The first LGBTI+ community center was opened in Sofia
The new location is called ‘Rainbow Hub’ and is the result of the joint effort of Youth LGBT Organization ‘Deystvie’, GLAS Foundation and Bilitis Resource Center Foundation as well as other independent activists. Its purpose is to provide a safe space for all LGBTI+ people in Bulgaria, where they will receive useful information about their rights and health, will be able to make contacts and gather in interest groups. The location will serve as the Sofia Pride headquarters as well as the office of the three national LGBTI+ organizations. The mission of the Hub is to support and mobilize the emerging LGBTI+ community in Bulgaria. It will host a variety of events and initiatives geared toward the needs of the LGBTI+ people with a special focus on young and disadvantaged people. The Center will serve as a uniting force for the Bulgarian LGBTI+ community and will help strengthen the relationship between the members of the community and between the community-based organizations. It will also attract and support parents of LGBTI+ children and young people. Furthermore, it will contribute to the more effective implementation of a “bottom-up” approach to tackling key issues and challenges that LGBTI+ people face every day. The space will also provide an opportunity for direct contact between activists and other community representatives from all parts of Bulgaria. The Rainbow Hub is located on 24 Lyuben Karavelov Str. tn Sofia. You can learn more about the program and the activities of the Center through its official web site www.lgbti-center.bg. The online platform also contains useful resources and information on programs, services, leadership and advocacy on topics such as healthcare, law, culture and education.
Sofia Pride 2018 will take place on June 9
The Sofia Pride Organizing Committee announced the date of the eleventh parade for LGBTI+ equality in Sofia. The emblematic event will take place on June 9 (Saturday) under the motto ‘Different People, Equal Rights’. It will be preceded by a series of cultural events and a film festival. This year Sofia Pride will be held during the last days of the first Bulgarian presidency of the Council of the European Union. Therefore the organizers expect increased media and community interest.
In Support of the Istanbul Convention
In the beginning of the year, ‘Bilitis’, ‘GLAS’ and ‘Deystvie’ published their statement in support of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. Representatives of the organizations took part in the public debate on the ratification of the document. On 13 th January Gloriya Filipova from ‘Bilitis’ took part in the Public debate about the Convention, organized by the National Assembly of the republic of Bulgaria. She urged the opponents of the Convention to stop using fake news to encourage hatred against LGBTI people and to focus on the real purpose of the Convention – prevention and protection against domestic and gender-based violence for all citizens. Gloriya Filipova and Denitsa Lyubenova from ‘Deystvie’ took part in the meeting of the Public Council of the Commission on the interaction with non-governmental organizations and complaints of the citizens to the National Assembly. They expressed their position in the debate, setting their arguments in support of the ratification of the Convention and condemning the homophobic and transphobic speech in the campaign against it. Two articles by Monika Pisankaneva from “Bilitis” were published in the online media ClubZ and Marginalia.
‘GLAS’, ‘Bilitis’ and ‘Deystvie’ have launched a massive advocacy project on LGBTI+ rights, funded by the European Commission
The goal of the project is to attract teachers, young leaders, politicians, corporate staff and parents of LGBTI+ children to the fight for LGBTI+ rights. The project will increase the visibility and the awareness around the problems, encountered by lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in their everyday lives. It will also focus on the sensibilization of the general public to the issue of discrimination. Various seminars are planned in 30 Bulgarian cities as well as a broad media campaign to increase the public understanding and enhance public support. The project also includes Workshop for Civic Initiatives Foundation, the Bulgarian School of Politics ‘Dimitar Panitza’, the Education Syndicate at the Confederation of Labour Podkrepa. One of the first steps in the project’s implementation was a survey on Bulgarian LGBTI+ people’s understanding and attitudes, which was conducted in the period January-February 2018. It included teachers, politicians, business leaders and representatives of civil society organizations. The analysis of the results show that among all respondents the group of the business leaders is the most approving toward changes in the law – 75% of the business sector representatives believe there should be a law on civic partnerships regardless of the partners’ gender. Next in order are NGO representatives (63%), teachers (50%), and politicians (only 40%). You can learn more about the project at http://lgbti.frgi.bg.
Two reports on homophobic crimes in Bulgaria were presented by GLAS and Deystvie
The main conclusion of both reports is that the victims of such crimes do not report them to the police. According to the GLAS Foundation’s report the most common type of incidents, reported by their victims, are threats. Among the public places where the most threats are registered, the school comes first, followed by the home and bars. The non-representative study was launched on May 1, 2017 via the online platform tolerantni.com with a total of 47 reports received within 6 months. They refer to incidents which occurred in 2017. Of the total number of reports received 33 are fully completed, which means respondents answered all questions in the form. The Bulgarian Penal Code does not include sexual orientation and gender identity or gender expression as motives for the perpetration of hate crimes – hate speech and other crimes. As a consequence, in the rare cases when homophobic or transphobic attacks are reported and prosecuted the suspects are often accused of acts of hooliganism. Anyone who has become a victim or a witness to such crimes may report them through the portal www.tolerantni.com.
