Brussels Pride will take place on Saturday, 18 May, with the theme Safe Everyday Everywhere. The event, dedicated to the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community, focuses this year on creating a society where everyone, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, feels safe and accepted. “We look forward to the day when we can be who we are without fear,” say Indi Bollaerts (they/them) and Blue Boon (he/him) from Spectrum*.

*VUB’s Gender-Sexuality Alliance. Here for LGBTQ+ people and their ally friends.

What do this weekend’s Brussels Pride Week and March mean to you?

Blue: “Pride is always important to us, though the timing isn’t ideal as it coincides with the exam period.” (laughs)

Indi: “Officially, our association isn’t participating in the parade this year, but of course, we support the event. Pride remains crucial as a protest action, underscoring the fact that as queer people, we still don’t always receive the same opportunities and rights as others in 2024. For instance, non-binary individuals can’t yet change the gender marker on their ID. The government is working on it, but it’s a lengthy process. I’ve recently changed my name, but my ID still says ‘female’, which doesn’t reflect who I am or how I feel. Clearly, there’s still work to be done. Moreover, the fact that we mostly receive interview requests in the period leading up to Pride speaks volumes. This week, many companies will temporarily display ‘queer friendly’ labels on their websites – which is good – but they aren’t making structural changes to their policies. That alone makes Brussels Pride essential.”

Is this year’s theme of Safe Everyday Everywhere necessary?

Indi: “Absolutely. The more visibly you out yourself as a queer person, the more you experience a sense of insecurity. Take binary transgender people, for instance, who feel more male or female and dress accordingly. It’s more complex for non-binary transgender people. When ‘man’ and ‘woman’ are the two extremes on a spectrum, they can place themselves anywhere within this spectrum. They might identify with no gender or with multiple genders. However, they often feel compelled to dress or behave in a binary manner to feel safer in public spaces. I’m non-binary myself and, regardless of whether I look male or female, I’m perceived as a woman by outsiders."

‘Being physically difficult to “catalogue” as a man or woman is still very difficult in the street scene’

“As a result, if I walk down the street with someone who looks female and kiss them, it often draws hostile glances, while a heterosexual couple wouldn’t need to worry. Fortunately, I haven’t experienced aggressive behaviour personally, but I know many who have. I even know someone who was beaten up and ended up in hospital simply for holding hands with his boyfriend on the street.”

Do you also relate to this, Blue?

Blue: “Sadly, yes. I used to dress in a gender-non-conforming way and didn’t feel safe on the streets. At that time, I was physically hard to ‘categorise’ as either man or woman, and that’s still very challenging in public, I notice. Nowadays, I look more masculine, which poses less of a problem – unless I decide to paint my nails tomorrow...” (smiles)

‘I have never felt unsafe on campus, though I did on the way there or back’

Pride ULB VUB Vlag

What do you think is the root cause?

Indi: “People like to pigeonhole others, and if they can’t, it impacts their own sense of security, possibly triggering hostile behaviour. Deep-rooted sexism also plays a role. I recently read an interesting theory that suggests a person transitioning from female to male might gain respect compared to someone transitioning from male to female, who is likely to lose certain privileges.”

Blue: “I think that’s accurate. When I used to dress more masculinely while appearing slightly more feminine, it felt somehow less dangerous and safer than if I had done the reverse.”

Pride ULB VUB Bezoekster

Do you feel safe on campus and, by extension, in Brussels?

Blue: “Honestly, I feel safer on the Etterbeek campus than in Leuven, where I study. Perhaps because there are more people experimenting with their appearance? In Brussels, it really depends on the street or district.”

Indi: “I’ve never felt unsafe on campus or in a gay bar, but I have felt vulnerable on the way there or back home.”

Does this impact your sense of freedom?

Blue: “Sometimes you have to weigh up: do you dress for how you feel and who you are, or be more discreet because it feels safer?”

Indi: “If I dress more masculinely, I typically receive more dirty looks, but if I dress more femininely and more gender-conforming to the sex assigned to me at birth, then there are often more sexualising looks. It all has to do with intersectionality. If someone here wasn’t white, they would undoubtedly share a different experience about what it feels like to be queer.”

What does “a safe space” mean to you?

Indi: “A place where you can safely experiment with being yourself, free from societal expectations.”

Blue: “A place where you’re not afraid to set your own boundaries and don’t have to worry about what you wear and how you will be perceived before you step outside.”

Indi: “Spectrum is certainly a good example of that.”

When will be Pride be a success, do you think?

Indi: “I don’t see Pride as just a one-time event, but as a continuous process that should ultimately lead to equal rights and a sense of security for the LGBTQIA+ community. It starts modestly, with enough gender-neutral toilets on every campus, for example.”

What can citizens do for the LGBTQI community?

Indi and Blue: “It starts with education, with schools, with discussing queer history, LGBTQIA+ people and their sexuality... The unknown breeds fear, and that’s what we need to move away from.”


Indi Bollaerts (educational sciences, VUB) and Blue Boon (sexology, KU Leuven) are members of the board of Spectrum. The credo of this VUB student association is “VUB’s Gender-Sexuality Alliance. Here for LGBTQ+ people and their ally friends”. Its goal is not only to talk about queerness without prejudice but also to organise activities and create a safe space, where people can be themselves, regardless of gender identity and sexuality.