LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

Intersectionality at the heart of the conference

PomPom - our Diversity Mascot

Over the past few years, the whole ILGA-Europe team has placed intersectionality at the heart of the conference. 

From investing time and energy to creating ever safer spaces to have conversations about power and privileges to elevating voices of those who are not heard within LGBTI communities, our annual conference has become a central place to have many of the conversations which are needed if we are to fulfil our commitment not to leave anyone behind. 

The ILGA-Europe staff and board team came back more determined than ever to progress this work, throughout the year and at the Brussels' conference. Building on the many conversations you have all had since we met in Warsaw and our ongoing learning, we are again defining intersectionality as a thread for the event. Together, we want to continue to talk about how we ensure that we hear and see everyone, how we take care of ourselves and of each other, how we find ways to be connected in all our diversity, how we come together to create a world in which we all feel safe and included. 

Here there is information on what we are doing to make our conference a welcoming, safe and accessible space, and on our engagement beyond the conference. 

We know that there is so much more to learn on this journey, and much more that needs to happen. We can't wait for the many rich, stimulating, challenging, sometimes uncomfortable, conversations with all of you at this year's conference that will help us continue moving towards being ever more inclusive of all diversities within LGBTI communities. 

 How do we support diverse participation and representation at the conference?

Scholarships: Making sure more and more of our members can attend the Annual Conference in the first place. In 2018, participant diversity was again one of the key criteria in our scholarship selection process. When we assessed applications for scholarships, we took lots of factors into account, including applicants from smaller organisations, regional branches or under-represented groups within the LGBTI movement itself. It's always a tough task, but we feel proud to say that almost every country in the European region is represented under the scholarship programme which is supporting 65 participants this year. Also, around 44 activists will be present at the conference for the very first time, showing that the scholarship programme was successful in reaching out to those members that never took part in the event before.

Speakers: We seek to be representative in our choice of speakers, panels and workshop facilitators to ensure that a wide range of perspectives are addressed and that the visibility of diverse groups within the LGBTI community is enhanced.

 How do we create an inclusive environment at the conference?

ILGA-Europe continuously strive to make the Annual Conference as representative of all our movement as possible – and we want all attendees to feel comfortable the moment they walk through the doors of the hotel. We took on board many of the suggestions made over the past two years. Here is a summary of what we have put in place in an effort to create an environment which is an inclusive as possible.

Language: 

  • Simultaneous interpretation English-Russian will be provided for all plenary sessions, panels as well as workshops taking place in the plenary room.
  • Live captioning in English will also be provided for all plenary sessions and panels this year. Live captioning will be visible on screen in the plenary room as well as on mobile devices.
  • Support for visa application procedure has been provided by the ILGA-Europe team in both English and Russian

Accessibility: the whole ILGA-Europe team always strive to make events as accessible as possible. This includes selecting venues that are accessible (including lifts, accessible toilets, etc.); offering adapted transportation for participants with specific needs; reaching out to participants who indicate mobility needs ahead of the conference to make sure there needs are properly understood and catered for; providing gender neutral toilets; providing an awareness raising/sensitivity training to the staff of the conference venue and/or hotels; working with caterers to ensure that food served meets all the dietary requirements of participants and is properly labelled; supporting costs for accompanying person and/or care taker when requested; upon request, ILGA-Europe will arrange day care facilities for participants with children; providing for proper sitting spaces in conference venue and opening reception venue.

Well-being: We know that the programme is very busy and it's difficult to make self-care a priority during the conference. This is why a silent room will be available for participants to use throughout the whole conference. There is also a quiet coffee corner available during all coffee breaks in room Infinity (2nd floor). There will also be relaxation sessions offered on Thursday and Friday evenings from 19.00-20:00. If you are not feeling well or are aware of someone else not being well, please inform someone from the ILGA-Europe team. We can help connect you to medical or psycho-social support services.

Social programme: at ILGA-Europe, we feel strongly that diversity is not only important when discussing activism and politics, it is also important when we relax and have fun! This is why we do our best to offer a range of social activities outside the conference programme to suit different interests: from board games night and karaoke, film screening, cultural visits in Brussels. In addition, the gallery Baxtarte // Queer × Roma / Art x Activism // will present an overview of artworks, activities and events of the Rom LGBTQI people who are trying to awake and empower themselves in this complex, marginalising and sometimes firmly humiliating oppression. It will be available throughout the conference at the Queer Plaza. 

 Where can I have discussions about intersectionality during the conference?

Connecting spaces (Wednesday 24th October): these are spaces where you can connect with other participants with a shared aspect of your identity at the very start of the conference. These are safe spaces where you can talk about how you can come together and support each other throughout the conference. As our lives and experiences are multifaceted and often relate to multiple intersecting identities, we are offering two consecutive rounds: 

  • PART 1: Bisexual+ people; LGBTI people of Faith; Trans; Non-Binary and Gender Non-Conforming people; disabled LGBTI people; Russian-speakers.
  • PART 2: Intersex people; older LGBTI people; Lesbians; LGBTI youth; LGBTI people of colour and/or from ethnic minority background.

