Levan Berianidze

From early childhood there was something (an inner voice maybe) telling me that things happening around me were unjust. Even though I wasn’t aware of any theories at that time I would still feel that the way girls, or religious minorities were made fun of was inappropriate and so on and so forth. When I was 20, I was exposed via Facebook to discussions on social networks. I started going to public events; I met likeminded people. During an internship at one of the LGBTQI organisations in Georgia I learned more about the community and become more political. I decided I wanted to dedicate my life to fighting for equality and human rights.

Equality Movement works on HIV prevention, empowering the community and advocacy for better representation of LGBTQI human rights. We provide free lubricants and condoms, educational workshops, legal, social worker and psychological services to community members. We work with decision makers and other civil society organisations to improve law and policy. We conduct public awareness activities, such as campaigns and demonstrations. I am also a member of the Horoom organising group for the largest queer party series in Georgia. From time to time it may feel overwhelming but I do love the fact that so many people know me, trust me and approach me when they need support.

Our biggest challenge currently is violence against LGBTQI persons. Hate crimes and discrimination are widespread and many cases remain unreported. The police are not trusted among the community. We try to monitor every case and support victims to push the state to investigate cases and punish perpetrators. Another challenge we face is Russian homophobic, anti-western propaganda. Countering it is quite hard as conservative groups, the church and certain media outlets have huge funding and are very well mobilised. We have to develop our language and communication channels much more in order to win over this propaganda.

When I compare today’s situation to the situation two to three years ago, and I see that our work has actually resulted in positive change, I feel we are doing the right thing. I have seen how Horoom has been building the community and more and more people are coming out and getting engaged in activism. Equality Movement has been covering more and more people with services, helping many homeless queers to get housing and jobs, and changing social views with our campaigns. Georgia is one of the most homophobic countries in the world with more than 90 per cent of the population saying that they do not want to have a homosexual neighbour. But I see it is changing as more visibility is achieved. When LGBTQI people can live happier lives, I will feel that the process has become permanent.