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Rainbow crosswalks and ditto flags… anyone walking through Brussels these days, cannot escape it, the Belgian Pride is coming. Many VUB-ers are preparing for this party. As university and largest Flemish employer in Brussels, we can only applaud that. In response to the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17th and the Belgian Pride on May 20th in Brussels, we had a conversation with Laetitia Chefneux (24). She is a student at VUB but above all chairperson of Basta, the Brussels’ association for Dutch speaking LGTB youth.
What is it that Basta does exactly?
Basta is the Brussels’ association for the Dutch speaking LGTB community under 30. But actually it is also there for everyone who is unsure about things, who wish to have a talk or for friends and family that want to get to know our community a bit better.
You are the chairperson. Why take up such commitment?
Basta means a lot to me. I’ve been a member since I was 18 years old. At that time I was very lonely and in need of people to talk about my sexuality. I met a lot of interesting people, learned to accept and develop myself. And I wanted to give back for that.
Why is an organisation such as BASTA still necessary in our society today?
Legally homosexuals and transgenders have the same rights as straight people. There remains however significant discrimination against the LGTB community, even in our society. The number of suicide attempts and suicidal tendencies is much more prevalent with LGTB youngsters than straight kids. Whether the law is on their side or not, coming to terms with your orientation is emotionally still an enormously difficult moment and not everybody has a place to go with those feelings. That is where we come in. We are a safe place for young people with a listening ear. A place where everyone is accepted and even helped with coming out - if you so wish.
What is it like being homosexual or transgender at VUB and in Brussels?
My sexual orientation has never been relevant during my studies, as it should be. It didn’t make me abnormal or weird, it was just part of me and I’ve always felt safe at VUB, without the need to keep it to myself. Even in Brussels things are pretty OK. And although our society has taken a turn to the right in previous years, I can’t say I see much difference in culture as opposed to 5 years ago. At least not in Belgium. Abroad we see a completely different evolution. Just think of Russia, Chechnya… There, just being who you are has become a lot harder.
VUB focuses on diversity and internationalisation. Does that also have an effect on how homosexual, lesbian and transgender youth are accepted here?
The reactions from foreign students and contacts are always positive. Also during public events. If there are people who do not accept it or have a problem with it, they have never openly shown it to me. It is however true that not a lot of foreign LGTB students have found their way to Basta, but obviously we are also their for them.
What in your opinion needs to improve to speak of truly equal LGTB rights?
Especially when it comes to transgenders there is still a lot of work. I see the debate shift towards a question of gender equality in the coming years.
Events such as a Belgian Pride, do they still contribute to that equality?
Homosexuals and transgenders are still being discriminated against, are still confronted with violence, still have to deal with parents who kick them out because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Events such as the Belgian Pride remain useful and provide the necessary attention to conquer those final steps towards equality.
Want to know more about Laetitia? Follow the VUB Instagram account this week: @VUBrussel.
For more information about Basta, go to their website.
Find the full schedule of the Belgian Pride here: https://pride.be/nl/agenda