N: My first question is very general. Could you say how CIGALE works with youngsters?
RA: In our centre every Thursday is reserved for people under 25, they can also bring here their heterosexual friends. The group is mainly for people who either don’t have the age to go out or refuse going out as the only way to meet other gays or lesbians. We have been existing since November 2004 and since that time we had approximately four different groups, as people are changing all the time, their life is changing, they leave Luxembourg to study and new people come, so it’s renewing all the time.
N: Is it mostly boys or girls coming to the meetings?
RA: At the beginning we had more boys but now it’s very mixed.
N: Do you have separate groups for young gays and lesbians?
RA: No, we have mixed groups. We don’t have enough people to work with separate groups; there are 2 social educationalists working at the centre at the moment.
N: How does the process of group building look like?
RA: Well, it depends on what kind of people come, some are more independent, they come and from the beginning on the group starts to work, some need to have a frame, such as going out together; we go skating, watching films, etc. We are working in much the same way as any other youth institution.
N: Do the young people that come to the group meeting also make some projects or is it mostly about socializing?
RA: Mostly people come here to meet other people. I think that in Luxembourg homosexual people feel more comfortable, compared to other countries, especially the new EU members. Our youth is not very interested in working on a political stuff. The kind of projects they might be interested in is, for example, writing a story board to make a TV advert. We have just realized such a project: they were asked to write a story board for a clip of solidarity with HIV/AIDS people. Two best ones were chosen to realize the clip.
N: And how would you describe the situation of homosexual people in Luxembourg in general?
RA: I wouldn’t say that everything is ok, but, compared to other countries the situation is not so bad, there’s for example no physical aggression! On the other hand, the discrimination in Luxembourg is much more hidden. To give an example: the latest anti-discrimination legislation makes discrimination prohibited in Luxembourg but it doesn’t make the discrimination disappear! We still don’t have the same-sex marriages so the state which is making the anti-discrimination law, is itself discriminating people. Luxembourg likes to see itself as a very tolerant country but at CIGALE we regularly have people who have experienced discrimination. For example, a gay couple can’t rent a flat, even though they have money, because the owner doesn’t like homosexuals! There are also cases of people being harassed at work. There are gays and lesbians working in social institutions, such as schools, who prefer to hide their identity! And if they choose to do so, maybe they have some good reasons to worry!
N: Let’s talk a bit about the ‘All different, all equal’ campaign. Do you see it as helpful in your everyday work?
RA: Campaigns are always a good thing, but they should always been seen rather as a support, the most important work is happening everyday. In the frame of this campaign we’re realizing a cartoon project. We have created a character, which we called Pitie, that we will send out to schools and institutions. We expect people to participate to develop a story. The idea is that we give youngsters this person and the only thing they know about it is how it looks like and that it’s a homosexual guy. The rest is up to them. They should think of how such a person would be treated in their group, what people would it get to know and so on. We are sending this personage out to the world and we want it to slowly develop its own life stories. We want it to happen without our presence, we don’t want to be at schools because maybe if we were present during the workshop, the students wouldn’t say some things they would say otherwise. So we don’t want to influence the process.
N: Do the gay and lesbian youngsters in Luxembourg reflect on why they’re discriminated?
RA: Well, if you ask them about that, they will probably speak about their own life, but they rather don’t have a general awareness. In comparison with other states where the awareness is much higher, they don’t see the links between different things. For example why a state that is banning the discrimination, doesn’t want to have a civil marriage for homosexual couples? They don’t think about that and they rather don’t want to fight for that. Luxembourg is a country where you can live comfortable, as long as you have a job, and that’s the result of that. It’s also difficult to motivate adults. Of course the association has the voice and speaks out the needs. We are also asked to explain the problems and controversies, such as the same sex marriages.
However, there’s not too much people who want to get involved. Usually as long as they have a good job, they don’t care about the political stuff.
And I think it’s a pity and they should stand up, because if everything was ok, I wouldn’t have to work here the way I do …
N: And what is the social background of the people that come to CIGALE?
RA: They are very different. We have all kinds of people here, luxembourgish, immigrants … The kind of work that we are doing can be divided into some sections, such as social work, for people who have some problems in their lives related with the fact that they are gays or lesbians, such as coming out. The other kind of work we do is providing information, we go to schools where we do awareness raising workshops and other kind of workshops, depending on who asks us to come. I think this kind of work is very important because gender roles and heterosexual patterns are so deeply rooted in our society. For example, even if gay couple had a child, they would like to raise it up with the primary idea for the child to be heterosexual. Even they would adopt the ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ roles. You can also see in the schoolbooks that the gender roles are still strictly divided. We often talk about heterodominant society, where heterosexuality is perceived as something normal and better than homosexuality. And young gays and lesbians have to break up with all this messages that they have grown up with, that they have unconsciously adopted.
As I said, at schools we’re trying to provide youngsters with the kind of information they’re asking for. Sometimes they want to have some more background information. Sometimes they have personal questions or want to start thinking about homosexuality in their own way. The basic message that we’re trying to pass on is that in a society where discrimination exists, every one of us suddenly might find himself or herself on the other side.
N: Do you think that there are also groups of homosexual people that are facing more discrimination than others, for example lesbians?
RA: Yes, lesbian women are certainly more exposed, considered as weak, as a sort of pride!
There’s also discrimination inside the groups of gays and lesbians!
N: What do you mean?
RA: Well, for example younger gays might have problems with older gays! People who are recognized in the society don’t want to got out with gay pride, fags, transvestites, in their opinion people will never recognize ‘us’ as normal because of such people. So there’s hierarchy even inside this group and oppression might be in general higher when you’re existing in a microcosm of the gay community, no matter if it’s Luxembourg or a smaller city, where everything is closer to you, where everybody knows everybody!
N: To end with: are there any political organizations of homosexual people in Luxembourg?
RA: Not in a strict sense of this word. There’s the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation, with whom we were working at the beginning and which is meant to be more political. But people were coming to us with different needs, because they had problems in their private lives, with discrimination, with coming out, etc. It was becoming overwhelming, we were working as volunteers at that time, so we decided to separate these two things and we got the convocation from the Ministry of Family so that we can work full time at CIGALE.
N: Thank you for the interview.
More info about CIGALE: http://www.cigale.lu/