On our way to a decade of Queer Youth Activism

The next 5 years of IGLYO history, covering 1989 to 1993, were a period of growth, experimentation and new endeavours, with a growing international presence. These years were formative for IGLYO and were foundational for the organisation we are today.

IGLYO annual conferences and key events during this period included:

  • 1989 - Copenhagen, Denmark - Sexuality
  • 1990 - Zurich, Switzerland - Working Apart – Together
  • 1991 - Gothenburg, Sweden - Role Reverse
  • 1992 - Bratislava, Slovakia - Justify My Love
  • 1993 - Paris, France - Love Life Unlimited - 10th Anniversary


The sixth IGLYO conference entitled Sexuality was held in Copenhagen, Denmark. Workshops offered at this conference included spaces on sexism, racism, sexual roles and taboos, and intimacy.

Titled “Fun, but not a holiday camp!”, the conference’s welcome words informed participants that while the week would be “filled with talk, work, eating, playing and fun, IGLYO conferences are no holiday camp”, hoping that delegates would “approach the week seriously” and announcing that there would be “more of a tight rein on things in the past”. This firmer tone was due to IGLYO subsidising the participation of each delegate against a small registration fee, and the Bureau therefore hoped for delegates to join sessions on time in return — a situation we still share in 2024!

Official poster of the IGLYO Conference in Copenhagen 1989, and a photo of participatants engaging in an ice-breaking activity (Photo: © IGLYO Alumni Marc Hesselink)

This period was an exciting time as a young IGLYO experimented with different approaches, visions and ways of working. In 1989, IGLYO opened a regional office for the Americas under the guidance of Bruce Douglas. This office was established to reduce pressure on the main secretariat in Amsterdam and to make more positive contacts in North and South America. Bruce organised the office from his student residence in Washington, D.C.

This approach was at times ad hoc and experimental, but it was important in building the vision of IGLYO, thus allowing us to grow into the organisation that we are today.  It resulted in invitations to speak and participate in regional conferences (e.g. Minnesota, New York City) on behalf of IGLYO and expand networking opportunities with other young activists. When IGLYO member Pieter van den Hurk served as the Youth Representative for the Netherlands to the United Nations, he invited Bruce to attend one of the committee sessions as a representative. Additionally, when Marcel Teerling visited the U.S., they were able to meet with Joyce Hunter at the Hetrick-Martin Institute. Dr. Hunter eventually served as keynote speaker at the 1990 Zurich Conference.

Welcome words of the IGLYO Conference in Copenhagen in 1989.

This year represented a shift in IGLYO’s approach towards building a more united movement of international LGBTQI organisations. This work began by attempting to improve IGLYO’s relationship with ILGA by sending a bureau member to their annual conference, hoping to build greater solidarity between queer youth and older activists.

It was also decided that more financial support for representatives from Africa, Asia, and South America would be provided to attend the annual conference. The organisation continued the newly developed penpal scheme that now required a copy of a passport or identity card be sent along with the request to ensure the proof of age of all participants.


The seventh IGLYO conference entitled Working Apart Together was held in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1990. Information exchanged at the conference surrounded the situations of LGBTQ people in different countries. 

IGLYO issued a statement about the copyright of AIDS information and argued for free access to these materials for countries with limited financial resources. Joyce Hunter, the Director of Social Social Services at the Hetrick-Martin Institute in New York, was the guest speaker at the conference – she lectured about the movement in the United States, Harvey Milk High School, and AIDS and youth. 

Photos of the IGLYO Conference in Zurich 1990 from a report by the Organ der Initiative Lesbisch Schwule Jugend Schweiz (ILSJS).

At this conference were sixteen participants from Central and Eastern Europe who were able to attend on a grant from the European Youth Foundation.

At the general meeting in this year, major revisions were made to the IGLYO statutes. The changes were designed to further empower women and other traditionally under-represented people in IGLYO.

This year saw the continuation of a key IGLYO project, Speak Out, an information bulletin that was produced four times a year and distributed to LGBT youth organisations in Europe and North America. James Marchant was the editor in this year. Speak Out contained a report on the 7th annual conference in Zurich. 

This edition of Speak Out contained material and support relating to “coming out”, HIV/AIDS, and homophobia. It contained details on IGLYO’s attendance at a European Minister’s Conference on Youth Policy in Lisbon, some of IGLYO’s earliest advocacy work.. Speak Out also includes instructions for LGBT youth groups on how to become part of IGLYO.

Front and Back Cover of the IGLYO Speak Out Bulletin 1990, Issue I/IV.

Also in this year, IGLYO member Bam-bi Delver published a book about IGLYO that profiled activists from all over Europe: Torunn Ness from Norway, Ricardo Duarte from Portugal, Denise McNally from Northern Ireland, Helmut Graupner from Austria, Trude van de Ven from the Netherlands, James Chapman from England, Akiko Ries from Switzerland, Jukka Lehtonen from Finland, Cilla Duijts-Lindahl from Sweden, Art Heck from West-Germany, Silke Näther from East-Germany, and Jan Larsen from Denmark. In addition to profiling activists, the book provides information about the workings of IGLYO, addresses of LGBT organisations throughout Europe, and advice about youth activism.


