Background - 12.10.2022 - 00:00 

Political engagement instead of pinkwashing: St.Gallen should become more inclusive

On October 10, Pride Month and the City of St.Gallen jointly hosted a public discussion titled, "How can we make St.Gallen more inclusive in the future? Local politicians and activists exchanged views on what steps are necessary for St.Gallen to develop into a modern and inclusive city.

12 October 2022. The panel discussion in the Katharinenaal in St.Gallen was attended by Andrea Scheck, president of the cantonal Social Democrat Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei), Andi Giger from the St.Gallen Pride association, Andreas Bisig, cantonal councillor and president Linth & Rapperswil-Jona (Grünliberale Partei), Miriam Rizzi, Juso city parliamentarian and climate activist, and St.Gallen Parliamentary President Jürg Brunner, a member of the Swiss People’s Party (Schweizerische Volkspartei). 

The politicians and activists discussed how the city of St.Gallen should develop further so that every person – regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, origin or religion – feels welcome in the city. The participants in the discussion unanimously emphasised that an inclusive city should not only stand up for the rights of LGBTQ+ people, but must also represent all marginalised groups. 

Pride Demo planned in St.Gallen 

Recently, the association St.Gallen Pride was established, co-founded by Andi Giger: "Queer people should not only be accepted, but welcomed." The association wants to organise an annual Pride Demo through the city of St.Gallen starting in 2023. The queer scene should thus become visible, make demands and be able to network. Making St.Gallen more inclusive and raising awareness of LGBTQ+ issues is something that concerns everyone – even if the LGBTQ+ community is a minority, says Giger. Jürg Brunner notes that visibility is also suffering for security reasons. Andrea Scheck disagrees. In addition, she sees that the political processes and the decision-making process, which take far too long, as a cause. For example, protection against discrimination was only extended to homosexuals in 2020 and same-sex couples have only been able to marry since July 2022. "Legislative changes such as marriage for all are celebrated as supposed progress, but should be taken for granted," said the president of the cantonal Social Democrats. 

"Rainbow flags do not yet establish security"

Miriam Rizzi condemns pinkwashing, i.e. solidarity with LGBTQ+ issues for marketing reasons: "Pinkwashing is only about marketing and profit, not about rights and visibility. You don't establish safety with rainbow flags." The panelists agreed that pinkwashing alone does not ensure inclusion. But where is the line between pinkwashing and visibility, between hypocrisy and commitment? Andi Giger from the St.Gallen Pride association also sees pinkwashing critically, but perceives the situation in St.Gallen differently: "The problem here is the lack of visibility. Sometimes I wish that FCSG, for example, would do pinkwashing to draw attention to LGBTQ+ issues." Andreas Bisig also sees a positive effect when companies publicly acknowledge their commitment and thus open up the LGBTQ+ movement to everyone: "It is important that companies communicate honestly and look when there are problems," Bisig emphasises. This includes checking which policies are being implemented – for example, which countries are they working with? "Awareness only comes from visibility," says Jürg Brunner. He proposes the introduction of an LGBTQ+ label to define processes that companies must follow in order to be allowed to call themselves LGBTQ+-friendly. 

Too little political representation 

Why doesn't the LGBTQ+ community have a bigger political lobby? The community is not involved enough in the political processes and parliaments are often not diverse. This lack of diversity, as well as racist and sexist hostility, then deters women, people from the LGBTQ+ community or people of colour, said the participants. Jürg Brunner notes that many people opt out of politics and do not vote as if political decisions do not personally affect them. "It is about people and not about gender." Andrea Scheck counters: "People withdraw from politics because they don't feel represented. As long as genders are discriminated against, it doesn't matter what gender someone is." Andreas Bisig experiences a willingness at the cantonal level to support LGBTQ+ issues: the canton of St.Gallen, for example, wants to expand the counselling network for queer youth – in response to an query asked to the Parliament.  

Pride Month to be celebrated for the third time
HSG and OST will be holding Pride Month in St.Gallen for the third time in October 2022. The programme includes workshops, panel discussions and many other events. A student initiative has brought Pride Month @HSG to life. The team of five students is committed to raising visibility and awareness of LGBTQ+ issues at the HSG and in the city of St.Gallen. 

Pride Month is usually celebrated in June – but since the exam period at the HSG falls on this month and new students start at the university in September, Pride Month @HSG always takes place in October. 

Information and events for Pride Month:

Text: Sabrina Rohner 

Images: Michel Canonica

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