A moment from the Youth Project, June 2022.

Outventures of the Italian team

When we talk about the LGBTQ community, we rarely talk about the intersection between being part of it and the consequences that this can have on mental health. Queer people themselves struggle to speak openly about the psychological repercussions of minority stress and homophobia, perhaps because of the residual stigma of the psychiatrization of homosexuality and gender dysphoria.

Projects like Outventure aim to create a sense of community that transcends national borders, in order to create a closely connected European community. During this program we explored the importance of contact with nature and how much this benefits our mental health and we experienced what it means to live in an eco-community.

The participating countries in the exchange, each with 5 participants, were: Italy (Cassero LGBT + Center), Bulgaria (Smokinya Foundation), Czech Republic (YOUnique Organization), Greece (Hopeland), Latvia (Active Rainbow) and Slovenia(Drustvo DIH).

As the Italian team, one of the things that touched us the most was the dimension of listening. Listening and being listened to, being perceived and understood, accepted completely, being ourselves without any filter. We got to finally understand, deeply, each others worth.

It was also beneficial to rediscovered our inner child: running in the dust, dancing in the rain, laughing, crying, climbing trees and containers, overcoming our fears. We have been vulnerable, have opened our hearts to the vulnerability of others and we have embraced the pain of others. Living everyday life within a safe space has allowed us to be “non-performing” and leave the weight of expectations that the gaze of the other can sometimes create. In this way we were able to bring out our best and put it at the service of our group.

This 12-day experience was a reason for growing, encounters, and at the same time putting in crisis structures deriving from a cultural background that must be revisited. Taking care of yourself and others not only on the physical dimension but also on the emotional one means first of all knowing how to Listen, but to be able
to listen you have to assume a correct posture, you have to give space, space to be able to Be. This experience gave us space, space to be able to express ourselves with the mind, with the emotions, with the feelings and with the body, thanks to the various activities carried out, such as walks in nature in silence with other people where it was necessary to dwell on what our senses perceived and once again the value of listening and sharing emerges here.

Every morning and after every activity the question we focused on was: “how do I feel?”. The support group amplified the value of care during the project, always ready to welcome your difficulties and enhance your strengths. We understood that there is no single language and that even the body can communicate, listen and understand. Thanks to the workshop on love in which one of the activities involved sharing one’s own experience linked to the first love in one’s own language of origin to another person. It became clear that in order to empathize, listen and feel listened to, you don’t always need to understand everything, sometimes you just need space, presence and silence. Searching for the space to be and, if there is none, create it through dialogue.

It was also important for us to work on the theme of connection, starting with one’s feelings. Each of us, starting from a work of self-exploration, has tried to dive into a more intimate relationship with ourselves in order to accept and celebrate our uniqueness. This was possible through the activities such as the “Openly queer Mic” and other informal group moments.

During one of the activities we had the chance to work with music. So we managed to connect with the group’s vibes trying to create a common sound, sometimes spending time together in silence, other times screaming loudly. We gradually managed to do this by getting to know the others in all different ways and using creative and shared languages.

Another activity that stuck with us was the meal prepping for the rest of the group. We were able to communicate through the language of food and with our hands and we took care of others thinking about their tastes and preferences.

We learnt that another world is possible by meeting rainbow families, listening to their stories, the difficulties that parents sometimes encounter in understanding the child and vice versa, and in all this the value and beauty of dialogue emerged.

Silence, speech, listening, language, body, nature, otherness, space, friendship, play are just some of the words that sum up this experience that I will always carry in my heart and in my mind, a bit like the little prince will always carry with him, the experiences and stories that characterized his journey to and from his beloved
asteroid where he returned to learn to relate to and take care of his rose.

We had a lot of magical moments, but probably the most precious ones were the ball and the workshop on love: the first was such an adrenaline spyke and also an amazing part of our culture as queer people, the second because in its simplicity it managed to touch some strings that we usually keep silenced.

Furthermore, the experience of the catwalks has allowed us to get in touch with stereotypes, to the point of exorcizing some aspects of toxic masculinity and femininity.