Those active and engaged in progressive, leftist, politics seek a world free from prejudice and bigotry, a world free from prejudice and bigotry, a society fully open and inclusive, and a society with the liberation caucuses placed firmly at the heart of the work we do. Despite being active in the Labour Party for a number of years now, the only place I have witnessed this ethos and philosophy be practice rather than just theory, is at Queer Easter, a week-long LGBTQ seminar that takes place on the outskirts of Berlin, an appropriate setting bearing in mind Berlin’s own proud history of freedom and openness in the Weimar era.
Queer Easter is an event like no other; LGBTQ Socialist activists from across Europe, as well as from Palestine and Israel, are united; united by our shared identity, but also by our common goals, reshaping society and freeing it from patriarchy and capitalist oppression.
On the first day of QE comes the necessary housekeeping rules; a workshop on safer sex and ‘No Means No’, but also a refreshing introduction into the concept of a Socialist Safe Space, whereby those who defend capitalist principle are in turn defending society’s ingrained injustices, and so are part of the stumbling block in the way of creating an equal and open society, with a benevolent and thriving Welfare State.
The theme of this year’s QE was ‘Beyond Gender Binaries and Trans*’, and I was in a group discussing the role of drag and Drag/Camp Culture in subverting oppressive concepts of gender normality. This is what QE excels at; pioneering new left-wing consensus, empowering and liberating, even if temporarily, a group who experience so much conscious and subconscious homophobia and transphobia within society, or even heterosexual and cisgender Queers, who reject and feel isolated by the ‘Lad Culture’ so prevalent in our education system, our employment opportunities, our media, and even our own political parties and movements.
QE is the perfect environment for delegates and participants to explore and discover ourselves, explore and discover others, and explore and discover social and cultural values and structures. Ignorance and prejudice previously hidden within society becomes clear and striking, I, for instance, learnt much about Trans* issues. QE is the antithesis of The Daily Mail, and this is the way it should be. Bearing in mind QE coincided this year with Richard Littlejohn’s hateful and vile transphobic piece in the Mail, the values of QE suddenly become more relevant and important.
Labour’s delegation amounted to a paltry three members (although admittedly another delegate has lost her passport the day before flying). The reason for this is quite simple; a lack of publicity and a lack of understanding on what international opportunities arise by being a member of the Labour Party. I am very grateful that Labour is a member of YES (Young European Socialists – formerly ECOSY: European Community Organisation of Socialist Youth) and believe that Young Labour should shout more loudly and more often about its partnership with YES. Young Labour’s democratically elected International Officer is a start, and I hope that this position proves effective, standing up for our young members with international concerns or interests.
The next YES event is Summer Camp in Turkey in July. Unfortunately, Labour have taken the bizarre and unwarranted decision to limit participation to just 5 from Young Labour and 5 from Labour Students. Legitimate concerns regarding welfare of participants abroad is the apparent reasoning, yet the ‘safety in numbers’ rationale appears to have been ignored, as had the fact that no other sister parties have taken this disproportionate decision. At a time when Young Labour can boast an active and engaged membership, and with European elections looming, this decision appears to deny members a chance to play a role on the European stage, as well as sending a dangerous message to our sister parties that Labour is a closed shop.
I hope that Labour sees sense and reverses this ruling. I, meanwhile, will maintain the Queer identity that I have been empowered with through my opportunities to engage with YES. I am one of the lucky ones who got in just in time it seems.