Emilia Zenzile Roig on Berlin, her truest self & advocating for equality.

Emilia Zenzile Roig on Berlin, her truest self & advocating for equality.

Emilia Zenzile Roig found her truest self in Berlin. Thanks to the city’s open culture, she continues to combat intersecting forms of inequality in Europe.

“Intersectionality is what enables me to look at injustice in its depth and complexity – and to see what needs to be changed in order to stop it.” says activist, author and political scientist, Emilia Zenzile Roig.

As director of the Center for Intersectional Justice (CIJ) in Berlin since 2017, her commitment to solidarity, equality and fighting against prejudices continues to shape her goals to advance intersectional social justice. Exposing the discrimination that one can unwittingly face in their daily life. The CIJ, a non-profit organisation engages in advocacy and policy-oriented research in support of increased inclusivity and by way of addressing structural inequalities across Europe.

Emilia Zenzile Roig by Philomena Wolflingseder.
Emilia Zenzile Roig by Philomena Wolflingseder.

Her own experiences too sculpt her experiences. Coming from a transracial Algerian-Jewish-Martinican family in France and having lived in Berlin for over 16 years now she says, “What impacts me here [Berlin] is the unprocessed collective trauma. I wish for more lightness and less negativity.”

IMAGO / aal.photo | Demonstration on International Women's Day in Munich, Germany. March, 2022.
IMAGO / aal.photo | Demonstration on International Women's Day. March, 2022.
IMAGO / Jochen Eckel
IMAGO / Jochen Eckel | Christopher Street Day Berlin 2022 with the motto United in love, against hate, war and discrimination. 23 July, 2022.
IMAGO / Emmanuele Contini
IMAGO / Emmanuele Contini | People take to the streets of Berlin for this year's Christopher Street Day demonstration under the slogan United in Love in Berlin. 23 July, 2022.

With Berlin having welcomed her with such unwavering nature – she came to find her true self in a city she made her home. Feeling too the love hate relationship of the city that many, if not all Berliners feel at some stage, her active part within the queer communities is what left a lasting impression. “Berlin is the place where my queer awakening took place and where my true self could gradually unfold. Berlin is my home but whiteness often feels overbearing, which sometimes makes me feel like an outsider.”

Driven by this dilemma, Roig continued her research into ways to change the existing systemic oppression, aiming to inspire society through her background: “I came here because there is unresolved transgenerational trauma I need to confront. And this trauma is directly linked with systems of injustice, with racism, antisemitism and patriarchy.”

We sat down to talk to Emilia more about her story and what Berlin and LGBTQ mean to her personally.

IMAGO / Müller-Stauffenberg | Berlin Christopher Street Day parade. July, 2021.
IMAGO / Müller-Stauffenberg | Berlin Christopher Street Day parade. July, 2021.

In your own words, what does intersectionality mean to you? 

Intersectionality is what enables me to look at injustice in its depth and complexity – and to see what needs to be changed in order to stop it. 

How have you experienced the LGBTQI+ community here in Berlin? What is your relationship with the city?

Berlin is the place where my queer awakening took place and where my true self could gradually unfold. Berlin is my home but whiteness often feels overbearing, which sometimes makes me feel like an outsider.

IMAGO / Jochen Eckel
IMAGO / Jochen Eckel | Christopher Street Day Berlin 2022 with the motto United in love, against hate, war and discrimination. 23 July, 2022.
IMAGO / VWPics | A demonstrator marches during transgender community pride parade in Bogota, Colombia. July 15, 2022.
IMAGO / VWPics | A demonstrator marches during transgender community pride parade in Bogota, Colombia. July 15, 2022.
IMAGO / aal.photo / Alexander Pohl | Protest for queer visibility for women, non-binaries and trans-people and against sexism. June, 2022.
IMAGO / aal.photo / Alexander Pohl | Protest for queer visibility for women, non-binaries and trans-people and against sexism. June, 2022.

Have you experienced something in Berlin, positive or negative, that has left a lasting impression or that has perhaps impacted you?

What impacts me here is the unprocessed collective trauma. I wish for more lightness and less negativity. 

Your mission to achieve Intersectional Justice for all is a healing treatment for society. What about Berlin lends itself to your mission? What elements of this city are most significant in your mission?

I came here because there is unresolved transgenerational trauma I need to confront. And this trauma is directly linked with systems of injustice, with racism, antisemitism and patriarchy.

IMAGO / Le Pictorium / Nicolas Landemard | Several thousand demonstrators gather in Belgian captial to celebrate Women's Rights Day. March, 2022.
IMAGO / Le Pictorium / Nicolas Landemard | Several thousand demonstrators gather in Belgian captial to celebrate Women's Rights Day. March, 2022.
IMAGO / aal.photo / Alexander Pohl | Protest for queer visibility for women, non-binaries and trans-people and against sexism in Germany. June, 2022.
IMAGO / aal.photo / Alexander Pohl | Protest for queer visibility for women, non-binaries and trans-people and against sexism in Germany. June, 2022.
Written by coluimnist, Esin Karakaş for our Diasporas & Dichotomy series.
IMAGO / NurPhoto / Artur Widak | Activists Stand In Solidarity Of US Abortion Rights Activists in Canada. May, 2022.
IMAGO / NurPhoto / Artur Widak | Activists Stand In Solidarity Of US Abortion Rights Activists in Canada. May, 2022.

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