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.