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Match: A new meeting place for Brussels' LGBT women
Like a lot of European cities, Brussels has a ton of gay bars but zero lesbian bars. It’s why Britt Mosselmans and Chiara Christoffersen launched Match Belgium, a new non-profit that puts on trilingual networking events and parties for queer women and their friends.
With their events, Mosselmans (29) and Christoffersen (25) want to offer queer women a space to make connections, to kick back and, most importantly, to escape the fear of judgment that can come with being in straight spaces.
“Maybe you’re an LGBT woman and you don’t feel comfortable talking to other women at networking events because you’re scared they’ll judge you,” Christoffersen explains. “We offer an environment where you can actually feel safe and free to talk to anybody, where you can hang out with people like you who understand you.”
Mosselmans adds that lesbian women have to think about things that straight women don’t while chatting up a potential investor, client or business partner. “If you don’t look super feminine for instance you might get judged differently than a stereotypically feminine woman,” she explains.
At the Match Belgium events, guests won’t have to worry about all of that. Women and non-binary people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex (LGBTQI) are welcome, as are their friends. There’s only one rule as far as the two founders are concerned: Everyone has to be nice to each other.
Since launching last year, the two friends have organised a handful events at different venues in Brussels that have managed to draw expats as well as French-language and Dutch-language locals. Vanhaverbeke is a native French speaker, Mosselmans a native Dutch speaker and they met at a lesbian party at Beursschouwburg in 2018.
During each afterwork event, two female speakers are also invited on stage to give inspiring, TED-style talks. Speakers have included a leadership coach, a fashion entrepreneur, a researcher who specialises in discrimination against transgender people, and the founder of an eco-friendly touring company.
Mosselmans, an entrepreneur, and Christoffersen, a student in fashion management, are determined to show that networking doesn’t have to be corporate, soulless affair that comes to mind for most people. “We want to stimulate women to network in a friendly and kind way – not the formal way,” Mosselmans explains. “Networking and having fun can go together.”
More than anything though, they want to spotlight and support women in the workplace, and LGBTQI women especially. “To be able to feel empowered, to feel inspired and to feel ‘normal’, we need more role models, especially in Belgium,” Mosselmans says, adding that she’s gone online multiple times to try to find lesbian business women in Flanders who are out – unsuccessfully so. “There aren’t enough role models. And if there’s no visibility of these types of women in business or in other areas of life, you don’t actually feel real.”
And although the Match afterwork events and parties have stayed away from politics because of their deliberate focus on business and pleasure, Christoffersen says that unapologetically taken up space as queer women is a radical political act in itself. “Organising an event for mainly queer women is in a way saying: ‘We exist, we also want to have fun and we’re here.’”
Check Match Belgium’s Facebook page for details of upcoming events.