Joint efforts for changes in the Bulgarian Penal Code
‘Deystvie’, ‘GLAS’ and ‘Bilitis’ carried out research to gather some compelling evidence on the need of the incorporation of sexual orientation and gender identity in the description of the grounds for hate crimes according to the Penal Code. ‘Deystvie’ in cooperation with ILGA-Europe collected data from survivors of violence and witnesses through an online questionnaire, as well as through a series of meetings with survivors, witnesses, the LGBTI community, and others affected by these violent crimes. Through Deystvie’s partnership with ABA Justice Works Program, an in-depth comparative analysis of hate crime laws in three jurisdictions was provided to make the case for a Bulgarian law that makes sense in our context.
The legendary Irish gay activist and politician David Norris was in Bulgaria to give a lecture at the New Bulgarian University
Senator Norris’ visit was organized by GLAS Foundation in relation to the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Bulgaria and 25th anniversary in Ireland. He is a historical figure in the LGBTI+ Liberation Movement in Ireland as well as an ardent speaker and defender of gay rights in Europe. During his visit Norris met with the Bulgarian LGBTI+ activist community, gave a lecture to students from the New Bulgarian University, participated in a discussion with future politicians at the School of Politics and gave numerous interviews, including the Bulgarian National Television and the business newspaper ‘Capital’. Senator Norris’ visit is part of GLAS Foundation’s efforts to give a more positive spin on the LGBTI+ topics at a national level.
HUGE.bg announced the winners of its competition for collaborators
HUGE.bg and GLAS Foundation announced the names of the 10 winners of the online magazine’s competition for collaborators. They demonstrated excellent ability to create a text and present the information in an interesting and compelling way. For their efforts and talent, they received a monetary sum as well as gifts from HUGE.bg. Their texts were published on the zine’s website. In addition, all winners were invited to become regular contributors to the online magazine. Contestants had to prepare and send a text on the topic ‘My Coming-out Story’ in a format and genre chosen by them. The competition is part of GLAS Foundation’s effort to build an LGBTI+ community, create more visibility around LGBTI+-related topics such as coming out to family, friends and colleagues as well as achieving greater visibility for the LGBTI+ community through media and a wide-ranging public debate.
FAMILY & PROTECTION
A large-scale project supporting recognition of same-sex couples
The project is implemented by Youth LGBT Organization Deystvie, GLAS Foundation and Resource Centre Bilitis Foundation in collaboration with Marginalia Association and the Centre for Study of Democracy. It supports same-sex couples who have their marriage or partnership registered and aims to research the status and experience of same-sex couples and promote the problems they face, to increase popular support and visibility. The project includes the organization of seminars, cultural events, advocacy and public campaigns to oppose discriminatory practices in Bulgaria that affect same-sex couples with a status recognized under another jurisdiction and thus violate the freedom of movement within the EU. The initiative, funded by the European Union, is due to be completed by May 2019.
Support for the landmark marriage equality case “Dari and Lilly vs. Sofia Municipality”
In January, the Sofia City Administrative Court rejected the Bulgarian couple’s claim to have their UK-concluded marriage registered in Bulgaria. Dari and Lilly are represented in court by the Youth LGBT Organization ‘Deystvie’. After the rejection by the first instance court, Deystvie was joined by other lawyers from the ‘Popov, Arnaudov and Co’ law firm, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, and Private international law and European law professors. Currently, it is expected that the Supreme Administrative Court would schedule the case. At the same time, ‘Deystvie’ filed a complaint against the Center for Assisted Reproduction’s decision to not finance the IVF procedures Lilly and Dari need that are guaranteed by law.
‘Deystvie’ started work on a Danish citizen’s child custody recognition case
At the end of March 2018 Youth LGBT Organization ‘Deystvie’ started working on the first-of-a-kind court case in Bulgaria for the recognition of child custody rights of a Danish woman who had a child with her ex-partner – a Bulgarian woman. The case is of utmost importance and significance not only for the affected, but also for the LGBTI+ community in Bulgaria and Europe.
The first round of ‘Co-parenting’ meetings ended with role-play games
After four months of learning and sharing, the newly formed co-parenting community gathered to put into practice what they have learned using role-playing games. The group members used various approaches for creating partnerships and raising children, considering possible obstacles and the best solutions to overcome them. The group will continue to meet informally, and from April the second round of meetings will start, which will allow for new people interested in the concept of co-parenting to join.