1991 marks a change in the archives, as we see a marked decrease in the information preserved. This continued through the 90s as IGLYO grew and changed, documentation at times fell by the wayside. As such if you have more details for this period please reach out to our Comms & Network team Toryn (toryn@iglyo.org) and Jeremy (jeremy@iglyo.org), we’d love to hear from you.

Official logo and visual of the IGLYO Conference in Gothenburg in 1991.

The eight IGLYO conference entitled “Role Reverse” was held in Gothenburg, Sweden, in collaboration with RFSL, who’s still an IGLYO Member in 2024. The conference agenda included workshops on crucial topics such as Racism, Sexism, Ableism, Life-styles, Media, Bisexuality, Sexual Education, AIDS, as well as sessions on IGLYO and its future, and on our still current partner ILGA. 

According to its press release, the conference also offered “an international pink atmosphere, lots of fun, the possibility to meet young people from other countries, get to know about those other countries and its cultures, make friends, discover a news city, etc.”, ensuring to participants they would go home “tired but satisfied”.

On the left, article about the conference in Gothenburg; on the right, photos from the conference (top photo © IGLYO Alumni Marc Hesselink; lower photo: © IGLYO Alumni Bo Milvang-Jensen)

In this year’s edition of Speak Out there were a variety of issues that received attention such as “quickie” lesbian relationships, the discrimination of gay people in the Reserve Officers Training Corps in the United States and suggestions for coming out to parents.

IGLYO also held a study session on HIV/Aids in Strasbourg, France. Again, if you have more information about this Study Session, please reach out to us!


The ninth IGLYO conference entitled “Justify My Love” was held in Bratislava, Slovakia. This was the first conference in the organisation’s history to have Central and Eastern European participants. The conference created links with several LGBTQ youth groups in Eastern and Central Europe resulting in a collaboration on a variety of projects: an HIV prevention campaign and an IGLYO secretariat located in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Drawing for the visual identity of the IGLYO Conference in Bratislava in 1992.

This was a tumultuous year in terms of changes to the IGLYO bureau, which may be a contributing factor to the lack of preserved details on IGLYO during this period.  At some point, the bureau moved from consensus based decision making with a strong secretariat to a more streamlined operation that included a bureau chairperson.

At the start of the year the bureau chairperson was Bruce Douglas, a still active member of our alumni network to this day, and the Secretariat Coordinator was Martijn de Natris. In October a new Chairperson was elected to lead the organisation, only to resign a month later. To see the organisation through the end of this dynamic year, Thomas Tichelmann was selected as the new chairperson of IGLYO.

1992 was also the year that IGLYO opened our first secretariat in Brussels, the city which the secretariat still calls home 32 years later, in 2024. The 1992 secretariat report states that the organisation was struggling at this time with unprecedented changes and new challenges.

On the left, badge of the IGLYO conference in Bratislava in 1992; on the right, call for participants explaining what IGLYO is and the profile of participants.

In 1992, IGLYO became a member of the ECB (now known as the European Youth Forum). This was the first of many relationships with organisations within the European Communities, the predecessor of the European Union, which would be founded the following year. The ECB was a stakeholder with regards to youth issues, giving IGLYO the opportunity to ensure queer youth voices were more effectively platformed and heard at a European level.

In late 1992 IGLYO amended and re-adopted the association’s articles at the General Meeting that took place in Brussels. The articles were officially ratified in a recorded notary deed in Amsterdam on December 13th, 1992. 

This year the World Health Organisation declassified homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses, a policy that IGLYO had advocated for since 1986.


Much like 1991, little detail is known of the activities of IGLYO in 1993, if you have more details for this period please reach out to our Comms & Network team Toryn (toryn@iglyo.org) and Jeremy (jeremy@iglyo.org).

Front cover and page from the Paris Guide created for the IGLYO Conference in Paris in 1993.

The tenth IGLYO conference entitled “Love Life Unlimited” was held in Paris, France, hosted by MAG Jeunes LGBT, who are still an IGLYO Member in 2024.  Celebrating 10 successful conferences, this event came at an interesting time as attitudes across the globe began to soften towards LGBTQI+ communities and Europe began to unite again after nearly 5 decades of division and separation.

The programme was a comprehensive and creative exploration of the life of a queer person in 1993 with sessions on parenting as a person, bi identities, countering anti-LGBTQI+ violence and safe queer sex.

Upon reviewing the archives one piece of feedback given in the evaluation of this year’s event really struck us, “hotel only for sleeping. Couldn’t have sex”. Was this condemnation? A suggestion? Or praise? We’ll never know.

Thank you note from the Secretariat for attending the IGLYO Conference in Paris in 1993. The back displays IGLYO's logo back in those days.

Other initiatives in this year included the successful continuation of the Penpal project, a project connecting LGBTQI across the globe which would quickly become some of IGLYO’s most noteworthy and impactful work, further SpeakOut Bulletins, and work on HIV/AIDS prevention. 

In addition to the annual conference, the organisation attended a seminar on European voluntary work and structures in the EYC, and had its general meeting in Amsterdam. IGLYO was also featured in the EuroPride magazine of 1993, a great way to end the first decade of our work.

Liked this article? Check out more IGLYO Memories!

All documents and archives materials in this article (unless credited otherwise) were digitised from the IISG | International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and are the courtesy of IHLIA – LGBTI Heritage, whom we thank for safeguarding our IGLYO history! We also thank our Alumni Working Group for their help in retracing IGLYO's history.