Learn more about the students providing safer spaces for the LGBTQIA+ community, both on and off campus.
June may have come to a close, but Pride is year-round! Ahead of the kickoff of celebrations in Berlin in July, including the annual Christopher Street Day parade on the 23rd, we spoke with three representatives of the student-led Hertie School Pride Network to learn more about their initiatives by and for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Could you please tell us about yourselves?
Mauricio Ramirez (he/they): I am a Master of Public Policy (MPP) Class of 2022 graduate and had the honor of running the Pride Network during my second year. My interest in queerness and intersectionality developed while navigating the experience of being a gay man. As public management students, we learned that organisations are at the root of society’s values and have the power to make change happen. I saw the opportunity to bring queerness to the club’s core by bringing participatory processes to the core of the decision-making process of the coordination body. In this way, the values that the queer community represents are embodied in the Pride Network mission. Running the Pride Network was an effort to overcome the divides inside and outside the LQBTQIA+ community that prevent us from being a stronger society. Apart from queer culture, I am passionate about world politics, music and biking.
Valerie Gastner (she/her): I am also a Class of 2022 MPP graduate with a background in International Relations. While I love learning about a vast array of policy issues, I am especially interested in refugee and migration policy as well as intersectionality and gender-related topics. Now that I’ve graduated, I plan to spend the summer days learning to longboard and hiking trails around Berlin with my dog.
Tanisha Kamat (she/her): I am an MIA 2023 student from Mumbai, India, with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Anthropology. I am passionate about gender and climate-related issues and the nexus of the two. My interests include learning languages, reading and trying out different cuisines. I have been a member of the Pride Network since September 2021 and help out with logistics.
What is the Hertie Pride Network, who is it for, and how can current and future students get involved?
Mauricio: The Hertie School Pride Network is a safe space for all members of the LGBTQIA+ community and acts as a platform to advocate for diversity by anyone interested in queerness. As a student-led organisation, we want to provide spaces where queer values like respect, reflective listening, caring and kindness drive our actions. Club members can help organise events such as our monthly Stammtisch get-togethers, movie nights, hangouts around Berlin and picnics. We invite all the Hertie community to take part in our public events. Students wanting to help manage the club are always needed and very much welcome. You can reach us via email at hs.pride.network[at]gmail[dot]com.
Valerie: The Pride Network is a great way to connect with fellow queer Hertie students and discuss current international and local issues affecting the community. Especially when queer spaces were closed due to COVID regulations, our Stammtisch and other after-hours events provided a sense of community. Students can be involved as much (or as little) as they would like. You can join for a slice of pizza or a movie night, help organise an event or come up with a new activity altogether. The ways to get involved are as diverse as the network’s members.
Tanisha: The club is a safe space for LGBTQIA+ students, alumni as well as staff who want to interact with other queer people, discuss issues that are important to the community (in and outside of Hertie) and build a support system. We also do fun activities together, such as watching movies. To take part, you can attend our Stammtisch, volunteer to help organise events, take care of logistics, social media, etc.
What projects and activities have you organised this past year, and what’s coming up?
Mauricio: Our first event in the academic year was the club fair, where new faces came to refresh the Pride Network’s agenda for the upcoming year. This semester Sofia Todd (MPP 2023) came up with an enjoyable selection of films for our movie nights, which look like they will stick around for the future as well. We also collaborate frequently with other student clubs, such as a co-organised talk with SHIELD on domestic violence and how organisations can help employees face this tragedy. We also participated in one ad-hoc committee created by the Student Representatives to make our campus more diverse, inclusive, and friendly to everyone. Since I’ve just graduated, what lies ahead will be up to the new coordination body!
Valerie: Together with Zhihao Zhong (MPP 2021) and the support of many other Pride Network members, I organised and moderated the event Transgender Queerness and Politics at the start of the spring semester. We were pleased to welcome Nyke Slawik, a Green Party legislator who joined the Bundestag in 2021 as one of the first two openly transwomen elected. We talked about her journey into politics and what her day-to-day work experiences at the Bundestag were like for her as a young woman and other LGBTQIA+ people. And, of course, we couldn’t let her leave without also discussing current policy issues and the coalition's plans around implementing the “Selbstbestimmungsgesetz” (self-determination law), a law that would substantially reduce the red tape associated with the official change of name and gender markers on trans peoples’ IDs.
Tanisha: This year we visited a queer Christmas market and also organised movie screenings. We collaborated with Cinema Politica, another student club, to show the documentary Unsettled, which looked at the issues queer refugees face. We are also starting a book club where the first book we will be reading is the classic Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. It has been quite an interesting and exciting experience to help organise these events and be more involved in the community.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a part of HS Pride?
Mauricio: The most rewarding thing for me has been to contribute to the creation of spaces that represent diversity and that support anyone from the Hertie LGBTQIA+ community needing it. Also, I’ve had the opportunity both to make new friends and to work with old friends on projects for the club. I enjoyed sharing different experiences worldwide about what it means to be a member of this community. The movies, books and other suggestions from the Network became part of my journey at Hertie. They all enriched me with different perspectives about queerness, the external and internal challenges faced by the community, and a fulfilling and gratifying #HertieLove experience.
Valerie: After so much planning and rescheduling due to COVID-19, it was great to see how many people came together for our Transgender Queerness and Politics event at the beginning of the year. I loved having the opportunity to invite Nyke to Hertie. She’s our age, so it was so much fun and inspiring to learn about her experience. The event went over by about an hour because both we as the moderators and the guests were eager to ask more questions. Seeing the interest and setting up a space for further conversations was amazing.
Tanisha: It is great to be able to interact with other people from the community and consume queer media together. I have also loved exploring the queer scene in Berlin together (e.g. drag shows at queer bars) that I would not have had the opportunity to do (or felt safe/comfortable to do) back home.