June 15, 2017

As part of our series on Ulex Project Partners, we speak with Akim, Operations Officer from Transgender Europe (TGEU), about why sustainable activism is a key focus for 2017. With 105 member organisations in 42 different countries, TGEU works for the equality of all trans people by combating discrimination, raising awareness and supporting advocacy for trans people’s human rights. 

Tell us a little bit about Transgender Europe (TGEU). What does the organisation do and what types of groups do you work with?

TGEU is a membership based organisation with 105 member organisations in 42 countries. We are supporting groups that are actively involved in trans rights and that help trans communities feel empowered. We do so on national levels by offering capacity and community building and are also involved in advocacy and meeting European decision makers. TGEU has been participating in the European trans movement for over a decade now, and doing great work in regards of the gender recognition laws and creating this network of so many European groups.

What is your role in TGEU? What inspired you to work there?

I’m currently employed as Operations Officer in TGEU and have been working with this team for a year. I started as an intern working on the organisation of our last European trans council that gathered around 300 trans activists. It was a wonderful experience, the next one will be in June 2018 in Brussels. My background is communication, web and business. I can say I had no idea I would slowly drift towards NGOs and human rights work, but I’m glad I did. My inspiration to work here was to take my local activism to the next level and learn, learn, learn.

Working in a place where everyone has a common understanding of gender and systemic oppressions, to be in a daily safer space and in a creative atmosphere with blooming ideas towards trans empowerment is amazing. We are constantly learning, challenging, and with a growing mindset that makes it always stimulating to get out of bed and go to work. Each one of us has a voice and if we want to implement or push for new ideas, changes, groups, we have the space to do so. We are fully supported to come as we are and it allows us to shine in our best way, even discover and have a better understanding of ourselves.

Why is this work important in Europe right now?

Europe is very fragmented in terms of trans rights, and an organisation like TGEU allows to connect countries between the more advanced for trans rights like Malta, Denmark, Norway for example and some other European countries that still require sterilisation. The main challenges right now are to include non-binary identities into the legal gender recognition law, make sure sterilisation is out of the way for all and understand intersectional approaches better.

How do you stay inspired in difficult times? What’s your own personal way of keeping a check on burn-out?

I get inspired by other activists, by positive projects and stepping back from time to time. Because the source of our activism is facing a tough reality, it is necessary to keep ourselves healthy and make sure we are ok. Even without being an activist, being trans, a person of color, not straight, someone with disabilities or whatever differs from the norm makes our lives political and we can easily burn out from life in general. Stepping back allows me to remember life is short and that we are just people in the end. I embrace being woke but also take time to laugh, cry and exchange with my loved ones.

Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 18.10.36

TGEU image from Trans Day of Remembrance 2016

Tell us a bit about the training that TGEU has commissioned the ULEX project to design and deliver around wellness and resilience training.

Because we are so focused on discrimination and the violence trans people face, we hardly ever take time to pause and think, how am I doing? How long can I continue? When activists burn out, it leaves our movement weakened by this loss of resource and knowledge and it’s time we started talking about this issue. Noah Keuzenkamp, the last Capacity Building officer in TGEU, fought strongly for implementing wellbeing as a key aspect of our activism, changing our mindsets from it being a luxury accessory to a core need for a sustainable and healthy movement. I’m looking forwards to the training as a space for trans activists from all across Europe to get together, exchange, learn or unlearn their thinking around wellbeing and share practical tools and mindsets to bring back to their communities.

Thanks to Akim and all at Transgender Europe.

To learn more about how you can support trans rights across Europe visit the TGEU website