Workshops: there are several workshops that give participants opportunities to talk about the experiences of intersecting aspects of our identities: workshops on the experiences of Roma LGBTQI people, of asylum seekers, sex workers, intersex people, lesbian women, people living with HIV, of bisexuals, of LGBTI people of faith, of LGBTI youth and homelessness. There are workshops aimed at starting much-needed conversations on the experiences and inclusion of LGBTI people with disabilities and of LGBTI people of colour and/or from ethnic minority background in our communities, organisations and in societies. Two workshops will also provide space for those conversations to come together. The first one will focus on organising with LGBTI communities, and participants will have the chance to shape the workshop agenda by expressing and discussing around their burning questions. The second one will be a space where to explore what we have learned, what we still need to learn and what are steps forward on diversity and intersectionality. 

The Women's Caucus is a safe space for self-identifying women at the ILGA-Europe Annual Conference. Over the years, the Caucus has represented a 'bonding space' where LBTI women could meet and connect with each other, and a place to talk about women in the LGBTI movement. Over the past few years, we have explored barriers to the participation and visibility faced by LBTI women activists, and have used this space to talk about empowering women and strengthening women's leadership. One of the central questions for everyone in Brussels is how we can strengthen women's participation in decision-making and leadership within the LGBTI movement in Europe and Central Asia and ILGA-Europe. 

Self-organised spaces are spaces for groups of people who wish to meet together to discuss any subject of mutual interest. A self-organised space may itself define a criteria for attendance. So these spaces can be used to discuss any topic not featuring on the workshop programme or a topic which participants wish to further discuss.

Intersectionality needs to be the thread running through our entire time together, not just one part of the conference. That's why we want to integrate it as a theme from our plenary sessions and workshops through to the evening programme and the social spaces too!

 What does intersectionality mean for ILGA-Europe beyond the conference?

Movement and capacity-building work: we have been strengthening our intersectional approach in our projects and programmes. 

To name a few examples: we have increasingly used our small grants programmes to provide support to groups or initiatives that have limited access to financial resources, often to amplify the voices of under-represented or marginalised groups within LGBTI communities. 

A key principle of our project on community organising was to develop knowledge and capacity on how to ensure that LGBTI organising work is inclusive and intersectional, that there is ownership of the spaces created and of the agenda, and that organisations are increasingly representative of the needs in the communities.

We also continue to provide active support to European networks and under-represented groups within the LGBTI movements, such as by ensuring participation in trainings and by providing peer learning opportunities. 

Raising awareness and visibility actions: As you can see from this section of our app, there is a lot of work on intersectional issues going on – but not all of it is visible 100% of the time. 

The conversations that we have and actions that ILGA-Europe take cannot always been seen and heard by the entire membership. So this is where our awareness-raising work comes in. 

Over the past few years, we have run a series of social media campaigns, featuring the experiences and stories of our movement. This has included our gender equality campaign We Can Do It – Together, the Silver Rainbow campaign focusing on the experiences of older LGBTI people, we Turned on the Lights on racism (internal and external) and the LGBTI communities, busted myths about LGBTI identity and faith in Gay vs God? and on Bi Visibility Day, and started discussions around mental health and inclusion of sex workers' voices in our community. The content of the campaigns may change but the aim remains the same – to elevate the voices of groups in our community that are not always heard. 

Have you got ideas for a campaign that you'd like to see ILGA-Europe talking about? Please get in touch! 

Advocacy: as with our programmatic work, we are on a real learning journey when it comes to adopting an intersectional approach in our advocacy work. 

We strive to: 

  • use our platform to create space and to amplify the voices of under-represented groups within LGBTI communities in European policy-making;
  • to continue our long tradition of working in alliances with other organisations and movements as often as possible (which not only strengthens our messages but allows us to learn and gain new perspectives);
  • to consider the impact of our positions from a wide range of experiences, and to be more specific on the impact legislation and policies will have on certain groups within the LGBTI community in our advocacy messages and strategies.

 How can I support ILGA-Europe’s efforts to be more inclusive?

Keep talking to us, sharing your ideas and making suggestions! All comments on our diversity and intersectionality work are welcomed by our board and staff – and it is this valuable feedback that shakes up our approach, makes us stronger as an organisation and helps us move forward on this incredibly important journey.

Donate to the Diversity Fund: Every year, we want to be able to provide more scholarships. Our scholarship process gives us the possibility to support greater and wider representation of activists at the heart of the conference. This is where our Diversity Fund comes in. This year we reached out and once again received generous donations. WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT FOR NEXT YEAR already! Please donate to Diversity Fund at www.ilga-europe.org/donate. The more money we have, the more scholarships we will be able to give!