Musat Cristian

My name is Cristi and I come from Romania. I work as a social worker in the field of domestic abuse. Even seeing bad things happen on a daily basis, I’m still sure that there is hope left. We are improving as human beings in every second.

I applied to Activist Academy because I want to have more abilities for the future. One day I want to create a social service platform for LGBTQI people in and from Romania.

In my perspective, the main issue in the LGTBQI community is the lack of social and psychological counselling by professionals who are aware of the struggles of LGBTQI. Often the help is needed when coming out in an unfriendly environment. We need people who could help us to stop or tackle hate crimes and rejection.

Tamaz Sozashvili

My name is Tamaz and I’m a 21-year-old queer activist from Tbilisi, Georgia, studying social work at Tbilisi State University and working for Georgia’s one of the biggest LGBTIQ NGOs “Equality Movement”.

It’s very important for me as a young activist to improve my skills concerning to project management, advocacy, campaigning etc. to work together with other activists, share our experiences and maybe come up with some new, creative and effective ideas for my future work. It’s crucial to build some networks with other activists out of my country for future cooperation.

Personally, for me, the main problem influencing LGBTQI community are the economic conditions and education. I think that’s the reason why most of the time governments manipulate with LGBTQI issues, moving attention from the real problems (for example: economical) to imaginary and non-existence (LGBTQI persons, gay marriage etc.). All these activities influence negatively to LGBTQI community because there is no adequate education, most of the population can’t understand it and the situation gets more and more homo, bi and trans-phobic.

Alex Caruana

My name is Alex and I’m 27 years old. I come from the tiny island of Malta (for those who don’t know where it is, it’s in the middle of the Mediterranean). I have been an activist in Malta for quite some years now, not only on LGBTQI issues. Since I came out as a Trans I became more interested in Trans issues and in Malta. Today we are working together to create a community for Transmen and to put pressure on the government to provide us free health care.

I applied for the Activist Academy because I would like to learn from other people with different backgrounds coming from different countries. Since I live on an island, sometimes we are very limited with interaction with foreigners. I would like to share my gained knowledge with other people so that they can make better work and can continue to work on their own, independently.

There isn’t just one problem influencing the LGTBQI community. The community is not homogenous. I think that at the roots of our problems are heteronormativity and patriarchy. We still have no visibility at schools, low visibility on the media and commercials (although I am feeling that capitalism is using us to make more profit). Patriarchy and heteronormativity are not being challenged enough and sometimes it’s our community that replicates these functions to be seen as ‘normal’. Also, I have a great vision about the Pride festivals being more political rather than just partying.

Helena Olsson

I’m Helena, a 22-year-old bisexual activist from Stockholm, Sweden. I was recently elected board member for my organisation’s East district (RFSL Ungdom Öst) which is my first time on a board. For the past two years, I have been a delegate for my district at our yearly national congress.

As an activist, I have attended manifestations and arranged activities at Stockholm Pride, among other things. At my university, I have helped arrange breakfasts and hangouts for the queer student body and during my high school, I was also an active member of the LGBTQ group at the school.

As a board member, I want to improve my leadership skills, bring attention to bisexuality in the movement and increase our commitment to international activism. The Swedish Youth Federations for LGBTQ Rights (RFSL Ungdom) is very good at bringing attention to mental health issues amongst queer youth, norm criticism and transgender rights. I am very proud to attend the Academy and hope that I can bring back move valuable tools to the organisation, strengthening the LGBTQ movement in Sweden. I think it’s important for the movement that we identify common goals and exchange knowledge about local activism to reach them.

Teija Ryhtä

My name is Teija, I come from Finland and am a member of the Youth Committee of “Seta – LGBTI Rights in Finland” where our goal is to bring visibility to the challenges and human rights of LGBTIQ* youth in Finland. I am currently finishing my Master’s degree in social work and sociology. I consider social work another field for me to advocate for LGBTIQ* people’s rights, which are especially underrepresented in Finnish social work research and practice. I am hoping to utilise my professional knowledge while at the same time challenging the “official” path.

