Iva van Hoek, student at Faculty of Arts, a Dutch teacher and LGBT-activist in Association DIH – Equal Under the Rainbow. What brought you to Slovenia and what do you do and what activities do you do at DIH?
I moved to Slovenia primarily because of my studies, and I later found out that this was an excellent decision for many more reasons. I study psychology, I teach Dutch and I volunteer for the associations DIH and Legebitra. At DIH I facilitate the Lezbofé and I am coordinator of the volunteers.
You told me that this season you will lead monthly meetings for women only from LGBT+-community. What are the goals and activities of these meetings? What results do you expect?
It's called Lezbofé, it's intended as a safe space for women of the LBTQIA+ community to share about their experiences. Each meeting we have a different topic, sometimes preceded with a short opening activity and sometimes just in the form of a moderated talk. The aim is to offer queer women a space to meet and discuss topics that are relevant to them with individuals who can relate to their experiences. At the end of each meeting the participants are invited to suggest the topic for the next one, so the topics stay relevant to the community.
You were volunteer at Ljubljana Pride 2018. What inspired you to be a volunteer and what tasks did you have as a volunteer?
I had participated to many Pride parades before, but never as part of the organisation. I wanted to experience the parade from this side, and I also felt that this was something I really wanted to be part of. The Pride parade always meant a lot to me as the most visible event of our community and I want to do what I can to support it. It was my first time volunteering for the parade and I did not have a specific role, I helped out with various technicalities (repairing last year's signs, making badges, selling merchandise and similar) and I lead one LGBT tour of Ljubljana for a study visit group, but even this small involvement made the difference. I felt that the Parade was truly mine.
You were the Slovene group leader of several Erasmus+projects, Rainbow Summer Camp, Slovakia, Youth in Activism, Netherlands, and Queer Lab Europe, Italy. You obviously like to travel and exchange experiences, knowledge and information, why is it so – is this a personal or also part of your psychology profession?
It's difficult to say where my personal interests end and my professional interests begin. My initial interest in Erasmus+ youth projects connected to the LGBTQIA+ spectrum started as a personal initiative, I had never before been in a space that was meant specifically for queer people and after my first project I realised that there were many aspects about my sexual orientation that I did not yet fully value or even accept. It inspired me to become more actively involved in my community and this summer I decided to take the role of group leader in three projects connected to the LGBTQIA+ spectrum and activism, this time with more professional motivation. The experiences supported me immensely in my activist work, but also professionaly as a psychology student there are numerous skills and knowledges I acquired during these projects that will support me in my career.
Do you think that society and youth needs more education about LGBT-topics or sharing knowledge and experience about it, if yes, why?
Of course, people need to have knowledge about topics in order to understand them. Nowadays it seems that many people adopt this "we are not that discriminated anymore" mindset which leads to less conversations and silencing of our experiences – it's absolutely wonderful that many of us do not fear physical violence from outside in comparison to decades ago, but growing up queer without any conversations about LGBTQIA+ topics, without any knowledge at all and without anyone in our close groups talking about it, can still make us feel terribly lonely and like there is something wrong with us. And it takes years and years of processing to get from there to a point where we can celebrate our own differences.
And last but not least, what inspires you the most and what are your future projects?
What inspires me the most is the work of other activists in Slovenia. I am delighted about the amount of effort all the LGBT-related associations are putting into creating safe spaces, building community, raising awareness, educating, discussing, organizing and caring for each other. There is still a lot of work to do, things to celebrate as well as to fight for. My future projects for now are the coordination of DIH's volunteers, which means I will support them in developing their ideas and putting them into action, I am also part of an informal activist group that does not operate under any association, with which we do various street actions and produce educational videos, and I plan to get more involved with non-formal education and activism through study visits and Erasmus+ projects.
Monika Kropej, you are employed at Unesco chair on Open Technologies for Open Educational Resources and Open Learning (at Institute “Jožef Štefan”, Ljubljana). Do you meet homosexual researchers and scientists at your work, especially lesbians and bisexual women, if yes, in which way?
Our project on open education resources is one of our first projects that directly focuses on marginal groups among which we collaborate with the LGBT-community and therefore LGBT-researches. Apart from that, our previous (research) work was mainly oriented towards dissemination and organization on topics, where we did not focus on the social perspective- (e.g. artificial intelligence, machine learning, sensors etc. and the dissemination activities, workshops/conference organizations). And of course, in these research fields the LGBT-researches were also involved. They are regularly included in the research activities as colleagues, co-workers as all other project participants. I haven't noticed any specific issues regarding their sexual orientation.
Do you think that sexual orientation and/or sexual identity has any influence on educational, scientific-research work?
I believe that within my field of work the sexual orientation or gender identity of my colleagues or co-workers does not play a role. However, I can only report for the work, where I am directly involved and I cannot with certainty state that the same holds true for every field of research. To my knowledge, I have not witnessed any discrimination or systemic inequalities within my research community.
Have Unesco chair on Open Technologies for Open Educational Resources and Open Learning had any project that dealt with LGBT-people, if yes, how lesbians have been involved – how are your work experiences with them, how they have contributed to the project?
As already mentioned so far our work on open education resources is first project where we collaborate with this community. I can only compliment on their work so far, they are dedicated, very open to new ideas and collaborative.
Your diploma and Ph.D. deals with the meaning and influence of graphiti and symbols on politics, national identity, music and also feminism and LGBT-issues. Can you tell us more about that with emphasis on women and lesbians?
Within my primary research field, cultural studies, I have come across many feminist and LGBT-graffiti and street art. I have noticed that this community is very active in these fields, which I see as very encouraging. What I discovered, is the graffiti and street art or guerrilla actions are very innovative and subversive. I also study graffiti and the so-called graffiti wars and I can say that in Slovenia there have been many humorous and politically subversive actions. My work is closely connected to libertarian/autonomous activism and, therefore, with various feminist as well as LGBT-groups. I am a feminist myself and fully support the actions they are involved in., Nowadays, when the world is faced with fascism that is invading our everyday life in a very subtle way I believe the struggle for equality is again of great importance. There is a need for all to actively participate in the struggle for a more inclusive and equal community and such groups are an important contribution to the fight for a better world. Or to conclude with Emma Goldman's quote: »Women need not always keep their mouths shut and their wombs open.«
What are your plans for the future – include among others working with LB-researchers and scientists? Would you be interested in such work and if yes, why?
I am open to collaborate with LGBT-researchers, however I believe the sexual orientation does not define the researchers or their work.