss LGBT issues in a country where hardly any public discussion about the matter had taken place till then.
With the help of COC and HIVOS, IGLYO was able to organise a board meeting and training for new board members that took place in June in Amsterdam. This meeting provided the necessary catalyst for the organisation to get back on track after a long period of inactivity. The training that preceded the board meeting focused primarily on the history of IGLYO, introduction to the European youth structures, evaluation of past IGLYO activities and assessing capabilities and skills of the current board members in order to develop a good working team. With the help of a SWOT analysis of IGLYO, a project for IGLYO focusing on capacity building, information facilitation, and representation of LGBT youth in Europe was developed. The board meeting has also planned a number of short and long term actions.
Accession Hearing in Ljubljana
The report in the ILGA Europe Newsletter summarizes some of the important issues debated during a hearing Discrimination of LGBT youth in accession countries to the European Union organised by IGLYO in cooperation with the student organisation of the university of Ljubljana and COC Netherlands in Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2002. It was during this event that IGLYO presented its ‘Mind the Gap’ publication, on the situation of LGBT youth in EU countries and accession countries.
While having youth from many ‘accession countries’ present the event provided ground to discuss the role of the European Union in the accession process. Having Dutch socialist Member of European Parliament and founder of the first LGBT Intergroup in the European Parliament Joke Swiebel addressing the event provided an important opportunity for interaction. Besides Mrs. Swiebel also Ljubljana’s mayor Mrs. Viktorija Potocnik and dean of the Ljubljana University, Igor Luksic addressed the event, together with other distinguished speakers.
Of particular note is the conclusion of the participants that “no EU candidate country should be allowed to join the European Union unless legislation discriminating against lesbians and gays is repealed before accession.” It was noted that there are still legislative discriminatory practices that affect the lives of LGBT young people. For example, in Bulgaria and Cyprus the age of consent for sexual intercourse was higher for homosexuals than for their heterosexual peers.
The article also mentions IGLYO’s claim that LGBT youth in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia have fewer opportunities than their Western counterparts. The purpose of the event was successful at foregrounding gay and lesbian rights in correlation with EU enlargement plans, and at attracting Slovenian politicians and media.
Importantly, the event also had a positive effect on the local situation in Slovenia. The annual report describes: “Already from the start of the project, the preparation team had to expose itself several times as out gay activist to the political and social structures that were involved in the preparation. This is no small thing considering that Slovenia has almost no ‘out’ public lesbian or gay figures and there is little political will from the Slovenian state to support lesbian and gay cultural, educational, social and other projects.”
In 2002 and 2003, Miha Lobnik oversaw the IGLYO secretariat in Ljubljana, Slovenia. In his report, he describes the work as ‘problematic’, which in particular related to the fact that he was working alone, and that no funds were available to pay for his work. Miha recommended finding a centre where people can work as a team. Due to the challenges, the office closed in late 2003.
Presentation of the Network Proposal
The annual report of 2003 describes both the successes in terms of activities that took place, as well as the ‘threats’ posed to the organisation due to a lack of financial resources and volunteers. A General Meeting was foreseen to take place in January 2003, but could not take place due to the Lisbon conference. At the meeting the board presented a Network Proposal, an ambitious document which led the way for the organisation’s future development. The document focused on the strengthening of the ‘European network of organisations’, and took the EU accession strategy as a key entry-point for enhancing cooperation with organisations in countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Baltic States, and Central and Eastern Europe. The document was tabled at the GMM in Lisbon, where it was adopted by members.
During the General Meeting it was decided that the office would move to the premises of the Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM), where it would function under the auspice of Ruth Baldacchino. The office merely functioned as a postal address, having no other volunteers involved.
For a number of years IGLYO encountered problems in paying its annual membership fees to the European Youth Forum. For that reason IGLYO was not able to participate in the organisation’s statutory meetings, which is where policies that form the basis of youth focused advocacy work within the European Union and the Council of Europe are defined.
ESIB (European Student Union) invited IGLYO to its 44th conference entitled Equality in Higher Education that took place in Sofia that year. Miha Lobnik addressed the conference and presented a report on the hearing. During the event, the ESIB adopted a policy paper on Equality, which addressed the issue of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation within higher education.
Miha Lobnik also represented IGLYO at the Summer Festival of the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY), which had around 7000 participants from around the world. Miha challenged participants to think about how LGBT issues can be addressed within socialist parties, and advocated to move away from the idea that LGBT issues are ‘political suicide’.
In September IGLYO launched a new website, www.iglyo.net, which aimed to become a digital database for member organisations. Due to difficulties with the host of the website, this website only functioned for two years, during which board members rarely had access to the website’s management system.
In December a handover meeting was organised in Amsterdam, involving new and former board board members. During the meeting Jasna Magic was appointed chair of the organisation, Kaspar Zalatis treasurer, and Ruth Baldacchino secretary. Despite this role division, which is required under Dutch law, an agreement was made that the board was to function in a ‘non-hierarchical fashion’. The meeting was hosted and financed by the COC Netherlands. During the board meeting it was decided that the postal office of the organisation would move to Malta, with the private address of board member Ruth Baldacchino. Until then Kris Vanhemelryck’s (Belgium) postal address had been used.
Pride in Activism!
The twentieth IGLYO conference entitled Pride in Activism was held in Lisbon, Portugal. The conference was organised in cooperation with member organisation Rede ex Aecquo and took place at the offices of ILGA-Portugal. The conference was organised as an answer to the violent reaction of the Serbian society to the Belgrade pride in 2001. With this event IGLYO wanted to highlight the importance of the freedom of assembly, as well as the importance of the concept of ‘pride’ towards LGBT communities. The conference was visited by the then just newly appointed director of the Council of Europe’s European Youth Fund, Jean-Claude Lazaro. Whilst in terms of content the event was very successful, it faced various logistical challenges. Due to a communication difficulties no meal plans had been arranged and the hostel was not available for the last night of the conference, forcing all participants to move into a hotel.
The organisation also held a study session entitled Overcoming Homophobia: Working towards an inclusive social policy for LGBT youth in Budapest, Hungary. The event provided space for participants to discuss elements that constitute homophobia, both on a personal as well as on an institutional level. Approaches to combat homophobia were discussed during the many workshops that took place. Board members described the study session as successful, as it provided members with new insights.