Same-sex relationships are no longer taboo in countries that declare pro-Western values. However, in Europe, the rights of non-heterosexuals aren’t protected everywhere. The story of two women from Ukraine who live in the Czech Republic impresses. They moved long ago. The one to study, another to look for better fortune in personal life. Now each of them has own business, a wide circle of friends, public work – active and bright life. The uniting thing is that they are gay, the women who recognized their non-heterosexuality and agreed to accept themselves as they were created by nature. Their choice is to be together, to love each other accepting all differences and imperfections since it should be at the fore place in the family, – Halyna and Oksana believe. The partners agreed to reveal their story, however, not to create certain problems to the relatives, their names have been changed.
Halyna and Oksana are together for more than four years. Before this, they had been dating and deciding on whether they should live together because the family – that’s a serious story.
“I thought that things wouldn’t work out for us. Cos I thought those first romantic feelings would fade away in a half of a year and everything would end. And also cos we are so different. That’s why I was more sceptic than Oksana.”
How did your circle of friends in the Czech Republic and Ukraine perceive that you are lesbians?
“Friends from the Czech Republic are quiet about this since I don’t keep it a secret for a long time – I don’t even remember how many years have passed. My parents, colleagues know about my orientation and accept it as normal. In Ukraine everything is more complicated, though I’ve been a guest there for a long time, I see a certain positive tendency. But the societal perception lags behind from European. However, I can’t say that I advertise or promote it. When needed I always introduce Oksana as my partner, I don’t say that she’s my friend. Of course, I don’t say – hello, I’m Halyna, a lesbian.”
Oksana’s story is not so simple as Halyna’s because she was born and grew up in a village where traditions and values are classic, immutable and even sacred. To recognize your otherness, not to be afraid to voice it, to defend your position is very difficult, but vital. Oksana:
“I told my mom but anyway she treats us as friends. She believes that it’s better to live with a friend than with a husband-drunkard. It seems she doesn’t understand to the fullest that I won’t have a husband. They like Halyna – and that’s all. My siblings know but we try to avoid talking about this. We have this attitude: “Let’s not talk about it, we have such a good dinner.” Once my mom called and cried because her neighbour came and said that she had seen our publication on Facebook, that your Oksana is evil, you know, what the hell they do – posting this thing on the Internet. I calmed my mom down, said that that’s just the way who I am, the most important thing is that I am happy, and it doesn’t matter what other people rumour about.”
“As an adult, admitting to your relatives that you are different, that you will never have a standard life, is much easier than in a young age,” our heroines say. However, it was the high school where they realized that they have other preferences. So Halyna decided to come out to her parents after 30 years, although, as it turned out, they all understood long ago:
“I was born in 1978, in the USSR, of course in the heterosexual society. I was brought up on the fairy tales in which there were a boy and a girl who is prepared for marriage. Nobody said that it could be different, you grow up in a society where there is no other model. However, a child stays asexual for a very long time, but in the period of maturation, another consciousness is formed. My parents when I told them, answered, ‘Halyna, who doesn’t know about this? We understood everything long ago.’ I worried, found a pile of literature on this topic, psychologists to solve somehow this ‘issue’. I planned such global preparation because my first coming out was unsuccessful – with my aunt with whom I was friends, I was 28 then. And I thought that it was logical to come out to her first and then, depending on the attitude, to my parents. However, unfortunately, her reaction was horrible and I understood that I am not ready to come through this drama with my parents. And only after several years, when I was 30, I pulled myself up and dared to voice a very important part of my life but they said, ‘Hey, we have already understood everything'”.
