What does community mean to you? What are you missing in Rotterdam as an LGBTQIA+ person? And what can we, Rotterdam Pride, and other organisations improve? These were the three questions that guided Rotterdam Pride's first 'Town Hall Meeting' on Wednesday 21 September 2022. Together with moderator Carina Fernandes, we engaged with everyone who had signed up to participate in this open conversation about the future of LGBTQIA+ Rotterdam. Since not everyone can always be present at every Town Hall Meeting, we decided to release a report after each meeting to make the content accessible to all. Carina Fernandes gingen we het gesprek aan met iedereen die zich had aangemeld om deel te nemen aan deze open conversatie over de toekomst van LHBTQIA+ Rotterdam. Gezien niet iedereen altijd bij iedere Town Hall Meeting aanwezig kan zijn, hebben we besloten na elke meeting een verslag uit te brengen om de inhoud toegankelijk te maken voor iedereen.
The Kick-off meeting
The first meeting was designed to introduce town hall meetings. We discussed the purpose of these meetings, what to expect and prepared three broad questions to get the conversation going. The structure we followed for each question is that everyone had time to discuss the question for three to five minutes in a group of about two to four people before throwing the conversation open to the whole group. This gives participants a chance to first quietly think about what they think and become comfortable with sharing their opinions, hopefully leading to active participation in the open conversation. Each participant also had a chance to fill in a survey with feedback on the experience at the town hall meeting and we discussed some things over drinks.
What does community mean to you?
The conversation started with a comment that for them, community goes beyond a group of people, as it also has to do with you as an individual. Who are you and which people do you feel at home with? In a community, in fact, multiple identities often become one. Within communities, you often have several groups that in themselves can also be seen as one specific community, as you see in the LGBTQIA+ community, for instance, in the different letters.
“Community is also about identity and a sense of belonging; a safe space where you can express yourself and opinions.” – een deelnemer
There was also a conversation about the different needs in terms of labels. After all, society puts us in boxes, but should we also think like that? The difference in opinions showed that it can vary greatly from person to person whether labels work for them. Some feel they make them feel seen and have a sense of belonging to something they may have missed in the rest of their lives, while others want to steer clear of them because the boxes feel oppressive. The importance of inclusion in communnities was also discussed. Intersectionality is important in this, because people in the LGBTQIA+ community, like any other community, are not only diverse in sexuality and gender, but also, for example, in colour, religion and body type.
What do you miss in Rotterdam as an LGBTQIA+ person?
What came up the most was that LGBTQIA+ people in Rotterdam struggle to find like-minded people. Especially when you have just come out of the closet, it can be quite a quest to meet other queer people. Rotterdam still has relatively few queer safe places. For instance, one person who has lived in Canada told us that Rotterdam was a completely different experience for him. In Canada, in big cities, you often had 'gayborhoods' and many physical places specifically catered to the LGBTQIA+ community. Unfortunately, even many places in Rotterdam that do cater to the LGBTQIA+ community are not yet as inclusive as we would like them to be. The experience in Rotterdam as a white cis gay man is very different from that of, say, a queer woman, trans person and/or person of colour. The need therefore really lies in creating more inclusive places and their findability/accessibility.
What can we, Rotterdam Pride, and other organisations improve?
In this conversation, the importance of making events and places more accessible to people who are not yet familiar with the LGBTQIA+ community in Rotterdam came up again. How do we make people feel welcome? How can we organise more inclusive and connecting events? Maybe we should think about how to meet the community in places where they are, such as schools or workplaces. This also brought up the topic of ambassadors. Ambassadors can in fact play a strong role in connecting different people with each other. It would be useful to think about who we would like to appoint as ambassadors, what their role is and in which environments they operate, in order to monitor the diversity in terms of points of contact. In addition, more attention could be paid to the substantive components of Pride, because many people, for instance, did not know of the existence of Rotterdam Pride Conference, which is the in depth programme of Rotterdam Pride Week. It is also important for organisations to cooperate and connect with each other more in order to achieve the overall goal.
How to proceed now?
This year, there are three more town hall meetings that you can attend by simply signing up at our website. We do this so we can collect information coming directly from the community that we will use to implement changes, create more of a community-driven programme for Rotterdam Pride 2023 and expand our role as an umbrella organisation in Rotterdam. Therefore, we carefully note what is said and communicate about it transparently by putting everything in these public reports. The dates and topics for the next town hall meetings follow below:
Wednesday October 12
- Town hall Meeting 2 about safety (streetintimidation and safe spaces).
Wednesday November 30
- Town Hall Meeting 3 about Events and Programming
Wednesday december 14
- Town Hall Meeting 4 (subject is still open because we would like to decide together with you)
Would you also like to participate and contribute to the future of LGBTQIA+ Rotterdam? Then sign up now for the next meeting.