The anyway association has been offering queer youth counseling in Cologne since 2020. The city’s draft budget now lacks funds for financing.
There is a protest in front of the town hall in Cologne. A distorted question rattled out of the loudspeakers, which is on everyone’s mind: “Will you promise us that you won’t cancel the anyway youth counseling center?” It was asked by a volunteer from Europe’s first queer youth center, anyway e. V. It has been offering queer youth counseling since 2020. However, the budget for the city of Cologne lacks the funds that finance this position, and it is therefore on the brink of collapse. About 400 people are there on this warm Tuesday evening. Three MPs from the Cologne Council Alliance (Greens/CDU/Volt) are on stage to give answers.
But they find it difficult. “We can promise that we will do everything possible,” says Florian Weber (CDU) and reaps occasional boos. Not enough for the protesters. One hopes that this is a misunderstanding that one can “iron out” and was “horrified” oneself. Cautious applause, the protesters remain skeptical. Because although the counseling option for young people has only existed since 2020, it is very important here. Max-Liam (20) from Cologne tells that im anyway for his advice process to come out as trans played a central role.
“There are so many trans young people who don’t have a place in therapy and can’t expect support from their parents,” he says, “but who need to talk to someone. If this position is eliminated, they will be completely on their own.” The need seems to be there: up to and including August, according to anyway, the counseling center had had 600 counseling contacts this year, reaching a total of around 4,000 young people with open offers and other things.
The news of the lack of funding coincided with the of the death of the trans man Malte, who had been beaten up on the fringes of the CSD in Münster. For many, the demo for anyway in Cologne is the second event that day – after the vigil for Malte on the Domplatte two hours earlier. Many there are stunned by the lack of funding, such as the trans man Johann (23): “That right after such an act and increasingly open transphobia I find it an absolute disgrace that young people are deprived of the opportunity to have safe spaces and create them for others.”
The decision comes as a surprise. The Cologne city government made up of Greens, CDU and Volt had actually recently promised to strengthen the work of anyway. Actually, it’s chronically underfunded anyway, 143,000 euros are missing a year, for bookkeeping, management, all of which is taken care of on a voluntary basis. The negotiations for more money from the city actually looked promising, according to people close to the youth center. The fact that there should now be less money instead of more money is also a surprise for the council alliance.
This is because the draft budget is drawn up in the Cologne administration before the council decides on it. The anyway is not the only one currently affected by massive cuts: In the entire youth sector, more than 900,000 euros are missing. Many political battles will still be fought before the budget can be passed in November. When asked by the taz, Mayor Henriette Reker wrote: “I am grateful to everyone who is in anyway e. V. for the help and advice of queer young people, grateful for their commitment. The anyway e. V. is doing valuable work in the queer community in Cologne.”
But she does not comment specifically on the future of the advice center. “I’m sure that a satisfactory solution for the anyway will be found within the framework of the political consultation on the budget,” writes Sven Lehmann, the federal government’s queer commissioner.
The three MPs who are taking part in the protest are also trying to convey this cautiously positive mood. “We can’t promise you anything, but you can measure us against our alliance agreement,” says Manuel Jeschka (Volt). And the alliance agreement states that the queer youth center will be strengthened anyway. The applause of the protesters is polite, but one is not really convinced here.