I first looked up organisations working on LGBT issues in Georgia in 2009, when I came to terms with my own sexuality. At that time the two organizations – Inclusive Foundation and Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group were working together to mobilise the LGBT community, provide some basic services and raise awareness about gender and sexuality. I think that once I came out to my family and realised that I am in a privileged situation because they accepted my being a lesbian, I decided that I could do something more. I started engaging with everything I could from translating articles, to helping organise community meetings. One of the biggest reasons for my getting involved in activism were the people I met, the sense of community and belonging I had with them. WISG is a feminist organisation working primarily on the empowerment of lesbians, bisexual women and transgender people. The organisation also works on advocacy, providing analysis of the laws and practices and lobbying improvements both locally and internationally.
Georgia is a complicated country. We have achieved much progress when it comes to laws and policies guaranteeing protection for different social groups, but implementation is lacking. The obstacle here is worsening public opinion and political manipulation of LGBT issues: a tactic that our politicians clearly inherited from the Communist Party. A clear example of this is the limitation of our freedom of assembly, a constitutional right guaranteed to everyone, but violated when it comes to peaceful demonstrations that the LGBT community attempts to hold on May 17 every year.
Through the years, anger caused by the injustice and hatred that we experience kept me going. Anger for me is not a destructive force; it is a constructive drive that helps me not fall apart. This, however, comes at the expense of increased anxiety and faster emotional burn out, which I am currently experiencing. Generally, I draw inspiration from women human rights defenders all over the world, their courage and resilience. Also, since I came out publicly, I started receiving messages from community members saying that they appreciate what I’m doing, seeing that being a lesbian does not mean being miserable. That is definitely a huge source of inspiration.
The LGBT movement in Georgia is 11 years old and it has been driven by an institutionalised NGO sector, which has its benefits when it comes to lobbying and advocacy, but is driving activists further from community empowerment and mobilisation. Recently there are more grassroots groups and many more strong individuals in the movement. We’ve had a hard time reconciling the variety of different positions in order to shape an overarching agenda. I really hope that through allowing more time for discussion we will be able to achieve that goal. It would make our movement more proactive in the long run.