‘The conversation about LGBTIQ+ community is still needed’

| Michaela Nesvarova

‘Th!ink with Pride’, platform for LGBTIQ+ employees at the UT, was founded one and half years ago. Although it now has only one official member, timetabling officer Alex Jonkhart, he is proud of what the initiative has achieved so far. ‘I feel colleagues appreciate it, that it helps to create environment where they feel at home.’

How come you are the only member? Would you like more people to join?

Jonkhart: ‘I was working with another colleague, but he is now retired so I’m the only official member. It would be nice to have a small team, but there is no maximum of course. The focus of the platform is on planning and sharing events, and so it is relatively easy for me to do, but it would be great to have more colleagues to think along with me.’

What is the platform’s main goal at this point?

‘To increase awareness about the LGBTIQ+ community in Twente. The initiative is mainly about organizing get-togethers, it is not focused on policy. It’s about bringing people together to talk about diversity, so that it becomes a regular topic. I want to create nice moments for people to meet and to have open conversations.’

Are there any activities on the ‘Th!ink with Pride’ agenda in the near future?

‘There is also Th!ink with Pride at Saxion and ROC Twente and we try to coordinate all our events. For the big plans, we will celebrate Coming Out Day and Purple Friday later this year. We might participate in the Kick-In if it’s possible. In short term, on the 24th of March, we will have a workshop about LGBTIQ+ rights and experiences of international students.’

Alex Jonkhart 

What kind of reactions have you received from the UT community so far?

‘Overall positive. During our previous events in 2019, I also experienced students walking by and making negative comments. I wasn’t offended, but it showed me that the conversation about LGBTIQ+ community is still needed. People are raised a certain way and they don’t know what to think. Through conversation we can explain our point of view, show people that it’s all about love. Love cannot be controlled. Many people also expressed a lot of appreciation for ‘Th!ink with Pride’. They see it as a step in the right direction, towards building an environment where everyone feels welcome.’

Do you think the UT provides a welcoming environment?

‘I feel that Saxion is a bit ahead of us, to be honest. For example, Saxion has a central point for transgender people, helping them through the transition. I don’t even know if and how many transgender people in transition there are at the UT. I just wonder if we could help them, make their journey easier. So we are not quite there yet, but there is a good foundation to build on. The UT is definitely open to all our ideas, they listen and we are making steps. I am very proud and happy that this year the University of Twente became a member of the Workplace Pride, a non-profit foundation dedicated to improving the lives of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ+) people in workplaces worldwide. In the coming years this means that the UT will have conversations about realizing the goals set-up up by the Workplace Pride.’

Is there anything specific you think the UT should work on?

‘We should keep having open conversations. There are also small things that might not seem important but they are. For example, we have no gender-free toilets on campus. It’s a small thing that makes everyone feel included. But I must say a lot has happened at the UT. I was very proud to see rainbow flags all over the campus last year. It sends the right message: we are all equal here.’  

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