Institution/ DG: Equal Opportunities Office at the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union
“We need to acknowledge the privilege we have working at the EU institutions and use it to create positive change”
As one of the organizers of Queer Stagiaires, what are the highlights already achieved?
Queer Stagiaires has evolved very fast in the past few months. I must admit that the whole project went beyond any expectations we could have at the beginning. Our objectives as organization were to give visibility and to create a safe space for LGBTQ trainees and allies doing the traineeship at the EU institutions. In this regard, we were inspired by the generation of trainees from one year ago whom organized a first ever participation at the Belgian Pride representing the EU in their private capacity.
Queer Stagiaires has now become a truly institutional organization where trainees from all the EU institutions can discuss and organize activities on LGBTQ issues. Working in a truly cooperative spirit we have succeed in organizing study visits to the EEAS and ILGA-Europe, dinner debates, a workshop in cooperation with ILGA-Europe and also leisure activities with a Queer perspective. Nonetheless, the biggest achievement of the season was undoubtedly the organization of a huge delegation to the Belgian Pride where Queer Stagiaires participated in conjunction with Egalite, LGBTI staff of the EU institutions, and Stand Up for Europe Bruxelles gathering some 300 trainees and staff of the EU as “Europe United in Diversity”.
What is the future of Queer Stagiaires?
I truly believe that Queer Stagiaires is here to stay. In fact, the organization was created in 2001 and it has had an inconsistent development since then given its unstable nature as generations of trainees come and go. It must also be highlighted that our team has build upon the successful venture launched by the inspiring generation of trainees a year ago.
Now, we consider paramount that different generations of trainees can cooperate together in order to continue working on achieving positive and inclusive change for LGBTQ trainees and allies. In this regard, at the end of the traineeship we will be launching a Queer Stagiaires Alumni group in order to share expertise and knowledge among generations of trainees. I am certain that Queer Stagiaires will continue to spread their message of love and acceptance for many generations of trainees to come.
You are also involved in other organizations like ILGA-Europe, do you find it essential to work together with other forces?
In fact, I arrived in Brussels because I was selected for a traineeship at ILGA-Europe where I spent 6 months in the team organizing their Annual Conference in Nicosia last year. My time at ILGA-Europe turned out to be a life-changing intensive learning experience. Indeed, I immersed in an incredible professional team, extremely committed to achieve equality for LGBTI people in Europe. The main lesson I learnt was that to achieve change we definitely need to join forces not only with the whole diversity of LGBTQ individuals but also with other movements discriminated and left behind by the same hetero patriarchal and xenophobe system of oppression.
We, as Queer Stagiaires are a very privileged group of individuals given our position as trainees of the EU institutions. In order to create sustainable change we really need to acknowledge that privilege and use it to include everybody by giving space to less privileged members of the LGBTQ movement. We should be able to take that with us at the end of this traineeship. If we want to create sustainable change we cannot leave other discriminated minorities behind.
Spain is hosting World Pride this year, what is the legal situation of the LGBT+ community there?
I must admit that the legal situation for LGBTI people in Spain is not bad even if there is still work to do. In fact, Spain is a country scoring 67% at ILGA-Europe Rainbow Map which confirms that the country is situated among those with good legislative provisions for LGBTI people. Nonetheless, in order to analyze in detail we definitely need to separate them into sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics. In this regard, lesbian, gay and bisexual Spaniards enjoy a good set of legislation regarding non-discrimination, even though not always implemented. Regarding marriage equality the legislation was passed already in 2005 becoming the third country in the world to do so (after the Netherlands and Belgium). Nonetheless, the situation is different for trans people as the process for legal gender recognition still very medicalized. Unfortunately, many trans people are still forced to go through a diagnosis of gender dysphoria in order to change their legal gender in some areas of the country given the lack of a national law in this regard. Finally, Spain does not forbid operations on intersex children at birth which allows for a dreadful reality for the 1,7% of fellow intersex Spaniards. They are still being mutilated without their consent creating terrible consequences for them during the whole life.
How about social acceptance?
I really like that you ask me that question because certainly legislation and social acceptance do not necessarily go together. To be honest, Spain is a country with a high level of social acceptance in general but where patriarchy and heteronormativity are still strong. In fact, it is interesting to observe how the last 15 years have seen increasing visibility with has also come with increasing number of hate crimes on LGBT people in the last years (200 LGBT hate crimes over the course of the last year). However there are also positive movements as the increasing acceptance and momentum that trans people are having currently in Spain and that will hopefully lead towards a depathologized national law on legal gender recognition.
A spotlight from Brussels you would recommend for the LGBTQ Community…
To be honest Brussels lacks truly mixed Queer spaces when it comes to leisure. Nonetheless, it has amazing choice of activities organized by different LGBTQ collectives in the city. I would definitely recommend checking the Rainbow House webpage for the whole set of activities organized by and for the whole diversity of the LGBTQ community in the city. And of course, keep an eye at Queer Stagiaires social media for the activities coming during this last month of the traineeship!