‘Deystvie’ joins NELFA
‘Deystvie’ joined The Network of European LGBTIQ* Families Associations (NELFA). Membership in the important organization highlights years of Deystvie’s work in regards with the fight for equal rights for same-sex families and opens up new opportunities in fostering cooperation with other organizations and uniting efforts to raise awareness and push for policies for equal access to rights for LGBTI+ families across Europe.
HEALTH & PREVENTION
A campaign to promote HIV testing among the gay community was launched
GLAS Foundation and the Center for Sexual Health have launched a joint information campaign to promote the services, provided by the Center with a special focus on the gay community in Sofia. The campaign includes publications in the online magazine HUGE.bg and the deployment of information materials at HUGE’s events. As part of the campaign the GLAS Foundation team and the stars of the second HUGE party – Spanish dancer Pau Sanz and DJ Karl Kay – visited the Center to get tested for free for HIV/AIDS before the start of the party on March 17. ‘I am glad that I had the opportunity to join the GLAS Foundation initiative, because I believe that each of us is responsible for their own health’, he told HUGE.bg.
Training materials for healthcare professionals on facilitating the access to healthcare services for LGBTI+ people are now available in Bulgarian
In 2017 ‘Bilitis’ took part in a European research on the access to health services for LGBTI people. The results from the research were used for developing training modules for health professionals, pilot tested in 6 EU countries, including Bulgaria. The training materials package, endorsed by the European Commission, was officially announced during the final conference of the project Heallth4LGBTI in Brussels on 2th February 2018. Pol Naidenov, co-chair of ‘Bilitis’, who took part in the conference, shared that the training modules will be accessible on the ‘Bilitis’ website in Bulgarian for all health institutions and specialists in the country, as well as in English on the website of the project health4LGBTI. ‘Bilitis’ will provide trainings for health specialists at their request. The trainings will help for overcoming the barriers in the communication between LGBTI people and health specialist when providing health services and access to them. The training materials package includes handbook for trainers, 4 training modules for health specialists and assessment tools. The complete set of materials will be distributed on request.
Collaboration with specialists working with trans and intersex children
On 20th March 2018 Pol Naidenov from “Bilitis Resource Center” held a meeting with health specialists from First Children’s Clinic of “St. Marina” University Hospital, Varna. One of the leading specialists on sex development issues, professor Yotova, and the psychiatrist in her department, doctor Kukov, took part in the meeting. The meeting was dedicated to acquainting with the medical practices used by the clinic for the treatment of children’s sex development problems. As a result of the meeting an agreement for joint work on the rights of trans and intersex people in Bulgaria was made. The clinic expressed willingness to expand it’s practice in order to provide services for adult trans people, but at the same time recognizes the lack of specialists in the field.
A program provides consultation on HIV and sexual health through dating apps and websites
Youth LGBT Organization ‘Deystvie’ started a hotline for online consultations on HIV and sexual health. 136 consultations were conducted for the first three months of the program. The most common questions asked are connected with HIV and include: ‘Where to get tested?’, ‘How do I get infected by HIV?’, ‘How can I get PrEP?’. Due to the great interest on the topic, ‘Deystvie’ will expand to live consultations in cooperation with GLAS Foundation in the ‘Rainbow Hub’, and will follow up with an information campaign. HIV testing will be available at the new LGBTI community center since May.
Support for the campaign for the transition to three-months recipes for HIV positive
A new commission was formed in March 2018 in the Ministry of Health on the basis of Deystvie’s advocacy. It will review the possibilities for prescribing medicines for HIV-positive people for a longer period of time. That is a result of multiple meetings with representatives of the Ministry, HV treating departments in Sofia and in the countryside, infectious disease (ID) specialists, and people living with HIV, conducted by ‘Deystvie’ with the support of GLAS Foundation and Resource Center Bilitis Foundation in the framework of their advocacy campaign for fairer conditions of treatment of HIV positive people in Bulgaria. The proposal for change is backed by leading medical specialists and supported by a petition of over 400 people, including ID specialists, people, living with HIV, MSMs, LGBTI+ and NGO representatives.
LGBTI+ IN BUSINESS
Human Right Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index was presented in Sofia
Thanks to the efforts of GLAS Foundation, the business platform Work It OUT and Youth LGBT Organization ‘Deystvie’ Human Right Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index was presented for the first time in Bulgaria. The survey is issued annually and is an anlysis of best practices in the field of the diversity and inclusion of LGBTI+ employees in the biggest US companies. The event was held on February 16, 2018 at the Microsoft Innovation Center in Sofia Tech Park. Jay Gulliam, Senior Global Program Director of HRC, delivered a presentation on the topic ‘What is the impact of the Corporate Equality Index on companies, employees, the general public and the LGBTI community?’. The Work It OUT platform now includes 18 partners. The new members who recently joined the platform are Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, the British Council and Football Radar.
