Fine Giebler wears a yellow shirt and stands in an entrance hall of the Schloss.

“We Want to Offer Queer Students at the University of Mannheim a Safe Space”

Fine Giebler (they/them) is 23 years old and in their 8th semester of the bachelor’s program in Psychology at the University of Mannheim. Fine is non-binary – which means they are neither a woman nor a man – and trans. Besides studying, they are active in Queer im Schloss, a group belonging to AStA, and advocate for the visibility and rights of queer people at the university and beyond. In their myUniMA story, Fine tells us what goals Queer im Schloss pursues and what experiences they have had as a trans non-binary person at the University of Mannheim.

Why did you decide to pursue a degree in Psychology in Mannheim?

I have been interested in the human psyche for many years. Topics like consciousness or addiction have fascinated me for a long time and I wanted to learn more about them – so I decided to study Psychology. It was important to me to study at a first-class university, which is why I examined different rankings. And the University of Mannheim repeatedly occupied top positions. The university's international orientation also appealed to me, as I definitely wanted to spend a semester abroad. Now, I'm about to graduate with a bachelor's degree and I'm glad I chose the University of Mannheim. My program was very interesting and I was able to develop a broad basic understanding of science. However, I don't know yet if I want to pursue a career in this field.

In addition to studying, you are a member of Queer im Schloss. What kinds of activities and services do you offer?

We want to offer queer students at the University of Mannheim a safe space – a meeting place where we can be among ourselves and free from discrimination. That's why we engage in a lot of community work: once a week we meet for a regulars' table with queer people only and sit together in a relaxed atmosphere. We also have a WhatsApp group comprising about 200 members, which also includes allies and people outside of the University of Mannheim. In this group, we communicate the activities and events organized by Queer im Schloss. In general, queer people who need support or just someone to talk to can contact us at any time. We are also happy to refer you to appropriate counseling centers. In addition, an intersectional perspective is very important to us, for example, we stand up against racism and ableism, i.e., discrimination against people with disabilities.

You are part of the Queer im Schloss organizing team. What do you do there?

Among other things, I help with the planning of various activities such as dance events or movie and game nights. Some of the events are specifically designed for queer students, while others are open to anyone who wants to participate and is respectful towards others. We are also always present at university events and had a booth at the student organization fair and the sustainability festival, for example. In addition, one person from Queer im Schloss is part of the steering group of the diversity audit “Vielfalt gestalten” (Shaping Diversity) and several members take part in the meetings. Unfortunately, our organizing team currently consists of only a few people, so our capacities are limited. We would be very happy if there were more queer students who would like to join us and help us increase diversity at the University of Mannheim.

What are the goals you are pursuing?

One goal that is very close to my heart is the installation of gender-inclusive restrooms on campus. Non-binary people like me are out of place in both the women's and men's restrooms. We also seek recognition of the dgti ID card at the university. This is an additional document where trans, non-binary, and inter people can indicate their gender, first names, as well as pronouns, and which is valid in conjunction with the standard ID card. It would be great if the dgti ID card were accepted directly when students enroll – or in the course of their studies. A more long-term goal would be to set up a queer department at the university to advocate for queer students. Unfortunately, Queer im Schloss has only limited possibilities, so I hope that the diversity audit is just the beginning of an ongoing process that will bring about a lot of change.

Do you also work on projects outside of the University of Mannheim?

Yes, for example, the Ludwigshafen City Library once asked us for tips on how to deal properly with queer people. I also attend the “round table on sexual and gender diversity” of the city of Mannheim on behalf of Queer im Schloss. There, we gather with various queer groups from Mannheim and discuss our concerns. And I also spoke at an Urban Thinkers Lab to support queer teenagers and young adults in Mannheim. Moreover, we regularly take part in protests such as this year's Christopher Street Day. I am very proud that Queer im Schloss is so active, even beyond the boundaries of the university.

What experiences have you had as a queer person at the University of Mannheim?

In a seminar, a teacher once asked us what our pronouns were and then addressed us with them. It would be nice if that were the case in all courses at the university. Also, I once attended a class where the teacher came out as queer themselves, which made me feel much more comfortable. At a former job as a student assistant at the university, I openly communicated that I was non-binary and trans, and I was treated respectfully and in a very considerate way. On several occasions, employees of the university have approached Queer im Schloss to learn more about us or to offer us their support. These are all experiences that mean a lot to me – and that hopefully will not remain one-off cases.

What are your wishes for the future?

I would like Queer im Schloss and our concerns to gain more visibility among the members of the University of Mannheim so that we can also find new supporters. I would also be very happy if the University of Mannheim increasingly stood up for queer people on its own initiative and also showed this to the public. This might also encourage more queer students and employees to choose the University of Mannheim, and our community would continue to grow.

Text: Jessica Scholich / July 2022