LGBT SOS Help Line from Serbia
Intersex activist Kris is going to give a speech in the 5th Symposium against Discrimination. To know more about Kris before the symposium we had an interview: In Serbia LGBTI movement is very divided in work field and approach.
Kris from Gayten-LGBT is going to be a speaker in 5th Symposium against Discrimination. Before the symposium, one of our interns, Elif Çeliktaş, talked to Kris about their associational works.
Could you introduce yourself?
I live in Belgrade, Serbia and I am trans and intersex activist. I am liaseon person for trans people and medical team which is working with trans people over two decades. I work as a counselor for LGBTI people in organization Gayten-LGBT. Through my work as board member of TGEU I build capacity and empowered trans individuals and LGB organizations in ex Yugoslavia states to put trans on they work agenda. I am board member of ERA - Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey, OII Europe - Organisation Intersex International Europe and TransMentors International.
Could you please describe social work practice in your organization? What kind of services do you provide for LGBTI’s?
In Gayten eight years ago we established the first LGBT SOS Help Line. It is open every day.
We established 10 years ago self-support group which provides a safe space for trans people. They can share their experiences, concerns and problems twice a month. Information about transition, contact with medical team and legal aid are some of the issuse that we cover trough the group work.
We have team of therapist and counselor working with LGBTI individuals.
We also have team of lesbians giving consultations via email and phone for lesbian. The team is empowering them to raise their voices, except their identities, fight for equality, learn about activism etc.
Could you mention about process more? Is it belong to your organization? Why was your organization formed? What is its purpose?
Gayten-LGBT was formed in 2001 as the first all-inclusive organization, which also included bisexual and trans people, intersex, queer and heterosexual also, their rights, needs, problems, existence and culture. Unlike previous and other organizations that only included and worked on gay and lesbian rights, the founders of Gayten wanted to include the whole spectrum of identities in terms of gender and sexuality.
Gayten-LGBT is the first organization in Serbia to acknowledge and base its work primarily on gender identity and expression, and not only sexual orientation. It puts its concerns into other categories as well, such as age, race, ethnicity, health status etc. Multiple discrimination and intersectionality based approach is essential to the organization’s work and activities. Gayten-LGBT’s work is based on queer and post-feminist principles, and it always pays special attention to those with less power and those whose rights are less respected and not implemented.
Gayten-LGBT work has lately been directed primarily towards trans, intersex and queer people. The core of our work and activities is building and empowering the community, through support groups, LGBTIQ SOS help line, culture and arts, education, benefit events and networking. The essence of our work is to strengthen people’s capacities to overcome fear and isolation through support groups and the like, which thereafter leads to structuring and work on different levels, such as creating a new legal framework and institutional policies and practice, advocacy etc.
Could you tell the process of set up story of your organization? Have you encountered difficulties before and after establishing your organization and if there is/was how do you manage?
I was not present at the organization when it was founded,but in last 10 years we struggled to find the funding for our services, because trough them we directly work with community. Non of those services are not supported nor funded by the state and we always try to work with volunteers which help us very much.
Some years ago we had difficulties to have funding for trans program, because we have been recognized as gay led and mix organization (our name is Gayten-LGBT).
What kind of events done before and planning to do next?
In the 15 years of our existence we have done lot of different activities. Through few services, culture and arts, education, benefit events, social media and networking. We did performances, workshops, seminars, round tables, lobbying, advocacy, meetings, travels, public speeches, street actions, marches, protests, media appearance, public hearings, lecturers, public campaigns, work institutional policies and practice, making guidelines etc. We plan to continue our work using all of the mentioned above and to develop more virtual approach.
Could you mention about financial sources? Are you working with donors or your services funded by individual donors? What’s your strategy for sustainability? How many people work in there and do you accept volunteers?
We are financed mostly by different funders and funders who consider the main objectives of the organization crucial to their work. We also have core funding and we can manage to cover our services. Depending of the funder we are writing proposals on yearly basis or every second year. Seven people are working in organization full and part time and we have several volunteers. They are important for our work and without them; we could not do many of our activities.
The strategy for sustainability is very hard to define being LGBTIQ inclusive organization because and funders politics change all the time. The focus is now shifted more to lobbying and advocacy for joining the EU rather than working direct with community, providing services.
Can you evaluate LGBTI and the movement’s situation for now in your country?
In Serbia LGBTI movement is very devided in work field and approach. Lot of oraganizations work in Belgrade and decentralization from the capital is still in process. Just a few organization are working in other towns. Newly established organization ERA is association of LGBT organizaions will help all of us to create strong movement.
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