The official voice for all student affairs at Freie Universität Berlin is the AStA, which stands for Allgemeiner Studierendenausschuss (General Student’s Committee). As far as lgbtqia+ rights and issues are concerned, the AStA combines two departments: the Department of Queers and the Department of [LesBiTransInterA]*.
The Department of Queers represents all gay, bisexual, trans*, inter* and queer students and organizes events such as lectures, pub crawls and movie nights, and also has opening hours, where you can get information about gbtq+ living in Berlin and support should you encounter discrimination.
For lesbian, a-/bi-/poly-/pan-sexual women, trans*, genderqueer and intersex people the AStA offers the Autonome [LesBiTransInterA]*-Referat, which is situated in the attic of the AStA Villa. Casual meet-ups (excluding cis-men) provide a safe space for exchanging views about life, experiences at university and addressing lesbian, gender/queer, trans and intersex issues. The office regularly organizes networking meetings, communal breakfasts and various events relating to queer topics (for instance movie nights). The pink office also has a queer feminist library that you can check out (most books are in German though).
FYI: The main reason for the separation of the two offices is to make sure to provide a save space for every one, presuming that each community has different thematic focuses. Although the offices are separated, both clearly speak out against any form of heteronormativity and transphobia/homophobia. They both demand visibility of intersexual and genderqueer people, gay, lesbians and trans people in all areas of life, including life at the university, of course.
If you would like to get involved or just stop by for coffee, feel very free to.
Coming to a foreign country as a member of the lgbtq+ community can be a little daunting at first. At home you might feel seen and safe and cared for by the community around you. So moving to a different country can be stressful, because you don’t really know what to expect. It can also be exciting though and an opportunity to find out more about yourself. To give you a little support along the way, we have created a small lgbtq+ section on this blog to tell you more about the queer scene in Berlin, at Freie Universität, where you can find help should you need it, etc. You find it all under Life Abroad – Queer Berlin.
Generally, Germany is amongst the most lgbtq+ friendly countries in the world in terms of civil rights. „Not only are homosexual relations legal, but same sex partnerships have been recognized on a national level since 2001 (ILGA). In August 2009, second parent adoption rights were granted to homosexual couples […]” (Shalosky, LGBT Student Guide for Education Abroad) and same-sex marriage has finally been legal since October 1, 2017. Berlin itself has become a hub for gay culture with a thriving lgbtq+ social scene (numerous clubs, organizations and magazines) and you can expect to see open expression of different sexual orientations. This being said, it is always a good idea to carefully negotiate each setting and „test the waters“ to ensure safety, because it is possible to experience mixed messages about the acceptance of lgbtq+ individuals.
Lately, it feels as if Berlin is making a real effort to become a bit more bike friendly. More and more bike lanes are set up and one seems to find a sharable bike on every corner. So what better way is there to explore the city than by bike!? You defnitely get a better sense of how Berlin’s different districts are connected (in contrast to a you that is mostly living underground) and you even get a daily workout in. If you don’t have the stamina to look for your own cheap bike at a flea market (and also don’t want to go through the hassle of reselling your bike when you leave) you can use a bike swapping service that allows you to use a bike for an extended period of time, before you can get rid of it fairly easy. The big advantage of a bike swapping service in comparison to a bike sharing service is that you are actually owning the bike for the duration you are using the service. Also! Swap bikes are way more comfortable, since they are regular bikes and not funny looking space ships (which could be said about most of the sharable bikes. Of course, you can try and judge them yourself).
S w a p f i e t s
The swapping service that many people use in Berlin is Swapfiets. You can read more about their service, how it works exactly (FAQ), their bikes, and how you can sign up here. To give you a quick overview, this is how it works: you get a bike subsciription that you are able to cancel monthly. For example, you want to use your bike for three months. You sign up and then cancel your membership at the end of your second month. A monthly subscription costs 15€/month (student price, no deposit or start-up costs). Included are a fully equipped bike, a lock and a full swapping service. Swapping service means, if anything is broken or doesn’t work anymore, your bike is swapped for a new one within 24 hours. This way you always have a full functioning bike at hand.