January 22, 2017
With Donald Trump assuming office as President of the United States, and with far-right parties enjoying high levels of support across Europe, it is necessary to reflect on the rhetoric they have used to gain popularity and the effect it has had on our society as a whole.
Because of Donald Trump and like-minded politicians in Europe such as Geert Wilders, Marine Le Pen and members of Germany’s AfD, insults and bullying have now become a part of our political discourse. They have repeatedly used inflammatory language against groups of people already facing discrimination and prejudice, insulting them on the basis of their race, gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, immigration status, and disability. By doing that, they have normalised statements that would have usually been considered (and still should be considered) outrageous and disqualifying. They have emboldened their supporters to openly display hate speech and even commit hate crimes*. This state of affairs has left many feeling unsafe and concerned about what will happen next.
This concern is understandable, considering the fact that many of those politicians have made promises to roll back legislation that protects human rights of structurally discriminated groups in society – such as women, LGBT citizens, ethnic minorities, religious minorities, and immigrants. Indeed, it is worth noting in times of crises throughout history, the rights of these groups were the first ones under threat, and often reversed.
This is why AEGEE strongly reaffirms our commitment to fight for an open and inclusive society that respects the rights and dignity of every individual. At our last General Assembly, AEGEE members voted equal rights as one of our top strategic priorities in the upcoming three years, recognising that the fight for those rights is far from over, and that it will be important to be a part of it.
In the next three years, AEGEE will join that fight, aiming to acknowledge and tackle discrimination based on gender identity, expression and sexual orientation. AEGEE members have shown a great deal of interest in working on those issues, with two thriving groups – Gender Equality Interest Group and LGBT+ Interest Group – gathering enthusiastic people to discuss a broad range of related topics, ranging from rape culture and consent, to homophobia and transphobia, to analysis of harmful stereotypes in pop culture. As an organisation, we are dedicated to tackle explicit discrimination and change structural injustice, as well as to examine implicit bias that contributes to prejudice.
An important aspect of our work on equal rights is addressing these topics through an intersectional perspective. In order to discuss gender identity, expression and sexual orientation in a nuanced way that accounts for the complex reality in which we live, we must be able to examine how different aspects of our identity affect the way in which we might experience the world. In other words, when we are talking about the issues of gender and sexual orientation, we are also talking about how other parts of our identities (age, race, immigration status, socio-economic standing, religion, disability etc.) play into our experiences.
This is an era of uncertainty for all of us who believe in an open and tolerant society, but this should not discourage us or turn us away from the values we share. We believe in active citizenship and taking responsibility to improve the society we live in. Now is the time to stand up for the rights of those who feel unsafe. Now is the time to fight misinformation. Now is the time to challenge prejudice. Now is the time to engage in dialogue with those who think differently, even if it might be difficult. Now is the time to make a positive contribution. Now is the time not only for words, but for action. We hope you will join us in this.