‘Let me begin by telling my own story. Everyone should be able to be themselves and feel safe. Unfortunately, that is still not always the case in today's society. Words like ‘gay’ and ‘faggot’ are used as insults in the Netherlands. This automatically creates a negative association, which makes you question whether you are somehow inferior to others. During my time in secondary education, I was afraid to come out for a long time. That was a difficult time for me. I wasn't always happy. Other people who were going through the same thing even told me that they were depressed.
For years, the Netherlands was one of the ten safest countries in the world for members of the rainbow community. Nowadays, that is no longer true. In recent years, people have become less tolerant. That concerns me. Earlier this year, my partner and I were verbally assaulted as we were walking around our own neighbourhood. That happened right here in Hengelo. It feels like we are back at square one.
Visibility is incredibly important to the people in our community. A rainbow flag during the Kick-In, for example, lets new students know that the campus supports the members of the LGBTIQ+ community.
Something like that is unlikely to happen at the UT. That is not to say there aren't any issues when it comes to acceptance and diversity. I know plenty of examples, such as project groups where male students refuse to be in the same group with female students or a female lecturer who told her students that she and her girlfriend are having a child together, only to be met with a lack of understanding from one of her students. These are the kinds of things we should be talking about more.
Our goal for Th!ink with Pride is to stimulate the discussion about diversity. Our events create visibility. Just look at the Diversity Day, which we organised together with Saxion and ROC van Twente. The big letters spelling ‘University of Twente’ were transformed to read ‘Diversity of Twente’ in rainbow colours. It was a daring idea, but we received help from many corners. When I finally saw those big rainbow-coloured letters, it made me feel truly amazing. I feel at home at this university.
Visibility is incredibly important to the people in our community. A rainbow flag during the Kick-In, for example, lets new students know that the campus supports the members of the LGBTIQ+ community. It makes students feel welcome here. There are other initiatives as well. For example, the UT has been a member of Workplace Pride since 2020. This organisation advocates the emancipation of LGBTI people in the workplace. Furthermore, we are putting on a play during the Coming Out Week, a gender-neutral toilet is being realised and we have launched our platform, which will contain all the information about Th!nk with Pride and where anyone can go with their LGBTIQ+ questions.
The UT is home to an enormous variety of cultures. That is great, of course, but it also leads to differences between people. It is important to bring these differences up for discussion. For example, homosexuality is not done or even punishable by law in some cultures. By talking about these issues, we hope to make it easier for students and staff in the future to identify with the message we are spreading, which is ultimately all about love and equality.’