The leading manager of this project Ksenia CHAIKA found out about the problem of public perception of members of the LGBT community from her friends. Since 2006, when she lived in Kryvy Rih, she organized private parties for gay people. In her opinion, such problems are perceived in a more acute and conservative way in an industrial city. According to her, there is a little more progress in this regard in Donetsk. However, even here this topic is often viewed as alien and unnatural.
The Day spoke with Ksenia about the idea of the “Voices of LGBT” project and its goals.
“It is a very topical issue. I simply do not understand why this topic is not widely discussed, why mass media are silent about it,” said Ksenia CHAIKA. “In fact, only NGOs, that operate for human rights protection, work with this issue. There are many people who want to open themselves and tell others about themselves. However, there are still many of those who are afraid to do so. They have always lived in an atmosphere of constant hatred coming from society and opening oneself in such situation would mean putting their safety at risk. This feeling is especially common about people over 30, who have career and families – in this case they have something to lose. This is actually a very big personal drama.
“Recently I came to the organization ‘Donetsk Institute of Information,’ which, in fact, initiated the project ‘Voices of LGBT.’ The program was created with the support of the US Embassy in Ukraine and the news agency ‘News of Donbas.’ The goal of the project is showing the life of the LGBT community as an integral part of society. We plan to form loyal attitude towards LGBT people. We understand that it is a difficult task and that the situation won’t change overnight. But we are willing to work at it – talk to people, share the information coming firsthand from the LGBT people. We will also spread information about NGOs that deal with this issue.”
The first “voice” of the project was the voice of a 20-year-old girl, representative of LGBT. She is very young, aren’t you afraid that people might not believe her?
“This girl is very purposeful and, indeed, for her age she has achieved already a lot. I think that when a person is self-conscious at the age of 20, s/he will be just as self-conscious at the age of 40. There are people who at the age of 30 or even 40 act like teenagers, being not fully aware of what they are doing. This girl has a clear understanding of what she wants and where she is going.
“Our next hero is a man. He will speak about how society reacts to him, about beatings from police, and so on. There are many examples like that. But there are people who want to face the problem and deal with it. And there are those, who just feel discriminated and, thus, lose their heart. I hear such stories quite often.”
Does it mean that people sometimes feel the “burden” of the choice they made?
“Absolutely. Mass media show an image of a homosexual person in negative terms, speaking about AIDS and perversion. That’s why the LGBT representatives may develop internal homophobia that constitutes itself as dislike (hatred) to those similar to them and themselves. It’s an old stereotype that a gay person is necessarily an AIDS carrier and a pervert. But this is not true. I would like to refute this in our programs. There is official statistics that says otherwise. Often heterosexuals are HIV and AIDS carriers. Perversion is not when a guy likes a guy or when a girl likes a girl. Why aren’t we talking about pedophiles, zoophiles, but always tell scary stories about homosexuals?”
How acute is this problem in Donetsk? It is believed that Donetsk is a rather conservative city. Aren’t you afraid to create your program here?
“The smaller and the more industrial a city is, the more conservative and categorical it is. It is also a problem of age and education, young people are more tolerant than the older generation.”
Before the law banning gay propaganda was passed in Russia and caused much hype, the TV channel Dozhd and the Dziadko brothers made a program with a girl – LGBT representative. The girl then noted that many members of this community are willing to come out and fight for their rights, but only if there will be their own Harvey Milk, while they don’t want to become one themselves because they are afraid. Can you say that the situation in Ukraine is similar and the LGBT community is waiting for its Ukrainian Harvey Milk, who would defend their rights and would fight for their interests?
“As for us, I honestly did not expect that so many people would agree to talk about themselves and their lives. I was sure that it would be more difficult.
“What concerns the situation in Ukraine and Russia, there is much more freedom in that respect here in Ukraine. But if a similar law would be passed here, the situation might turn into catastrophic – people would massively immigrate abroad. And those, who would not be able to leave, unfortunately, often would risk committing a suicide because of public non-admittance.”