1 / 14
Teimuraz Sabanashvili, 28, independent LGBT activist, singer and actor. HIV positive.
"The law that Georgia plans to adopt says that marriage is the relationship between a man and a woman. This is absolutely a discriminatory law. If the constitution says that everyone is equal, where are my rights as an LGBT person?"
2 / 14
Elia Amisulashvili, 27, Tbilisi City blogger.
"Georgian society is aggressive towards transgenders. Over the last few years in Georgia several transgender girls have been killed in their home. They are experiencing stigma and discrimination. The majority of the heterosexual males won't admit that they are friends with gay males. The Church also is against gay people. They consider homosexuality as a sin and illness."
3 / 14
Giorgi Kikonishvili, 29, LGBT activist, co-founder of Muzame and columnist at netgazeti.ge.
"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 internet and social media, we have to built up our self-consciousness."
4 / 14
Giorgi Qistauri, 20, transvestite, famous activist and artist.
"As an LGBT person here, you are always in danger. We can't show ourselves in public, over the streets. I can't take public transports with this make-up. I really would love to go out as a normal person but the risks are too much at this time."
5 / 14
Bart, 44, transgender and LGBT activist at the Equality Movement.
"In Georgia there is no mechanism about changing sex. Government asks for the sterilization of these people and to have a surgery. Then they change your sex in passport. But I know three cases about sex changing that were denied recently. There isn't a specific law. I tried suicide on 27 August and they didn’t let my partner visiting me because he is not considered as a member of my family. This issue needs to be resolved."
6 / 14
Stas, 27. He wants to mantain his real identity unknown.
"Most of all the accounts and pages of local LGBT in networks are closed to the public. It’s all for security and safety. To attend the Horoom party you have to apply first, you should bring your passport and you should keep your Facebook page open to let the administration check who you are. For my first time, I was aware about some terror attack. Maybe, it was just my imagination."
7 / 14
Natia Gvianishvili, 31, activist and administrator at Women's Initiatives Supporting Group.
"In 2013, we tried to organize a great public manifestation for celebrating IDAHO. We co-operated with the government but members of the Orthodox Parents’ Union and the Georgian Orthodox Church physically assaulted us. We were one or two hundreds. They were twenty thousands. Police evacuated us. We risked our lives. No one was punished for that."
8 / 14
Giorgi Tsotskolauri, 30, LGBT activist, graphic designer and co-founder of Muzame.
"I grew up in one of the most homophobic neighbourhoods of Tbilisi. Now I have more self-confidence than during my childhood. I feel free to express love in public places and anyone knows that I am gay, also at work. But the main problem here is the society, I have a lot of friends who are afraid about coming out and continue to hide themselves."
9 / 14
Gocha Gabodze, 27, blogger and public relations manager.
"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 everyday. You have to assert everyday 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."
10 / 14
Rusa Jijelava, 23, blogger and activist.
"I realized that there is a problem not only in the traditional part of society but inside of our community too. Realizing that even some community members are quite homophobic towards each other was a shock for me. After what happened in my last relationship, I decided to become an activist and fighter."
11 / 14
Iraki, 27. He wants to mantain his real identity unknown.
"I feel that church here is really powerful and has a huge influence in society. One of my friend old me that in Batumi there is a priest who always reminds during the Mass that “all gay people are kids of devil and they will go to hell”. After the 2013 collisions the Georgian Orthodox Church proclaimed 17 of May as the “Family Day". Local LGBT people are now afraid to support LGBT Day."
12 / 14
Kako Kvatidze, 21, worker at Bassiani Club’s wardrobe.
"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 neighbour met me at the entrance and threatened me. I returned home and locked myself in the room. 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, with a fight, or an argue."
13 / 14
At the entrance of Kiwi-Café, "Feggels" is written in Russian.
14 / 14
The outskirts of Tbilisi.
Georgian LGBTQ community: life and death under Russian influence
7 May, 2013. A hundred Georgian LGBTQ people marched through Tbilisi’s streets for celebrating the IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia). A crowd of the Orthodox Parents’ Union and the Georgian Orthodox Church’s members (“the counter-demonstrators”) physically assaulted the LGBTQ demonstrators. Police didn’t intervene. The episode can express the condition of the Georgian LGBTQ community: protected by laws and anti-discriminatory measures, but in fact excluded from society and victim of assaults and violence. If we consider the legislative protection of minorities as a way to bring the country closer to the EU, constant and institutional discriminations are traces of the difficult conditions that the Georgian LGBTQ community is facing. Much depends on the influence that Russia still holds on the country. “Georgian society is very conservative and the Orthodox Church, as well as many politicians, still have strong connections with Russia," explains Natia Gvianishvili, lesbian activist and member of Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group. The hate towards LGBTQ community is slowly becoming the main weapon through which Russia is rebuilding its consensus among Georgians. Their country would become "decadence and a temple of homosexuality" if it continued to get closer to the EU. “Russian leadership is manipulating Orthodox values to drive Georgia out of the West," explains Andrey Makarychev, visiting professor at Tartu University. A constantly more homophobic rhetoric, conveyed by pro-Orthodox priests - who are pointing out homosexuals as the "sons of the devil” - and by the increasingly numerous Russian media all over the country, seems to have left an impression on Georgian people. “Church and society are very hostile to us. Today we cannot show ourselves in public. You have to get a taxi for going out and you cannot go around wearing makeup", explains Giorgi Qistauri, one of the most famous Georgian activists and transvestites, who speaks about a life of perpetual danger, under the sphere of influence of Moscow.
© 2017 Emanuele Amighetti