June is Pride month in most countries around the world, including Switzerland, and although it is now behind us the misinformation and challenges continue. Pride month in Switzerland is generally known for the large and colourful parade held by the LGBTQIA+ community in Zürich every year. This year, over the weekend of 17-18 June, the Zürich Pride Festival was held, culminating with a parade on Saturday afternoon, through downtown Zurich, with almost 90 participating organisations and associations and 40,000 participants. It is the biggest and most successful queer parade in Switzerland and marked a return to publicly highlighting the need for tolerance, inclusivity and acceptance.
Although the parade is successful in this endeavour, the recognition and success of Pride month needs to translate to an ongoing practise of awareness in the community and what can be lived, shared, normalised, included and recognised every day. In other words, how do we live Pride every day, how do we integrate it into our normal lives, and not just during June and within the lesbian and gay scene that has been established in the city of Zürich for some time.
The fundamental mission of Pride month is to help highlight the discrimination of people in the LGBTQIA+ community, pinpoint where the struggles are, and validate the right to love and be who you are. The recognition we see today has been preceded by a fight for equality that has lasted decades. Each year there is a focus and a slogan and as the festival and parade were once again cancelled due to the pandemic, a one-off event, PRIDE-TV was livestreamed in 2021 as an alternative to ensure the visibility of the queer community in June continued. On 4 September around 20,000 people marched through Zürich for the postponed ‘Marriage for All’ event, three weeks before the vote. Same-sex marriage was accepted on 26 September.
For 2022, the slogan ‘Trans – Living Diversity’ focuses on the legal situation and challenges of trans people, recognised for the first time in the parade’s 27 year history. In January, there was a milestone legal change that allows trans people to change their name and gender in the Swiss civil register. Many Swiss companies have already signed a declaration of commitment to a trans-friendly workplace that includes recognising and accepting transgender identity, coming out and transitioning. Revealing identities to family members, colleagues and society can be met with rejection of identity, rejection of preferred form of address, bullying, unfair references, sexual harassment and dismissals.
LGBTQIA+ is an evolving acronym and can be seen in various forms and contexts. Here it reflects the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans/Transsexual/Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersectional/Intersex and Asexual communities. The plus refers to the many other self-identifications that come under the sexuality and/or gender spectrums that include, for example, pansexual, asexual and omnisexual. Although LGBTQIA+ is an umbrella term, and some feel it is a reductive term as people or diverse individuals are not a single group, the aim is to reflect new understandings about the diversity of sexuality and gender within society and to help combat physical, psychological, social and financial discrimination and harassment.
Dr. Brandi Eijsermans, a licensed Clinical Psychologist with a practice in Lucerne, is The LiLi Centre’s resident psychologist, the Mental Health Initiative Director, Projector and Clinical Supervisor. She said, “It is difficult as many people feel they won’t be accepted as there is so much internalised discrimination, sexism, gender bias and heteronormity – the tendency towards seeing the default, the status quo, what is normal in the community. There are labels, organisations, causes, and sections that speak for the people, that endorse this commitment to signal more safe spaces. Inclusivity should be a right and done in a non-judgemental way.” She acknowledges that although we have come so far, there is still so far to go.
Working in the field of clinical psychology, Dr. Eijsermans recognised early in her career that there were very limited pedagogic opportunities within society for the LGBTQIA+ community and that there was an unfair system of care. Her mission became to advocate for the community, to shine a light on the issues, so their voices can be heard, but prefers that the communities speak for themselves in advocating to have all groups prosper and live a loving, thriving lifestyle with support and empowerment. She said, “We also need to be there for young people who are looking for guidance and we are not really providing that for them. If we support the status quo we are looking at exclusion and prejudice.”
“There needs to be a call to action. We are saying it isn’t my problem, so there isn’t a problem, and doing nothing is the status quo. We have all been taught these biases. Society is biased and has a large reach on the different messages that matter and this is our opportunity to advocate for the community in a non-judgemental way.” She said that we need to create awareness of the agencies in Switzerland that will bear witness to any abuse and discrimination experienced. Survivor rights activists and groups can help you navigate your options if you don’t feel comfortable talking to the authorities.
Many of the problems within the LGBTQIA+ community were exacerbated by the pandemic and added to the ongoing challenge of people not feeling seen or heard. Dr. Eijsermans shared, “Everybody’s story deserves to be heard and everybody deserves to feel safe. Either in the workplace or in the community where there can be many cases of both blatant and/or subtle abuse.” There is support available and many accessible organisations are free to utilise for those who don’t feel safe or who just have questions and curiosity.
