LGBT Youth Scotland Volunteer Andy shares their experience of attending The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Youth & Student Organisation (IGLYO) Annual Members Conference in Malta from 29th September to 2nd of October 2016.
The conference brought together youth activists from across Europe for four days of workshops, activities and networking. Read about what happened during the conference and what Andy learned while there.
Last weekend I represented LGBT Youth Scotland at the IGLYO Annual Members Conference in Malta, a gathering of over 70 LGBTQI youth activists representing organisations from across Europe. In addition to the packed schedule of debates and discussions, workshops and policy making, we were addressed by the Maltese minister for civil liberties Dr Helena Dalli, met Maltese LGBT civil society groups and were invited to a reception at the Presidential Palace.
However, it wasn’t in the receptions or even during the discussions on the conference floor that I became aware of the power of our movement, but in the informal conversations at breakfast, on the way to the conference centre or getting ready in our rooms. I heard loads of inspirational stories of the work other young people were involved in to further the rights of LGBTQI people, at home. From those who worked tirelessly with the Maltese government to implement legislation that puts Malta as no.1 on the rainbow map of Europe, to a group running a homeless shelter for LGBT young people in Poland and lots of other young people organising events and protests in countries with restrictive anti-LGBTQI laws.
One conversation sticks out in my mind. I shared a room with a young woman from Georgia, who I got on with really well, we liked similar music and went to the same festivals. She was speaking about the activism she was involved in and told me about how an IDAHOT demonstration in the capital city was violently attacked by thousands of counter protesters, throwing bricks and smoke bombs. 17 people were injured and 12 people ended up in hospital.
I have never been under any illusions that the achievements we have made for LGBT people in Scotland were not hard fought, or that we don’t still have work to do, but hearing first-hand accounts of such brave activism in repressive societies from someone I could relate to so much was pretty humbling.
The atmosphere of the conference was great and quickly it felt like I was with one big group of friends. This made me think of the LGBT Youth Scotland #friendschangelives campaign. The friendships formed during my short time in Malta definitely changed my perspective on things, and gave me a renewed passion to continue the fight for equality.
However it’s not just the friendships between youth activists across borders that change lives, but the many ordinary supportive friendships LGBTQI young people enjoy, from school friends, to teachers and parents. Societies change because of the courageous activism of LGBTQI people in breaking the silence and challenging stigma, but also because of the actions of others in supporting LGBTQI friends and refusing to tolerate homophobia and transphobia.