We are a group of EVS volunteers working for the Infinite Opportunities Association Ngo in Sofia, Bulgaria. We are part of a European campaign focused on the protection of human rights and the spreading of European values on the internet. This is our blog. Here you can find information about our experience in Bulgaria and other interesting news connected to the on-line tolerance platform. Sharing is Caring!
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Collecting words against discrimination. Lea.
Between December and
May 2013, more than one million people from all over the world had
the same thought: coming to Bulgaria on holidays. Most of them were
Balkan neighbors, coming from Greece, Macedonia, Rumania and Turkey,
but in the statistics you can find cameras and passports from the
five continents. Regarding their motivations, some of them came to
Bulgaria looking for the wild nature of the country, historical
places -Thracian, Roman or Ottoman ruins scattered throughout the
territory-, cheap party and beers, winter sports... and among them
and others, there were those who came to Bulgaria looking for all
these things combined with Gay facilities. As it has been reported by
one of the most important national newspapers 24
has become a hit for gay tourism”. Specialized gay tours and
agencies are emerging, offering one product which entails not only
the most common cultural, historical or sportive attractions, but
also the possibility of getting involved in the Bulgarian gay
environment. From bars to hotels,
restaurants, spas, saunas, information about groups and associations,
sex shops, lists of websites of LGBT organizations... Gay
Bulgaria is one of these new companies. Recently established, its
intentions are to “uncover
the hidden beauty of our country in front of gay tourists (…)
proving that Bulgaria is where anyone can have their perfect holiday,
regardless of race, age or sexual orientation”. Talking about this
topic and some others Lea, 27 years old, tourist in Sofia and
volunteer at the LGBT Association Dundalk Outcomers, in Ireland. She
considers Bulgaria as a really interesting destination for gay
tourism, although she declares not having found any kind of gays
facilities during her trip.
When I ask her if she sees herself as a LGBT activist she replies she
is just learning and looking for answers. This is part of the
conversation we had during a Training Course in Plovdiv.
didn't become gay, I was born gay. It is something you feel inside,
you enjoy more girls' company than boys' one. The first time I heard
the word “gay” I was a child and it was used as an insult. Some
boys were pointing at other boy, laughing at him and repeating: "You
are gay, you are gay". I was in college when I realized I am
gay. I was studying bookbinding, my profession, and during one of the
sessions we discussed the topic: “Being different”. Our teacher
asked us to choose between being deaf, blind, handicapped or gay.
Imagine. I chose being gay, just to see what happened. He explained
us what it might feel like being different in this ways. That day I
understood how difficult it will be for me. Being
gay is a continuous fight. First, you have to fight with yourself and
then with the society.
How long have you been working with Dundalk Outcomers association
and which activities are you carrying out?
have been a volunteer for this association for three years, helping
them to organize different events related to LBGT community. The
main goal of Dundalk Outcomers is to provide support and empower the
Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Community.
We provide personal support, information on physical, mental and
sexual health, and we have the "National LGBT Helpline". A
line where everybody can call and express their feelings and
situation. We are receiving a lot of calls from young people on a
daily basis. All of them scared, with a lot of doubts, asking us if
we think he/she is gay, and in that case, what can they do. We
usually recommend them to visit us and have a talk. Our “Gaydar”,
that’s how our sixth sense is called (gay + radar = Gaydar), always
help us recognize if the person is gay or not. That is why for me is
so funny when I hear a straight boy, after being in a gay club,
telling how everybody was looking at him and trying to flirt with
him. I'm always wondering: “Don't you realize that your version is
completely wrong? They are looking at you like this, because they
know you are straight (not being gay), and some of them are surprised
to see you in a gay bar“.
How do you feel, and how are you experiencing LGBT community
situation in Bulgaria?
spent the whole Sunday in Sofia. I couldn't find a gay bar, the less
so LGBT flag. It was difficult. I asked some people in the street but
nobody knew where these bars are. The only chance how to find these
bars was, to have the exact address. I was also really surprised when
I arrived there and there wasn't any gay flag on the door, nor a
little one that could tell me: “Yes you are right, you are here”.
I can understand that Bulgarian LBGT community can be scared to show
up in public, but the fight for rights must start somewhere.
Also, I would like to highlight the economic repercussion of this
lack of information and gay flags. Can you imagine how many tourists
come to Sofia every year looking for gay facilities? It seems like
these bars don't want to earn more money. Sofia is really a beautiful
city. It’s also cheap here for people from Ireland, France,
England, Germany, etc. A
lot of LGBT tourists are coming to Bulgaria to enjoy their holidays
and it can be very disappointing if you can't find any gay bar.
really recommend to all these bars to put a gay flag on their doors.
small ones, or just a sign: "Gay friendly". Rainbow flags
How was the feedback you received from the people you asked where
these bars were? L:
was walking around Sofia with my backpack wrapped into my gay flag. I
wanted to see how people react,
if they would recognize the flag, if they would tell me something...
There was not any bad reaction, I just got the attention. I also
think that some people couldn't recognize the gay flag. Afterwards,
some people from this Training Course told me that I was lucky,
because somebody could recognise the gay flag and insult me.
Apparently, it usually happens here, in Bulgaria.
Why do you think some people don't
Firstly, I think it’s a matter of education. In general, the
first time you hear the word “gay” it’s used as an insult, not
as a word for person who likes the same sex.
Your family tells you that gay people are sick. Every time I talk to
someone about this, especially guys, they say: “Oh my god, I can't
imagine being with a boy”, and I always reply that is not about
YOU, is not about YOUR feelings, is about people who can imagine it,
and of course, like it. Why people tend to personalize?
In your opinion, does discrimination exist in between LGBT community?
will not believe, but yes, it exists. Some of the gay clubs don’t
allow you to walk in because you are lesbian/woman. Also, most of the
magazines are for gay guys. The
hierarchy in our gay world would be: first gay guys, then lesbians,
and in the last place transgender and transsexuals.
Do you consider yourself as a LGBT activist?
really Carmen...I am still learning and looking for answers.