Three brave LGBTI Mongolians declared their sexual orientation or gender identity and asked members of the public for a hug.
The LGBT Centre Mongolia organised the social experiment in the capital Ulaanbaatar to mark Human Rights Day.
One of the organizers, Jack Ganbaatar, said the center wanted to raise the LGBTI community’s visibility.
‘There are only a few brave LGBTI activists and trans figures that are out and proud, and raising awareness in Mongolian society’ he told Gay Star News.
One gay man, one lesbian, and one trans man took part in the activity. They each stood with a sign stating their gender identity or sexuality at a busy intersection for 30 minutes.
Homosexuality is legal in Mongolia and the country’s Criminal Code theoretically protects the LGBTI community from discrimination.
But, conservative attitudes mean most people remain in the closet.
‘We were nervous about how the society would respond’, Ganbaatar told Gay Star News.
Ganbaatar said people’s reactions were ‘mixed’. Over the hour and a half, there were 30 hugs in total.
The online video also evoked diverse reactions.
There were many negative comments including death threats, according to Ganbaatar. But, some netizens also came out as allies for LGBTI people.
On the day, however, public reaction to the different community members was surprising, Ganbaatar said.
‘Mongolians were less tolerant towards the gay man compared to the lesbian woman and trans person’ he told Gay Star News.
What’s more, he also said the experiment revealed some misconceptions about transgender people in Mongolia.
The general public assumed the trans man was a trans woman. Trans women are the most visible members of the LGBTI community, Ganbaatar explained.
Life for LGBTI people in Mongolia
Mongolia is leading the way for LGBTI rights legislation in East Asia. The country’s Criminal Code protects LGBTI people from discrimination based on gender identity or sexuality.
It is also relatively easy for trans people to change gender on official documents.
But, according to Ganbaatar, the reality for LGBTI Mongolians is still harsh.
Police do not take hate crimes against LGBTI people seriously. Attacks, therefore, often go unpunished, he said.
Media and politicians often ridicule the community. There are not many out LGBTI personalities in the country.
‘The community is living in fear and most likely to stay closeted’ he said.