The event began with participants watching the documentary Out & About, threaded through parents speaking up about their LGBTQ+ children from different countries, cultural and religious backgrounds: Kenya, Russia, and Indonesia, and sharing their journeys. The Indonesian parents were trying to love their child for who he is. While the Kenyan mom fully embraced her daughter’s identity and worked on building a more LGBTQ+ friendly community.
After the documentary, participants shared their experiences and concerns. Guus, an exchange student inIstanbul, asked the guest speakers: “Some friends of mine are gay couples. Most of them couldn’t tell their parents about their sexuality until now. What’s your advice for people who live in an anti-LGBTQ+ environment to open up about their identity?”
“Would it be possible for your friends to watch this documentary with their parents?”, Houben advised Guus.“My father has friends whose son is gay. It’s hard for his religious family to handle. So my father invited them over to watch the film together. It helped to start the conversation. This could be a small thing to do.”
Another participant, from the United States, knows what it feels like to come out to religious family members: “My mom and grandmother are religious. I was surprised that my mom said she still loved me when I came out last summer. I immediately began to cry. But after several months, I heard that my grandma was praying that I was not gay.” Houben encouraged her: “We could not ask too much from our parents. They are also from a very different generation. You’ve achieved a lot. Kudos to you.”
In the second half of the discussion, Fabian Lips, chair of Erasmus Pride, brought up the connection between LGBTQ+ communities and Eurovision. “Some people may think it’s just a song contest”, says Fabian Lips. “But it’s not. Eurovision has always been political. There are always subtle hints in performances indicating the fight for equal rights. Either in the theme or in the way the participants dress or in the singers’ identity. It’s a stage where people pushing their own political agendas.”
Houben agreed with him. “Eurovision is always connected to LGBTQ+ and inclusivity. It provides tightened visibility for the community. The Russian protagonist in the documentary studies at Erasmus University, and he is a huge fan of Eurovision.”
The discussion was ended by Tahzib-Lie’s encouraging comment: “This is a big world. The fight for human rights is a never-ending process. It varies from country to country. This year we see Eurovision held in Rotterdam, it will bring more hope to the LGBTQ+ community.”