A cooperative effort between the mdw and QueerBase is providing people who were forced to flee their home countries due to their sexuality or gender identity with music therapy offerings.
How It All Began
For those who study music therapy at the mdw, applied work is a feature of everyday academic life. Students immerse themselves in diverse fields of clinical work over the course of their studies—meaning that they independently engage in music therapy work together with clients while receiving support from supervisors. They also have the opportunity to seek out their own internship positions outside of the established range of options, and it is within this context that our cooperation arose.
It was clear to us right from the start that we also wanted to pursue work outside of the protected, pre-structured internship options. And although the mdw has been paying more and more attention to diversity-related themes in recent years, we—as queer-identifying students—had lots of experiences and questions for which it proved difficult to find space. It was thus that, in February of last year, we hit upon the idea of establishing contact with QueerBase.
QueerBase is a community centre for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer individuals that provides supportive advising to people who fled to Austria due to their sexuality or gender identity.
In our practical work with them, themes of which we’d previously had only a subjective inkling—and that receive too little space in our standard training—were revealed to us in all of their existential reality.
What Music Therapy Can Be in this Context
We frequently asked ourselves what it can or must mean to adapt our music therapy offerings to this special context. One objective here might be to employ active interventions in order to support clients’ self-esteem, self-images, and expressions of gender identity, also reinforcing their feelings of control over their own actions and celebrating diversity. On the musical level, this can be accomplished by doing things like rendering components of identity as sound, free improvisation, or listening to a single note in order to arrive in the here and now: such interventions come in a multitude of shapes, colours, and facets.
In a context where multiple categories of discrimination converge, we found that the most important requirement for us was to ensure the mutual establishment and experience of a safe(r) space. A safe(r) space aims to be as free of discrimination as possible, which requires that all individuals present be sensitised to differing and intersectional experiences of discrimination and reflect on their own social privileges. Ways in which we work on developing such an attitude include the exploration of gender studies topics as well as intersectional, queer, and antiracist approaches, thereafter allowing these experiences and discussions to flow back into our own training.
What this Work Means to Us
Working in a place where we can be authentic with no limits, a place we can go to without facing the daily question of how much conformity we must/should/can bring to the table today, is an experience that we find unbelievably liberating.
It follows that this project, which started out quite small, has since grown dear to us as a long-term cooperative effort. And we’re happy to be among those helping to make the mdw a more diverse place—a place where we hope there will be lots more initiatives that allow queer perspectives to find a home in every curriculum.