Today, IDAHOT (the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia) is celebrated worldwide – including, believe it or not, in Lithuanian parliament.
An amazing new photography exhibit showing LGBTI locals has gone on display in the official Vilnius’ Seimas Gallery.
The photographs have been shot by pansexual photographer Samanta Matuizaitė (ARCANA FEMINA). The project’s co-initiator is gay author and filmmaker Romas Zabarauskas [pictured below].
The shots are taken from the book ‘Lithuania Comes Out: 99 LGBT+ Stories.’
Romas told Gay Star News: ‘I feel proud of how Lithuania celebrates IDAHOT this year. It might be symbolic steps, but sometimes symbols can feel important and powerful. Our LGBT exhibition at the Parliament is exactly such a case, I believe.
‘While we still need to pass progressive marriage laws, trans legislation, correct our educational system and protection of minors laws, I feel happy today for all of those who live open and proud lives and contribute to much needed public discourse on equality.’
He added: ‘Lithuania isn’t Russia – people don’t disappear in our country for speaking their mind, protesting or being otherwise active. I’m confident our politicians will make the right decisions, and hope that it comes fast!’
‘These people differ in their professions and circumstances,’ said an organizer of the people in the photos. ‘But they are united by their wish to lead an open and dignified life.’
Lithuania, which borders Russia, Latvia and Poland, is not known for its LGBTI-friendly credentials. As such, the parliament’s cooperation in putting on the exhibition will come as a surprise to some.
Although it’s legal to be gay in the Northeastern European country, there is no same-sex marriage. Also, there are only a few discriminatory protections for LGBTIs. The country is home to under 3 million people.
Aušrinė Armonaitė, a Liberal MP [pictured below] also initiated the exhibition. She argues that Parliament must become a place where a wide variety of societal groups are represented. She furthermore adds that this exhibit is a useful tool for that aim.
Armonaitė and fellow Liberal MP Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen used the opportunity to reveal hopes to introduce a new gender-neutral partnership bill within the next month. Such bills have been rejected in the past, but the exhibit could help drum up support.
Armonaitė told Gay Star News: ‘We are about to register a new bill on civil partnerships that would allow both straight and same-sex couples to register a partnership in Lithuania. We are going to present to the public the bill on Monday, as well as seeking for the most possible support in parliament, regardless the political affiliations. I hope we will introduce the law in the plenary in a few weeks.’
She added: ’I hope the exhibition will encourage Members of Parliament and the general public to hear the concerns of the LGBT+ community, including widespread bullying, the absence of the institute of same-sex partnerships, as well as the many discriminatory initiatives that have been tabled in Parliament for so many years.’
There are 21 portraits in the exhibit in total. Subjects include Rimvydas Baltaduonis, Chairman of the Lithuanian World Community Commission and spouses Auris Jarašūnas (Lithuanian) and Robbie Sutton (American), married in the US.
Also pictured are Neringa Dangvydė, a specialist of children’s literature and Oskaras Česynas, a young trans man who has recently re-emigrated to Lithuania.
Elsewhere, Vilnius Town Hall was lit up in rainbow colors in a show of solidarity with LGBTI issues.
We’re booking a trip to Lithuania as we speak. See you there!