Wednesday, May 17, 2017

On International Day Against Homophobia, Voices from Georgia

Italian documentary photographer Emanuele Amighetti (right) recently had an incredibly powerful photo essay published on the Politico website.

Entitled "In Pictures: Russia Looms Large Over Georgia’s LGBTQ Community," Amighetti's informative and moving collection of images and quotes documents the experiences of a number of LGBTQ people as they live with – and speak out against – the discrimination and mistreatment experienced in the former Soviet republic. In neighboring Chechnya, the situation is even worse, as recent media reports have highlighted.

Writes Amighetti about the situation in Georgia:

Protected – on paper at least – by laws and anti-discriminatory measures, LGBTQ people in Georgia are frequent victims of institutional discrimination and, often, violent physical assault.

Their exclusion from mainstream society, many of them say, can be chalked up to the outsized influence Russia still holds on the country.

. . . Russia has used prejudice against the LGBTQ community as a way to rally support among Georgians, claiming the country is at risk of becoming a “temple of decadence and “homosexuality” if it continues to seek closer ties with the EU, a path that includes enshrining protections for minority groups.

In recent years, the rhetoric of Orthodox priests has become more extreme. It is not uncommon to hear them call gay men “sons of the devil,” and the growing number of Russian media outlets in Georgia have acted as a megaphone for homophobia.


With today being International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, I share a selection of images and quotes from Emanuele Amighetti's powerful photo essay. (NOTE: To view and read Amighetti's "In Pictures: Russia Looms Large Over Georgia’s LGBTQ Community" in its entirety, click here.)

______________________________




The way Russian propaganda influences media and society is still working, especially on the older generations. But I have to believe in the future and next generations. Many people are coming out. Thanks to the internet and social media, we have to build up our self-consciousness.

Giorgi Kikonishvili, 29
LGBTQ activist, co-founder of Muzame magazine
and columnist at netgazeti.ge




In 2013, we tried to organize a great public manifestation for celebrating the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. Our group cooperated with the government but members of the Orthodox Parents’ Union and the Georgian Orthodox Church physically assaulted us. There were 100 to 200 of us. There were 20,000 of them. Police evacuated us. We risked our lives. No one was punished for that.

Natia Gvianishvili, 31
Activist and administrator at Women’s Initiatives Support Group




In Georgia it’s very difficult to accept your own identity and to be accepted by others in society. You have to fight for that every day. You have to assert every day that you are just like everyone else. You feel the pain, love, and worry like them. Your life is not only about sexual desires. You need the happiness that everyone tries to kill.

Gocha Gabodze, 27
Blogger and public relations manager




As an LGBTQ person here, you are always in danger. We can’t show ourselves in public, on the streets. I can’t take public transport with this makeup. I really would love to go out as a normal person but the risks are too high at this time.

Giorgi Qistauri, 20
Transvestite, activist and artist.




When I first came out I was living in my hometown, Poti. The situation was so hard that I had to run away, because of my father, relatives and friends. Once, soon after I came out, I was returning home and my neighbor met me at the entrance and threatened me. I returned home and locked myself inside. It is difficult to be gay here and doesn’t matter if you come out. It is always hard to say that you are gay, lesbian or transgender, because the end could be fatal.

Kako Kvatidze, 21
Worker at Bassiani nightclub




I realized that there is a problem not only in the traditional part of society but also inside of our community. That even some community members are quite homophobic towards each other was a shock for me. Several of my friends knew about my last relationship, but my girlfriend at the time was hiding her orientation in public and from her family. Ultimately, I decided to break up with her and become an activist and fighter.

Rusa Jijelava, 23
Blogger and activist




I feel that the church here is really powerful and has a huge influence on society. One of my friends told me that in Batumi there is a priest who regularly says during Mass that "all gay people are children of the devil and they will go to hell." After the 2013 collisions the Georgian Orthodox Church proclaimed May 17 as Family Day. Local LGBTQ people are now afraid to support LGBTQ Day.

Iraki, 27
(who didn't want to give his real name)



To view and read Emanuele Amighetti's photo essay "In Pictures: Russia Looms Large Over Georgia’s LGBTQ Community" in its entirety, click here.


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Prayer for International Day Against Homophobia
To Be Gay in Iraq is to Be a “Defenseless Target”
Coming Out in Africa and the Middle East
The Scourge of Homophobia in Economically Impoverished Countries
Quote of the Day – March 10, 2014
In Uganda, a “Fearless Voice” for Gay Rights is Brutally Silenced
Sanctuary for Gay Syrians Danny and Aamer
Catholic Theologian: "Heterosexism, Not Homosexuality, is the Problem
The Ashes of Our Martyrs
Liberated to Be Together

Related Off-site Links:
Here’s Why We Still Need an International Day Against LGBTQ Hate – Jeff Taylor (LGBTQ Nation, May 17, 2017).
Gay Chechens Denied US Visas after Attempting to Flee Horrors of Government Crackdown – Clark Mindock (Independent, May 17, 2017).
Chechen Police Are Telling Families to Kill Their Gay Sons – Michaela Morgan (SBS News, May 4, 2017).
40 Gay Men Have Been Rescued From Chechnya's Concentration Camps – Dmitry Lovetsky (Associated Press via Out, May 10, 2017).
Meet the Man Helping Gay Men Escape From ChechnyaHisKind.com, April 28, 2017).


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