Many young people across Europe view their teens and early-to-mid-twenties as an opportunity to be rebellious and to advocate, lobby and protest for social action. LGBT Youth Scotland member Josh McCormick argues that art and collaborative projects can help to break down the social barriers that keep us apart and drive us towards a more tolerant society.
More and more, young people across the pan-European region are standing up and speaking out against atrocities like human rights violations in Africa, the suppression of one’s right to freedom of expression, and the age of austerity imposed on the poorest across Europe.
Greater numbers of young people have now grown up in a Europe where they have the right to free and unrestricted movement, far from the constrictions of borders or ‘red tape’. As a result, many European activists believe that a strong, united Europe can achieve substantial social action for the poorest and most vulnerable of Europe’s citizens.
Throughout my own international work, I have seen that taking shape first hand. My background mainly focuses on tackling issues affecting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) young people. As a member of LGBT Youth Scotland’s international team, I believe it is essential for young people to experience some of the opportunities that I’ve had the privilege to be involved in.
One opportunity I have been working on over the past year is the Gemini Project, which will take place in Glasgow between the June 24th and July 2nd and will see around 30 participants from five different European countries take part in a youth exchange project, funded by the Youth in Action fund (now known as ERASMUS+).
The Gemini Project will bring together LGBTQ young people and activists to take part in an eight day exchange where the participants will discuss topics such as the juxtaposed regional realities of being an LGBTQ activist in countries such as Romania and Scotland, future cooperation opportunities between the different organisations present and freedom of expression and identity through a multitude of different art forms and mediums.
The Gemini Project will give participants a platform to express themselves in a safe and friendly environment. Once the participants have completed their expressive and personal art work, there will be an opportunity to have the art featured as part of an exhibition which will be held in Pride House, Glasgow, where it will remain for the duration of the Commonwealth Games. This will give games visitors the opportunity to absorb the art work for themselves once the participants have returned to their home countries.
As a facilitator of the project, my main hope is that all of the participants feel safe, empowered, have a good time and make new friends. As an LGBTQ activist, I hope the art work created by the participants’ challenges societal norms and makes people who view the art reflect on their own identity and how it is expressed.
Society can be a barrier to what our true identity is and it will remain so until more activists and individuals stop to challenge accepted norms which disadvantage and perpetuate discrimination, sexism, racism and a plethora of other issues within our communities.
The Gemini project will be a drop of water in a pool of social action this year alone but only through working with our friends and comrades across Europe will we create enough drops to make the strong ripples needed to truly change society.
Josh McCormick is an MSYP for Cunninghame South and a member of LGBT Youth Scotland. You can follow him on Twitter here.