– I think I will have to marry a gay man and pretend that it is my life, because my parents would never accept that I am lesbian.
– I would love to be able to tell my mother about my partner, but I don´t think she would ever accept that.
– My father is ok but my mother ignores it and pretends she doesn´t know about it.
The past days, I have heard these words been said in Bosnia and Herzegovina by lesbian women. I was invited to participate in a three-day partner meeting of Kvinna till Kvinna in the town of Doboj, where women’s and LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) organizations from all parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina gathered to discuss how to work together against multiple discrimination of women. The main focus of the meeting was how to make organizations within the women´s movement accessible to all women.
Wherever you go in the world you will find LGBT persons facing problems with their families not accepting their sexual orientation, no matter if their rights are guaranteed in the constitution or not. Over the years, I have heard these words said in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Sweden, in US and other countries.
On the other hand, I have also seen cases of parents supporting their children – even in countries where homophobia and hate speech is state-sanctioned – questioning other people’s hate and judgment because of their love for their children.
I know that losing the support and love of your close family or friends, because of your love for another person, hurts wherever you are. If, on top of this, your society fails to give you support in terms of legislation or public acceptance, and there is no welfare system that would allow you economic independence from your family, it is important that there are other people around you that show their support and love.
One of the most urgent needs expressed at the meeting by the lesbian, bisexual and queer women was the need for education of, and information for, parents and significant others. They meant that, without the support of the family in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is hard to normalize a life with a same-sex partner.
All participants concluded at the end of the meeting that this was the first such event they had attended. Few had before experienced meetings in Bosnia and Herzegovina where women’s organizations, together with LGBT activists, were discussing the topic of LGBT and how they together can challenge homo- and transphobia, and in the long run other kinds of discrimination against women.
– It is the first time I see organizations sit down together, willing to listen. That is a progress, one activist said.
There was a common understanding that those present at the meeting, that had not already done so, had come closer to the point of including LGBT persons in the work of their organizations. One of the successful outcomes of the partner meeting was the feeling that this was the beginning of the formation of a supporting network of allies from other women’s and human rights organizations.
If your family is not going to support you, it is life-saving to know someone else out there will be there for you. For me, that is women’s solidarity in practice.
Klara Lundholm, LGBT activist, educator and workshop facilitator