Do Latvians really hate “gays”?

“You’re leaving, how delightful!!! Truly! One less perverted and degraded person! What a nice bit of news! Gives me hope.”

– a comment on the Kas Jauns article ““Esmu nogurusi cīnīties.” Psiholoģe Cihanoviča kopā ar savu mīļoto sievieti pamet Latviju” (I’m tired of fighting. Psychologist Cihanovica and her beloved partner leave Latvia). When I last looked, the comment had received 404 likes, and there were many more like it. The internet commentator crew are truly up in arms at this growing “Western trend” of being gay! And, of course, everyone is just “gay” – there is no recognition of the diverse LGBTI community.

It pains me to learn of fellow Latvians leaving Latvia because their sexuality isn’t quite “traditional” enough in the eyes of many locals and is therefore branded by many of those many as being “wrong”. Wrong in the eyes of them, their god and their dog. If anything is “wrong”, then surely it’s our failure to accept love in all its beautiful forms. Because in the end that’s all it comes down to doesn’t it? Love. And I’m finding it increasingly difficult to live in a society that is so unloving and unjust in situations where the only people suffering are those who simply wish to lead a happy and normal life.

I long for Latvia to follow the example of Ireland (heavily Catholic in case you’d missed it), not that that will ever happen. At least Estonia then. Our more tolerant northern neighbour tweaked its legislation to allow for couples of all gender combinations to register civil partnership to ensure equal legal rights and protection of said rights. But no, no, no, how dare we even consider such a move? Instead, the Latvian parliament was recently close to passing legislation that would allow for censorship in Latvian schools by banning any educational materials that do not support the “moral” ideal. You’d think there’d be more urgent issues to address…

Fortunately, it stalled ever so slightly and only resulted in the wishy washy and open-for-interpretation approval of “moral education” in compliance with constitutional values (e.g. marriage and family). So there will be no bans per se – hurray. Depressing nonetheless as our constitution still defines marriage as a union between a male and a female, and reminds us that the Latvian identity is formed on Christian values.

Also causing a stir in the Baltics is formerly successful Lithuanian musician Ten Walls. It’s been both fascinating and upsetting to witness his career go down the drain after he decided that Facebook was an appropriate medium for expressing his severely homophobic views. Soon after, many well known and popular European festivals, including Sonar, removed him from their line ups and, of course, Ten Walls issued a laughable public apology claiming that he hadn’t meant what he said in the way it had been interpreted. Sigh.

Naively, I hope Latvians will show a warm welcome to the participants of Europride 2015 in Riga, taking place June 15-21 in venues including Kaņepes Kultūras Centrs (Pride House) and the EU House. Just six days ago, the city council gave its final green light to the hosting of the pride parade in Vērmanes Park in Riga. If the conservative councillors can get over their personal grief, surely the rest of Latvia can too, eh?

Wishing everyone a very merry and peaceful Europride 2015 in Riga, and wishing for everyone who hasn’t found true love yet to find it and learn how it knows no boundaries!

Photo: Capital Pride from ep_jhu

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