Meet 21-year-old Danilas Pavilionis.
Born in Ukmergė, Lithuania, Danilas is now based in, Vilnius, where he lives happily with his girlfriend.
On the surface, the trainee nurse’s life might seem pretty unremarkable. And on the one hand, it is. But on the other, this handsome young man is unusually brave.
Danilas has decided to go public with his trans identity, in the new photo book Friendly Stories – in a country considered one of Europe’s most challenging for LGBTIs.
‘I might have to leave’
It is part of the larger Friendly City maps project in Lithuania, aimed to promote an LGBTI-inclusive and otherwise friendly society.
Here, Danilas kindly shares his Friendly Stories interview and pictures – titled ‘I might have to leave’ – offering a delicate, intimate and surprisingly honest portrait of a lived trans experience in a uniquely challenging environment.
‘I’m currently training to become a nurse, now in the second year of my internship at the hospital.
‘It’s all good, quite cool but just like other times in my life, there can be strange situations.
‘For example, sometimes at work I have to wear a card with my name on it. Last year I tried to get permission to put “Danilas”, because for now I haven’t yet changed the name on my passport… This year, I didn’t bother. I just went with Danilas and no one said anything.
‘People don’t really care. It’s the laws that are bad. Generally people just accept you in the way that you present yourself.
‘In general, Lithuanians are brave to comment, but then don’t really do anything. Sometimes I even like to tease. I was walking in the street and heard two men talking about gay people. “Oh, I hate them so much – if I got hold of one, I’d beat him!” I’m not gay, but nonetheless I went up to them and said: “Well, beat me!”. They just looked at each other and remained silent.
‘When people get to know LGBT+ relatives or friends, they most often change their opinion to a positive one.
‘Openness is the most effective tool in changing society’s point of view – more so than laws. Of course, there are situations in which it’s difficult for someone to come out, but if he or she feels ready, it’s worth doing, because it benefits everyone.
‘It’s tiring to pretend that your boyfriend is really a girlfriend, or that you’re a different gender than you feel.
‘It’s possible to get hormones here, but many endocrinologists don’t know how to deal with transgender people. There is one psychiatrist in Vilnius who writes an adequate diagnosis, but with others it can be very complicated. They might decide you have a different illness and not prescribe what you really need.
‘Sometimes these doctors, especially if they’re not in Vilnius, see a trans person for a first time in their lives – it’s only natural that they don’t know what to do.
‘This is the main issue, and the second is legal documents – the only way to change them is through the courts. Courts are difficult, and stressful. I’m currently in the middle of such a process with the help of Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius from the LGBT+ organisation “LGL”.
‘New ideas from the Lithuanian Parliament will clearly make the life of transgender people even worse and I’m not really that surprised. Of course, it’s total nonsense.
‘What could they possibly know about us, if they have never even met a trans person? They’re inventing these kind of laws only to pretend that they’re actually doing any work.
‘If the new bans are passed, I will have a difficult choice to make. Either, I’ll be that volunteer who tries to contribute even more actively and make changes, or I’ll just leave Lithuania.
‘It’s not that fun to live your whole life with documents that don’t confirm your current name and gender. Let’s say I work as a doctor and my name on the office door doesn’t match the name I use. That would be weird, not only for me personally, but for the patients.’
‘I have a wonderful girlfriend, Paulina. We have been together for a year and a half now. We live together, but we sleep in separate rooms as she has to get up for work two hours later than I do. That’s actually also the secret to our relationship – we both understand that sometimes we need to have space and be alone.
‘Recently my mom met Paulina, although it was all a complete accident. My mom came to look after me as I was sick and she just couldn’t believe I could take care of myself.
‘I told her not to come, but she did. Paulina came back from work and was very surprised to see my mom in the corridor. I told my mom “Please don’t scare my sweet Pauli!” So yes, that was unexpected, but it all worked out well.
‘My mom now won’t stop telling me that I should be a good boyfriend to Paulina, because otherwise she won’t cook for me… To be honest I try to cook more for myself these days as Paulina recently gave me an ultimatum – either I contribute more to making food, or the relationship is over. I had to step up on gender equality regarding this question.
‘I haven’t met Paulina’s parents yet, but I think I will soon.’
‘I was born in Ukmergė, a small town in Lithuania. I came to Vilnius when I was 19, now I’m 21. I love Vilnius! There are more opportunities for work, studies and leisure activities.
‘Sometimes I work as an extra on movie sets and once I worked for two days on a blockbuster Lithuanian comedy. I saw the movie set from the inside and was really happy to meet so many people, make new friends, and see how all the illusions are created.
‘I also try to contribute to the LGBT+ community activities. I shared my story with “Dokumentikos Namai” for a video report and have taken part in the “Lithuania Comes Out: 99 LGBT+ Stories” book.
‘I went to see the play “Trans Trans Trance“ directed by Kamilė Gudmonaitė and often visit other cultural and social events. I think these events are very important – little by little, they are changing our society’s views.
‘Of course the LGBT+ community is very broad and I can’t say that I’m always in agreement with everyone. For example, I don’t think living in Lithuania is as bad as many seem to claim.
‘I try to at least emotionally support those who have a hard time here, or share some useful information with them. I also think that our community lacks solidarity. There are some active personalities, but there’s no unity. LGBT+ organisations and leaders should be more united, because we all have the same goals.’
Friendly Stories can be read offline at any of the friendly venues in Vilnius or Kaunas, all listed at friendlycity.info.