Reflecting on SI’s RFSL event

Reflecting on SI's RFSL event
Photo: Orhun Gündüz
My studying adventure in Sweden is drawing to a close, and perhaps a highlight of my whole adventure was seeing a Swedish Institute organized LGBTI event in Stockholm with RFSL.

The participants, who were from various parts of the world, shared similar experiences, and they created a warm atmosphere throughout the event with different workshops, lectures and open seminars by RFSL Stockholm, Swedish Federation of LGBTQ Rights.

Isander Freidman, Head of Education and LGBT Certification, held a lecture on cisgender and cissexism, and introduced up-to-date theoretical frameworks for the participants, who came from various backgrounds. Some of the concepts such as queer, gay camp, queer theory etc. could have been clarified with simpler explanations, as the audience differed in the level of knowledge regarding gender terminology. However, because of time limit and audience participation, we could not cover every issue. The introduction of Normcritique Theory in the Swedish context was valuable in the sense that it triggered a debate on its applicability vis-a-vis specificities of other cultures.

Out of the four seminars, I participated in the presentation of Sexperterna project and seminar on RFSL’s International Strategy. Sexperterna is one of RFSL’s projects on sexual health, which uses Men Having Sex With Men (MSM) as their target group. They not only provide knowledge on sexual health, protection and STIs but also offer free HIV tests for gay men and trans people. Their area of conduct is gay bars, gay cruising places, video rooms where they distribute free condoms answer questions. As one of the current volunteers in the project, I gained even more knowledge on the “peer-to-peer” methodology and how the project applies this theory to practice. Discussing the pros and cons of the peer-to-peer community service, Swedish Institute (SI) members provided insight to the practical challenges of the project. I also appreciated their recruiting methods as not only do they employ volunteers but they also make them feel part of the community with leisure activities and in-house trainings.

The second seminar I joined was covered RFSL’s international strategy (2016-2018) – which has four main objectives. As this unit of RFSL has a say in UN policy recommendations on LGBTI+ events as an observer status holder, SI scholarship holders enjoyed the opportunity to learn about their support methods and collaboration with agencies such as SIDA and Ministry For Foreign Affairs. SI participants enriched the discussion on funding mechanisms of RFSL (and SIDA hereto) and possible challenges encountered for different countries where LGBTI+ rights are partially allowed or totally criminalized by law. The participants’ opinions varied on the requirements of the funding institutions (such as the logo criteria of the funding organization), believeing these requirements could create problems regarding the credibility of the LGBT project in the eyes of general  public. The RFSL representative stated that they follow a sensitive and transparent policy on the requirements of funding.

The most fascinating and enjoyable part of this event for me was to meet other LGBTI+ SI scholarship holders, make friends and have the space to discuss this issue at an SI event. With our sensible shoes, rageful debates on queer micro-agressions, tensed moments and even flauntingly proud expressions, this event gave us a safe space, if not an empowering one. I would love to see other SI events on LGBTI+ rights on an annual basis.

A wishful note from a prudently hopeful activist: I hope we will see the days where our existence is not seen as perversion, afterthought or luxury. I hope days will come where our meetings will be no more, or less confidential/sensitive. I know we will win this fight by promoting, spreading and making love relentlessly.

Orhun Gündüz

Swedish – Turkish Scholarship

Gendering Practices – Göterborg Universitet