The LGBT+ helpline advises lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans and intersex people, queers and their families seeking answers to questions or needing assistance. It can also be used to report incidents of discrimination or violence. The Migros Culture Percentage is supporting the planned further development of the helpline, which is being coordinated by the Pink Cross, the umbrella organisation for gay and bisexual men in Switzerland. Managing Director Roman Heggli (30) explains the plans.
In what way will the helpline be developed further?
We would like it to become the first port of call for questions about all LGBTIQ-related issues. There are many specialised offers for individual groups, but it isn't easy keeping an overview. When people contact us, our volunteers either try to help them directly or they refer them to other bodies. To allow us to become the first port of call, we would like to raise even more awareness about the helpline among the general public.
How often is the helpline used, and by whom?
We get a number of calls and e-mails a month from a wide variety of people. These may be younger or older people who want support in coming out, parents of queer children who have questions as well as asylum seekers asking for help. Incidents of violence or discrimination are generally reported via an online form and only relatively rarely over the phone.
How many incidents are reported per year?
In 2020, there were 61 reports of everything from insults to physical attacks. That's slightly fewer than the year before, although more people were at home due to the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, the proportion of physical attacks decreased slightly, to 18%. However, we must presume that many cases remain unreported because barely 20% of incidents were reported to the police.
The Migros Culture Percentage supports the further development of the LGBT+ helpline of the Pink Cross, the umbrella organisation for the gay community. The helpline has been in operation since 2016. It provides advice to queer people and can be used to report incidents of discrimination or violence. Homophobic and transphobic violence is not tallied systematically in Switzerland. The reports obtained by the helpline are therefore used to create a clear set of data and thus play a part in fighting discrimination and violence more systematically. The helpline can be reached online or by phone and is intended for all LGBTQ people seeking assistance.
Are there geographic focal points?
Hate crimes are committed everywhere, although there is some concentration in Zurich. This is probably because queer people are more visible there than in the countryside. Most of the victims are aged between 20 and 30.
Some official bodies have started recording such incidents. Are any figures available yet?
The city of Zurich and the canton of Fribourg began recording cases at the start of 2021. In the first four months of the year, Zurich already recorded about a dozen cases. We are therefore keen to see the figures at the end of the year. Of course, it would be better if there were national statistics.
To what extent does this information help tackle violence and discrimination against LGBTIQ people?
One main aim is to raise awareness about the issue among the police. Those affected must be able to assume that they will be taken seriously if they go to the police. According to the feedback we received in 2020, that was mostly the case - but not always. In the end, this just tackles the symptoms. We ideally need preventative measures so that such incidents do not occur in the first place. That would also require schools to address the issue, but little has been happening at that level so far. We would like there to be a federal action plan that, for example, would oblige schools to get involved. Unfortunately, there isn't the political will for that - yet. What we need in general is more public education and legal equality, like on gay marriage, which we will vote on in September.
How helpful is the support of the Migros Culture Percentage?
We are pleased about it because it is something of a seal of approval and shows that the helpline has some importance. The further development of the helpline is being supported by various foundations. However, the aim is to receive long-term financial aid from the state.
Photo/Stage: Luis Pestana