The LiLi Centre is a safe space for people who have questions and can approach the centre without shame or fear. Dr. Eijsermans said, “We really want people to feel comfortable and to come in with questions as they are. We are here for everyone, including young people who feel excluded from the conversation and who want to know how they can involve themselves. We provide resources, quality information, support and community.” The centre is living Pride values and hopes people feel comfortable to use the centre as a platform for awareness – to live, share, normalise, include and recognise these values every day.
Many of us assume we know more than we do and default to the norm, the status quo, that being heterosexual or cisgendered is normal. But not everyone is respresented in this limited view of what is considered ‘normal’. Pride month, and the parade, symbolise the continuation of civil rights for some, for others it is the freedom from oppression and for others it is a community. Dr Eijsermans said, “There is not one way, a right or wrong way, to do this but it is an invitation on how to make it a daily practice. It is about helping and empowering people and to let them know there are organisations trying to bring more awareness, diversity and inclusion into the workspace.”
The Transgender Network Switzerland (TGNS) is working in Zürich to adopt new language regulations so that non-binary people are treated equally, and addressed correctly by City Council administration. Newly introduced is the gender star, a typographic symbol that has been popular in the community. The TGNS has also incorporated a National Action Plan against Hate Crimes that means the Federal Council is working with the cantons and municipalities to develop and implement an action plan against hate crimes, violence and anti-LGBTQIA+ attitudes. These measures include better support and effective protection for victims and working with the perpetrators.
A media release from TGNS, Lesbian Organization Switzerland (LOS) and Pink Cross showed that the ‘Marriage for All’ campaign brought more visibility to lesbian, bisexual and gay people in particular, but not more safety to the community. In 2021 there were 92 reported cases with an increase of 32% from trans and non-binary people. There was also a noticeable increase of reports from people under the age of 22. Most of the assaults were predominantly in public spaces and civil society mostly looked the other way. Alessandra Widmer, co-executive director of LOS, said, that many LGBTQ people fear assault in public spaces. The cases are not representative of the entirety of Hate Crimes as disturbingly barely 20% were reported.
Another organisation, Nonbinary.ch, helps non-binary or genderqueer people meet virtually or in reality. They also publish current events and group meetings that occur in Switzerland and Germany, provide WhatsApp youth group chats, a Facebook group intended to serve as a safe exchange between non-binary/binary, genderqueer, genderfluid, genderless and genderdiverse people and those who are still unsure in German, French and Italian. Other group meetings can be found on the website.
Likely known resources that are here to help:
- LGBT+ Helpline Telephone number: 0800 133 133 from Monday to Thursday – between 19:00 und 21:00 – WHATSAPP Group https://bit.ly/2wWJI5y
- Pink Cross https://www.pinkcross.ch/
- Nonbinary https://www.nonbinary.ch/ Online Groups https://bit.ly/345zf3L
- Transgender network Switzerland – https://www.tgns.ch/de/
- Support supportive employers – LGBTI Label for diversity and inclusion institutions: https://www.lgbti-label.ch/de/
- Employment support for trans people and employers – https://www.transwelcome.ch/
- Report Abuse, Harassment, or Discrimination with the Zurich is Looking Campaign https://www.stadtzuerich.ch/prd/de/index/gleichstellung/themen/oeffentlicher_raum/hinschauen.html (This helps people with options for reporting their experiences to ensure safety for all and an accurate account of what is really happening in CH)
- LGBTQ Psychology Resources – Fact sheets on many topics
- Intersectionality – Human lives cannot be explained by single categories, such as gender, race and sexual orientation. The intersection of these categories can produce both experiences of privilege and oppression. Intersectionality addresses discrimination that arises at the specific intersection of multiple identities.
- Liberate – Talks, meditation, and community action for BIPOC and/or 2LGBTQ+ communities
- Shine – Mental Health Awareness app with mental health playlists specifically for a variety of groups including Latinx, Black, AAPI+, and LGBTQ+.
- MilchJugend new youth app – https://app.milchjugend.ch
- FluiD im Format
- Gender Reveal
- Fifty Shades of Gender
- Text Support – The Validation Station for Trans People https://www.validationstation.net/ offers daily validation messages
- #Bethere understand the increased risk for mental health issues, including increased risk of struggling with suicidal ideation for community LGBTQ+. Projekt Sero https://sero-suizidpraevention.ch/sero-app/
- Online meditation support as part of the Gay Happiness Project: https://www.gayhappinessproject.com/ghp-online