In conversation with GLADT

To celebrate Pride 2024, we sit down with the Berlin-based organisation to discuss the importance of their work in the past, present and the future…

“Even in Berlin, there are not a lot of clubs or cafes or bars that are run or organised by Queer people who also experience racism. There’s still this dominance of white people, even in the Queer communities. That makes GLADT important. With our intersectional approach, we’re always asking questions like where’s the exclusion happening?”

GLADT is an organisation whose mission stretches beyond community. Since its inception in the late 1990s, GLADT has been at the forefront of intersectional work within Berlin and Germany’s LGBTQIA+ communities, bringing various initiatives to the centre of discussion. With a clear focus on providing both support and a network for Queer POC communities in Germany, GLADT prides itself on being a multilingual group that champions the empowerment of its communities. That manifests as outreach like counselling, networking events, and workshops, all of which emphasise intersectionality. UGG® is proud to support GLADT’s ongoing work to support those from the LGBTQIA+ community experiencing multiple discriminations at once, whether that be racism, ableism, or other forms of prejudice. Their approach enables every experience within the LGBTQIA+ community to be recognised, and that’s an intrinsic part of the ‘Feel Heard. Feel Seen‘ campaign.

Here, we sit down with GLADT to discuss the importance of the organisation and the lasting impact it has on German society to this day… 

HUNGER: Tell us a bit about the work that GLADT does… 

GLADT: We’re a Berlin-based self-organisation working on the margins of different fields, as we ourselves are living on the margins of society due to the various forms of discrimination we experience because of our multiple identities. Currently, we are offering psycho-social counselling aiming to empower individuals affected by systemic exclusion and violence because of their non-conforming gender identity and/or sexual orientation on top of being part of the BIPoC-community. Or whatever kind of obstacles they have, or whatever kind of discrimination they face. For example, it can be the [claiming] asylum processes. It can be discrimination at work. We try to find a way to guide them through problems. We have this perspective of when you are affected by different kinds of discrimination in different forms, you have different kinds of challenges. And we ourselves are all affected — we are all also Queer BIPoCs that are working here.

Next to this area of social work and human rights activism, we function as a community centre that’s trying to bring people together. We provide easily accessible workshops as well as events that provide safer spaces for like-minded people. We do all kinds of workshops centering around themes and tools that strengthen the agency of our community members. This can be mental health based topics, as well as learning different arts and crafts so they can deal with the often exclusionary outer world in a creative way. On top of these, we also coordinate educational projects that aim to foster and raise awareness around topics of intersectionality and critical race theory within the white communities, as well as organisations and parties of Berlin’s Queer scene.

How has GLADT’s work evolved since it was first created?  

 GLADT: It was also during this period, following the 9/11 attacks, that Islamophobic rhetoric began to rise within the white Queer scene. There was a discursive image of Queer migrants as victims who needed to be ‘saved’ from their communities of origin. It portrayed cis-heterosexual migrants as inherently hostile and toxic due to their cultural and religious backgrounds. The individuals from the founding generation of GLADT didn’t feel represented and understood, and they didn’t trust the institutional structures that were working within the nonprofit field of social work and human rights. So they said, ‘Let’s do it ourselves!’ And over the years, GLADT grew and grew into what it is right now. But as I said, you can’t really pinpoint us as an organisation that just does ‘A’, or just does ‘B’. We consider GLADT a living organism that constantly changes in reaction to its active members, as well as the circumstances, challenges and discourse facing society at large. You could say that GLADT always had the function of a grassroots community centre — one that aims to connect, educate and empower, but one with focuses and agendas that have changed over the last 20 years.

GLADT seems to focus on politics and empowerment. Those things are core to LGBTQIA+ communities, but unusual areas of focus for a charity. How do politics and empowerment factor into GLADT’s work?

GLADT: I’m not sure if I would agree that the Queer scene is inherently political, as in radically political. It had this political radicality in the past, but I’m seeing Queer scenes and cultures becoming – without much questioning – a part of mainstream society. They’re not really political in terms of questioning existing borders, boundaries or existing normative limitations and systemic exclusion. When you look at a specific Queer scene nowadays, it’s often not as political as we might think. Within our work, however, we take an intersectional approach in everything we do. We’re constantly questioning ourselves, our work and existing structures to check if there might be some kind of mis-respresentation or exclusion going on. Whatever we do, we try to think about how we can make the most people feel invited. We don’t want anyone to feel unwelcome. If we do workshops or community events, we consider if these spaces are accessible for people on wheelchairs, or who are neurodivergent and have difficulties navigating specific social situations.

 Would you say that GLADT’s work is just as important now as it’s ever been? 

 GLADT: The thing that makes us different from other organisations who work in the same field is that we are not connected to any other wider organisation. We are one of the few organisations who don’t have someone who is, like, above us, and that gives us freedom. We can structure our own work processes so we can be of the most help and guidance to the people that visit us. This also gives us a specific reputation within the community. People that come to GLADT know that this is an organisation where you don’t have to hide specific parts of your identity — where you can come and be very open about specific topics. 

Even in Berlin, there are not a lot of clubs or cafes or bars that are run or organised by Queer people who also experience racism. There’s still this dominance of white people, even in the Queer communities. That makes GLADT important. With our intersectional approach, we’re always asking questions like where’s the exclusion happening? Who’s holding power right now, and how transparent is this? Who’s deciding the important stuff? This is something that makes us different from others. And we work with a lot of experts that help us bring in more indigenous wisdom — ways of working with each other that don’t fit into this capitalist norm.

How does the work you do change during Pride month?

GLADT: [If you think back to the] Judith Butler speech where they criticised the Pride movement for becoming too appropriated by mainstream society and how it serves more as a capitalist thing than questioning social structures and how we live together. It’s like, yes, we are so open and free and whatever, but are we really? Is freedom just about the ability to have sex with everybody? What’s the significance if there’s, you know, no social network that works to help each other? People get lost in isolation and get stuck in depressive states. They end up with depression, anxiety, and panic attacks — even suicide. It’s very widespread within this community. So, what does community mean? What does solidarity mean? How can we help each other?

What would you like to say to politicians?

GLADT: That we are not just a political chess game. [Politicians need] to see us as human beings rather than for their own benefit, or for symbolic politics. They also need to be more aware about questions of social inequality — that our capitalist system is destroying our lives.

WriterRy Gavin
IllustratorJess Ardizzone
Creative DirectionKat Beckwith