Recognizing this uniqueness among ordinary society led to the fact that Oksana left home. After all, as the woman tells us, living in a native village was simply impossible for her:
“I was born in the 80s, nobody knew about this then. In childhood, it wasn’t a problem or something important. And later, in the 9th grade, I remember, at the parties, I started to observe the girls. But I didn’t even assume this word – a lesbian. It was scary, you would be immediately buried. Everything lasted so long, I even dated the guys, because it’s a village, you have to date someone so that people don’t poke a finger. However, the more mature I became, the more I realized that I had to leave, otherwise I would not find my happiness, but only blow all heads off. I wasn’t going to get married. I just had to leave. Until 24 I tried to solve the most important for me – and in the end, I managed to do it. I knew 100% that I want to live with a woman – I have to leave for this. They already poked fingers at me so I left.”
What is an attitude towards unconventional couples in Europe? Since there is a stereotype that there, unlike us, everything is OK?
“No, not everything is OK. First, the same-sex marriage question is regulated at the level of each state of the EU separately. The level of equality of same-sex marriages and heterosexual is different in every state. For example, in the Czech Republic, there is such a concept as a partnership, but it doesn’t equal the rights and opportunities in a couple – as in heterosexual marriages. They differ in the question of adoption of the children. Also, to make this partnership in the Czech Republic, one of the partners should have Czech citizenship. That’s it, having a residence permit, we can’t do it. Another point: if at the moment of living together someone gives birth to a child or someone just has a child, officially, a partner will be no one to this child. They don’t have the right to automatic custody, and this poses a big problem. Since if something happens to one family member, another, according to the law, won’t have rights to a child. And a child automatically goes to an orphanage. It means, there are things to work at in the Czech Republic. A general attitude to LGBT here is better than in Ukraine, but not everywhere and not all the time. For instance, when pride parade is held, opposition comes to it and you can hear anything about yourself. But I understand that this a normal process. In every society, there is a certain percentage of Nazis, homophobes, xenophobes, etc.,” Halyna says.
Given the pride parades – are they necessary and what can you say about Ukrainian attempts?
“Parades are necessary – this is an opportunity to remind of that we live among you. We aren’t artificial, we are the same as you – ordinary people. In the Czech Republic, pride parades are held not so long ago, 5 years, or maybe, a bit more. At first, there was also a confrontation, but now, when the pride parade takes place in the centre of Prague – it’s a holiday for the whole city. Even the authorities, even the mayor take part in it. Here, everything is bright, gay, without tension, you can rarely hear something offensive. Of course, comparing to Ukraine, this is a huge difference. Poor people in Kyiv and Odesa – they are surrounded by police and then they have to somehow come out quietly not to get to the scuffle. But I’m happy that this parade exists, this is already a positive tendency, progress.”
Do you want to give birth to a child? How do you plan to do it?
“Yes, the family should be nuclear. We think about artificial insemination, as we know now there are several ways to do it. Actually, we are trying to do it now. By the way, after a while, we want to adopt a child to have a big family,” Oksana laughs.
How much do you need to communicate with your community? Do you visit clubs, organizations protecting the rights of sex minorities?
“Needless to say, we are adherents of the fact that people are “pack animals”, we just need to gather for our interests. Gays and lesbians aren’t different and have the need to communicate with loved ones. It’s important for us – especially when you feel discrimination. Now there is a lot of information on various forums for same-sex parents, for example. And this is interesting for me since I plan to have a child and want to know what kind of problems may happen, how other families tackle them, to be morally prepared for this,” Halyna says.
At the end of the conversation, the girls expressed a general opinion, a wish, kind of message:
“It’s very important to say that this is not a disease. We don’t have any trauma or hatred towards men. We appreciate them but they don’t attract us. We don’t see us physically next to men. Lesbian is not necessarily a woman who looks like a man and hates men. The idea of how a woman should look has changed. You often can meet a woman who doesn’t look feminine, but she can be straight. At the same time, you can come across a real beauty on high-heels with long hair, and she will be a lesbian. We are different, same as you. As soon as a person enters a free society, they begin to do what has been given by nature. That’s why it’s always important to stay true to yourself.”
Text and photo by Nataliia Mizyukina