LGBT in Lithuania: Voices of Invisible Humans
Intolerance, harassment and bullying. Urtė is only 17, but she has to carry on the weight of discrimination at school on her shoulders. Matas would have liked to get more support in his family. Božena thinks that villages are in a worse shape than cities. Because Urtė, Matas and Božena are LGBT, they will experience far more difficulties in their daily lives. This investigation gives an insight in the lives of LGBT-people in Lithuania.
A voice to the voiceless
“In Kaunas I was living with my grandmother. She was abusive to me and I got bullied all the time. I have an anger management problem, so I moved with my mother in Anykčšiai. In Anykčšiai I experienced who I am”. (Matas, 18 years old, from Anykščiai)
Accurate information barely exists and many LGBT-people become victim of bullying and intolerance. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the problems related to sexual orientation and gender identity issues.
Starting from the family, the Eurobarometer survey ‘’Discrimination in the EU in 2015’’ shows that in Lithuania, only 13% of the respondents would feel comfortable in having a son or a daughter in a relationship with a same sex person, while 79% of the respondents would feel totally uncomfortable.
These young Lithuanian LGBT-persons tell how many steps in Lithuania are needed to be taken to end LGBT discrimination.
“One time our teacher gave us a text about gender identity and homosexuality. The whole class, except my few friends and I, were against LGBT-people. After that lesson I went home and I cried. I didn’t know who to talk to.” (Urtė, 17 years old, from Šilutė)
Discrimination against LGBT-people is widespread in schools. Often teachers are the initiators of intolerant behavior. The survey “Homofobinės patyčios mokyklose – išplitusios ir menkai pažįstamos”, spread in November 2015, shows that 68% of the students have witnessed homophobic bullying in their schools, while 40% of the students said that homophobic bullying was initiated by their teacher.
LGBT couples often avoid to show affection in public, like kissing or holding hands. According to the Eurobarometer survey ‘’Discrimination in the EU in 2015’’, only 14% of the people in Lithuania would feel comfortable in seeing a same sex couple showing affection in public. Lithuania is also the European country with the highest rate of people (44%) who would not feel comfortable with the idea of working with a gay, lesbian or bisexual colleague. This is why most of the LGBT people prefer to hide their sexual orientation at work and in public places, out of fear for being threatened or discriminated.
This phenomenon is even more visible in rural areas. ”Villages are on a very big degradation where people are drinking a lot. If a person would like to talk about his sexual identity, nobody would understand him.” (Božena, 22 years old, from Vilnius)
Speaking English is a gift
“All my life I’ve been looking for information by myself. I realised that I wouldn’t find anything useful in Lithuania. It’s actually a gift for me that I know English that well, because I can find more reasonable information in English, from American sources or anywhere else in the world.” (Martynas, 19 years old, from Šilutė)
The lack of information makes the Lithuanian society very close-minded and not ready to accept sexual minorities. The European LGBT-survey, conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in 2012, shows that 61% of the interviewed people in Lithuania felt discriminated or harassed because of their sexual orientation.
40% of the respondents say that casual jokes in everyday life about LGBT-people are very widespread and 93% says that an offensive language is fairly or very widespread amongst politicians.
From taboo to open-mindedness
“If you see two girls holding hands, or kissing, it’s ok, but if you see two guys doing the same it’s like: ‘oh my God, gays! Children, don’t look at it!” (Božena, 22 years old, from Vilnius)
Lesbians are more tolerated than gays in Lithuania. According to the survey “Homofobinės patyčios mokyklose – išplitusios ir menkai pažįstamos”, men are labeled twice more often than girls (72% versus 30%).
Thanks to activists and organisations who are continuously fighting for LGBT-rights, the situation is moving forward. However, the education at school where the topic is still taboo, could give a meaningful acceleration in the process to open the mind of society.
This multimedia product has been made by Justine Maye and Oriana Sipala, during their European Voluntary Service in the National Institute for Social Integration. Therefore, it is an outcome of the project “Public communication tools”, funded by Erasmus+ programme.
Many thanks to:
- Gintarė, Božena, Indrė, Urtė, Martynas, Lukas, Elvinas, Matas, for the interviews they have released us.
- Jūratė Juškaitė, from Tolerantiško jaunimo asociacija, for giving us the possibility to get in touch with them.