I have always been actively involved in different associations, ranging from equestrian sports to amateur theatre and voluntary aiding of elderly people. I have gained a lot of experience in public speaking and representing different organisations, but I am still relatively new to human rights activism. I wish to build on my previous experience and grow as a leader and a role model both in my current organisation and in wider publicity. I hope to gain more practical knowledge on effective civil advocacy, especially when representing marginalised minorities.

I see patterns of ignorance, prejudice and misinformation creating barriers that prevent peaceful co-existence of all the people. But I also see a great potential for human growth, as I’ve experienced so many times with my own family members, friends and acquaintances. Encouraging people to reach over the barriers and encounter each other as equal human beings are one of our greatest, and hardest, tasks. I am here to kick through the barriers and break down the boxes that confine us!

Nora Rusiti

My name is Nora and I come from a small land in the Mediterrain called Croatia. It is a quite young country. We have only existed for 26 years as a Republic – that makes Croatia younger than myself. We have beautiful seaside, nature and not-so-smart politicians.

I applied to this Activist Academy to learn ways in which I can articulate and address the problems that our society is facing. As a result of a 2013 referendum, Croatia defines marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman, effectively reinforcing the prohibition on same-sex marriage. In the meantime, Catholic organisations and some politicians are openly expressing their negative opinions on LGBTIQ community.

Helping in that public opinion is also police who most of the time don’t do their jobs. I myself was attacked last year by some random bully on the street who thought I was a “faggot” (I’m a lesbian… bit androgynous maybe) and police reported that attack as offence instead of criminal activity as our anti-discrimination law said.

I don’t think our country is recognising us anymore. We need to work together. We need to educate ourselves better in order to find and think of the best solutions we can to make Croatia great again! (It’s a bad joke, sorry). What we definitely need is to make our societies safer for everyone who is different.

Xapa Nikoλaou

My name is Joy and I come from Greece. I represent Colour Youth – Athens LGBTQ Community. I applied for Activist Academy because I think it has a lot to offer in terms of guidance and experience to young people who, like me, are eager to be involved in LGBTQI activism. I believe that meeting other young activists and potential leaders of the LGBTQI movement will give me the empowerment and inspiration I need to create useful projects targeting the needs of the Greek LGBTQI community and be part of the change I want to see in my country.

In my opinion, the main problem of the LGBTQI community, at least in Greece, is the lack of mutual understanding and mutual support between members of different identities. It is the inability (or refuse) to listen to each other actively and create a constructive dialogue that divides the community into many different groups, according to one’s identity. As a result, the LGBTQI community appears divided, weaker and has difficulties reaching out to allies and promoting its agenda. Solving this problem can take us one step closer to gaining the acceptance we are fighting for and improving our rights.

Alena Kaliská

My name is Alena Kaliská and I was born and raised in a relatively small town Banská Bystrica in Slovakia. From a very young age (probably when I was around 15) I felt a huge urge to change something. After making a few LGBTIQ+ friends and hearing they feel really lonely and that I am the only one they know who is like them, the urge became unbearable. I decided to create a group for LGBTIQ+ people in Banská Bystrica region.

Currently, as a community which has over 200 members, we organise regular meetings and all kinds of events, even for the public. In the Activist Academy, I would like to learn how these communities work in different countries, get new ideas, so by that we can improve our group.

I think the biggest problem LGTBQI community faces is not being united. I can imagine individuals/activists (just like me) creating these groups in their regions and slowly making change together.

Veronika Stefecková

My name is Veronika and I come from Slovakia. I just came back from my European Voluntary Service that I conducted in Vilnius, Lithuania, in the organisation LGL (Lithuanian Gay League).

I have had this unique opportunity to spend one year in non-governmental LGBT* organisation to develop different skills and explore myself a bit more. Now I am motivated to take some action being back in Slovakia and that’s why I have applied to take part of Activist Academy.

