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Maaike Faes has been pursuing a degree in Applied Linguistics for three years at VUB and is co-president of Basta, the Dutch-language LGBT association in Brussels. They are organising ‘The Week against Homophobia’ at VUB right after the Easter break, as this remains a topical issue. “I have not encountered any unpleasant experiences at VUB yet, but I have in the city centre of Brussels, where it is difficult to walk hand in hand with your boyfriend or girlfriend.”
Basta was founded about 20 years ago as an association at VUB, but also reached out to people coming from different Dutch-language schools in Brussels. As a result, they took up residence in the Rainbow House at the rue du Marché au Charbon (Kolenmarkt). With or without a label, everyone is welcome at the LGBT association, but they mainly focus on Brussels Dutch-speaking youth up to 30 years of age. They are organising various events in this context. “We organise a monthly ‘second Wednesday,’ which is a Bar Evening devoted to a certain theme, where everyone is welcome to have a drink in the Rainbow House.” Furthermore, they visit the Christmas market every year and attend theatre performances as well as the LGBT Film Festival. “We also take part in the Gay Pride Parade every year, where we join the VUB delegation and other Brussels LGBT associations,” says Maaike.
For the first time, they are organising ‘The Week against Homophobia’ at VUB this year, which takes place the week after the Easter break. “We want to focus more on the campuses and reach out to more people. Following the example set by the ULB, we are therefore organising a week against homophobia in collaboration with Young Socialists VUB and study circle Free Inquiry,” says Maaike. For example, they are screening a film called ‘I am Michael’ the week of 16 April, which deals with a homosexual man who is sent to a gay-to-straight conversion camp. “We are also organising a Pink Quiz, where we broach LGBT themes and people can win prizes. Moreover, the documentary entitled ‘Valentine Road’ will be broadcast, which concerns a boy who is bullied due to his sexual orientation. In addition, we are organising a panel debate about and in collaboration with transgender people.”
The week revolves around raising awareness about homophobia and providing a haven for LGBT people at VUB to participate in activities. “There are still too few activities targeted at the LGBT community at VUB and we want to change this,” says Maaike. The LGBT associations are slowly being given a place within VUB again. For instance, a couple of weeks ago the LGBT society Spectrum was established specifically for VUB students. Everyone is welcome at Basta and Spectrum to get to know one another and participate in activities together.