LGBT Forum – A Sense of Belonging





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LGBT Forum – A Sense of Belonging

Fifth Salzburg Global LGBT Forum comes to a close with discussions on creating alliances and future plans Participants at the fifth Salzburg Global LGBT Forum take part in an exercise where they can make requests of one another

The fifth Salzburg Global LGBT Forum has come to a successful conclusion following an informative five-day program looking at LGBT* human rights under the theme of “Home.”

Nearly 60 participants from all regions of the planet convened at Schloss Leopoldskron to discuss the significance of LGBT* people being able to live safely within the culture and countries they have grown up.

During the session, participants highlighted experiences from their personal and professional lives as the group as a whole considered how to further advance positive change in the field of LGBT* human rights.

They leave Salzburg having produced innovative social media campaigns to engage global communities on LGBT* families. Participants have also taken away knowledge and connections to use to their advantage in their home countries.  

The German Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women & Youth, which held the session in partnership with Salzburg Global, will host a follow-on event in Berlin on Friday evening. Guests will be welcomed by State Secretary Ralf Kleindiek.

This event symbolizes the end of a three-year collaboration between Salzburg Global and the Ministry, which worked together to produce a video series highlighting the experiences of LGBT* people and the families they are born into, the families they choose, and the families they are raising.

People who attend Friday's event will witness the official premiere of 'Family is…? A Global Conversation.' This is a short film produced from collected interviews.

Moving forward

During the final plenary session, Mueller outlined the Forum's growth and its plans for the future. Participants heard the Forum had become a space for people to retreat to and develop new ideas and connections. He reminded each participant they were a member, not a visitor.

Mueller said plans were in place to organize another large gathering in the near future, but work could still take place at smaller events. He said the reason behind the Forum was for members to make use of it. The Forum now has five times as many Forum members as when it started, who can consult, coach and help others.

Before the Forum came to an end, participants took part in an exercise where they made requests of others. This exercise was designed to show how Forum members could help one another and show signs of visible support.

During this exercise, participants made requests for knowledge, technical resources, stories, and administrative help. Salzburg Global Vice President and Chief Program Officer Clare Shine pointed to the organization's large network of Fellows and encouraged Forum members to reach out to them.

A writer's discussion

Before participants said goodbye to one another, they took part in two final panel discussions. The first of these plenary sessions concentrated on LGBT* writers.

One speaker said he used to write and direct plays as a young child. He wanted to be an author when he grew up. He said, "It has been something which has always helped me." This panelist considered writing as his work and craft; a means to express himself and make money. He suggested his readers were able to put their own perspectives on his stories. He said, "They are finishing my sentences."

This speaker, who started by writing short stories, changed his writing style as he grew older and put himself through challenging experiences. This made him realize authors had to have a far more extensive understanding of their characters, writing from an intersectional point of view. He told participants he was happy to be typecast as a gay writer.

The second speaker asked for a typewriter when she was eight-years-old. Her parents thought she wanted to be a secretary, participants heard. Her journey to becoming a writer started simply by telling stories. Before she came out, her writing became a "secret home" for her and allowed her to plan for the future. 

She told participants she never gave herself the time to write until she was in her mid-thirties. Her newfound commitment to writing occurred at the same time she acknowledged she was gay. One of her articles led her to meet her future wife. She said her writing was a "secret space" where she felt comfortable and safe, but it no longer had to be a secret.

The third speaker said being able to write enabled him to express himself at a time he was coming to accept his sexuality. He felt inspired to write about the injustice he witnessed. Participants heard writing enabled him to challenge the mainstream culture and think about what guides people. 

Creating communities

“Today we are going to take a trip to each of your communities,” were the words that kicked off the second panel of the day, which saw panelists discussing how to create belonging in their communities.

Each panelist began by reflecting on the importance of the community in which they live in and advocate for. Overcome with emotion, the first panelist recounted a story in which a man approached her crying during a pride event. “I’m sorry I’m late, he said three times,” she recalled. Later she would learn his child, who identified as transgender, had committed suicide. This loss had driven him to want to be involved with the LGBT* rights movement.

“Our organization is small, but our community is big,” the panelist said. “We are strong. The ones that try to bury us can make us stronger.”

Another panelist, who described his story as “an activist returning home,” recounted how he started an organization for gay professionals after discovering many of his gay friends had the same work-related concerns, such as where their pensions would go in the event of death.

Another touched on the importance of fostering campaigns that promote togetherness; while another touched on the importance of discussing queer history.

Panelists were pressed on how they decide when their community should be inclusive, or exclusive. The panelist who started the network for gay professionals noted that very debate was important in the implementation of his network because he felt gay men and women faced different challenges and concerns.

The conversation then shifted to discuss how to strengthen our communities by motivating allies. One participant suggested rallying companies and community organizations to do something as simple as raising a rainbow flag during Pride to show support.

“I would make a strong plea that we make alliances across all lines,” said the moderator. 

*LGBT: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. We are using this term as it is currently widely used in human rights conversations on sexual orientation and gender identity in many parts of the world, but we would not wish it to be read as exclusive of other cultural concepts, contemporary or historical, to express sexuality and gender, intersex and gender-nonconforming identities.

The fifth session of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum - Home: Safety, Wellness, and Belonging is taking place at Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg. It is being held in partnership with the German Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women & Youth. It is being supported by the Government of Canada. The Forum is a network of expertise through which conversations are facilitated to advance equal rights for LGBT people across the world. You can follow the event on Twitter, Instagram, and Twitter using the hashtag #SGSlgbt. For more information, please visit