I am interested mostly in transgender topics since my friend came out to me as trans*, I wrote my thesis on the topic and I did my practice in a transgender organisation in Slovakia. I love non-formal education and I would like to use it to raise awareness about LGBT+ topics because I think that one of the biggest problems influencing LGBT+ community is a lack of knowledge and lack of personal experience of people with this topic.

Alex Dufour

My name is Alex and I am 24 years old. For the past four years, I have been a member of a Belgian LGBT youth organisation called Alter Visio. I come originally from France but moved to Brussels a few years ago to study podiatry and got involved in LGBTQI+ issues there. Currently, I study gender studies in Paris and am really interested in LGBTQI+, gender and feminist issues.

I applied to take part in Activist Academy because I think it is a great opportunity to meet young European LGBTQI+ activists, to share experiences and to work together to improve our abilities as activists.

I think the main problem influencing the LGBTQI+ community is discrimination. Discrimination and prejudice greatly impact LGBTQI youth and I think that fighting against difficulties lived by the whole community is a crucial part of an activist’s work.

Katrine Koks

My name is Katrine and I come from Latvia, Riga. I am representing currently the only LGBTQIA organisation in the country – Mozaika, where I am one of the board members.

My involvement in activism is relatively new, I would say that it has been less than a year since I started calling myself an activist, but since then I discovered that it is my passion that I would love to continue. Because of that, I decided to apply and be a part of Activist Academy, as there is still so much to learn, to explore. I’m interested in meeting other people with different experiences and be inspired, but also, hopefully, inspire others.

I am currently specifically interested in working with issues trans community faces in Latvia. LGBTQIA community obviously faces many problems and they can be different all around the globe. In my country, it is the lack of community. A lot of LGBTQIA people still believe that there is something wrong with them and it is especially noticeable in older generations. I would love to see more respect towards each other inside the community and for people to realise that at the end we all have the same goal: to be respected.

Megan McIntyre

I’m Megan McIntyre: 18-year-old from Scotland. I use she/they pronouns and I have been involved with LGBT Youth Scotland since I was 13 and I started on the National activism projects when I was 14. I have been involved with countless projects in my time as an activist. I am also a member of Communic18 for the Year of Young People 2018 focusing on Equalities and Diversity and Enterprise and Regeneration.

I applied to be part of the Activist Academy because I feel like it would be a great opportunity for me to understand the different types of activism going on internationally, and how we at LGBT Youth Scotland can participate in this activism and use the positive work going on to improve ourselves as an organisation.

I think the main problem facing the LGBTQI community is the general public’s lack of education causing fear and hatred. People have a fear of the unknown and unusual, so when someone from the LGBTQI community is being an ambassador for LGBTQI inclusion, people get scared because they don’t know what to think. It can be overwhelming trying to wrap your brain around all the different branches of the LGBTQI community if you aren’t already actively part of it. Nobody likes to feel stupid, and people can totally feel threatened if they are confronted with the idea that they are uneducated about a specific topic. We need to break down these walls and have an open and safe dialogue with people who don’t know about the LGBTQI community to help them understand that LGBTQI people belong everywhere in society, from pubs and clubs to doctor’s offices, to places of worship, work and education.

Sasha Lazic

My name is Sasha and I am a trans guy from Serbia and Romania. I became an activist about two years ago with the wish of improving the legal status of trans and LGB folk. However, in these past two years, I learned that the legal status is only the formal part of the situation in which the LGBTIQ community finds itself and that the foundation of everything is the community itself, and its unity.

I know that I have so much left to learn about all aspects of activism, which is why I applied for Activist Academy. I’m really looking forward to it!

IGLYO is co-funded by the Rights Equality and Citizenship (REC) programme 2014-2020 of the European Union and the Government of the Netherlands. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of IGLYO and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Commission or the Government of the Netherlands.