The business platform Work It OUT was presented within an European initiative for the integration of LGBTI+ people in the workplace by Pol Naydenov, co-chair of ‘Bilitis’
The focus of the initiative is to explore how social attitudes toward gender affect the integration of gender non-binary people and the LGBTI+ people as a whole. The other focus of the initiative is to show the relationship between the limitation of the access of the LGBTI+ people to the labour market and the shortage of skilled professionals in companies. The project’s partners will analyze and summarize the good practices for the inclusion of the LGBTI+ people in the workplace, which exist in different European countries. On that basis new tools for employers will be developed.
COMMUNITY MEETINGS & SEMINARS
Morning coffee with ‘Deystvie‘
Jay Gilliam, Senior Global Programs Officer at Human Rights Campaign (HRC), was a special guest at the regular community meetings of Youth LGBT Organization ‘Deystvie’ which are organized on the first Wednesday of every month. HRC is the largest advocacy LGBTI+ organization in the USA, and supported last year’s Sofia Pride with materials. The meeting gathered many activists who discussed with him various approaches and strategies for work and shared their experience and main challenges.
BraveLab – space for LGBTI youth
Since January the youth support group BraveLab, created within Bilitis’ project ‘LGBTI people rising for change in Bulgaria’, financed by IGLA-Europe, holds meetings with LGBTI youth aged 15-29. Two times a month between 20 and 30 young people meet to share and discuss topics that they find important – discovering your LGBTI identity, coming out, mental health, HIV and STIs. In addition, the BraveLab space invites guest speakers who share their stories and knowledge with the youth.
The Queer-Feminist group in support for gender diversity and equality
The February meeting of the Queer-Feminist group, organized by ‘Bilitis’, addressed the non-binary gender identities, shedding light on terms like gender, gender identity and gender expression. The workshop called ‘Binaries are for Computers’ was held by Kai Guerero – non-binary activist from Spain. In the context of the heated debate around the Istanbul Convention, as part of which the transgender and non-binary communities were scapegoated, the workshop aimed to stand up for the freedom of self-identification and gender diversity.
For the 8th of March the Queer-Feminist group created banners with messages about LGBTI equality and in support of LBT women. The group joined the Women’s Rights March, contributing for greater visibility of LGBTI people during the March.
Deystvie’s L.E.A.D. Academy carried out a second training in Blagoevgrad
In February 2018 an activist of the L.E.A.D. Academy for LGBTI+ activists, led by Deystvie, organized their first LGBTI+ themed event in Blagoevgrad with the support of the SAGE student club at the American University in Blagoevgrad. In March, another training of the Academy was conducted in Sofia, and at the end of the month the whole Academy moved to Blagoevgrad for two days, where the activists got the opportunity to develop plans for events in the largest cities of the country. The L.E.A.D. Academy started in December 2017 in Sofia. It identifies and unites LGBTI+ activists throughout the biggest Bulgarian cities and provides the participants with the chance to initiate or join existing local LGBTI+ communities, and to take part in conducting local events or initiatives, in order to actively live the change they need.
The regular meetings of T.I.A. (Trans, Intersex and Allies) continue
The regular monthly meetings for empowerment of trans and intersex activists T.I.A. (Trans, Intersex and Allies) continued in the period January-March 2018. At one of the meetings the group got acquainted with the legal framework and the existing regulations related to trans and intersex rights in Bulgaria. The topic was presented by the long-standing LGBTI rights activist Radoslav Stoyanov, expert at the team of Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. Yavor Konov from ‘Deystvie’ took part in one of the meetings by presenting and having а Q&A session on HIV and STIs prevention. The group also met with lawyer Natasha Dobreva, who presented her experience in leading gender reassignment cases in Bulgaria.
Sofia hosted a training aimed at building capacity of youngsters in working with the LGBTI+ community
LGBTI+ activists from the Balkans took part in the training that was carried out in the beginning of February 2018. The project will continue with regular meetings of work groups of LGBTI+ youth that will begin from the middle of April 2018. Capcom (Capacity building of Youth workers in the area of Community LGBTI Youth Work) gives the opportunity of youth workers to receive specialized education on work with LGBTI+ youngsters.
CULTURE & LEISURE UNDER THE RAINBOW
Sofia Pride Film Fest will take place between June 2 and 9
The preparation for the Sofia Pride Film Fest already began, and this year it will take place between June 2 and 9. This year’s program will for the first time include an academy for young directors, who will have the opportunity to pitch and develop a project for a short film during the film festival. There are two awards – for a Bulgarian and for a foreign project. The winner will receive funds to carry out the project. The dead-line for applying for the PRIDExPOWER Pitching Lab is April 27 at www.sofiapridefilmfest.com and directors from all Balkan countries are welcome to participate.
Sofia Pride Arts will be held for the seventh consecutive year
The program of the cultural event, which is organized by the team of Sofia Pride, will include exhibitions, installations, dance performances, literary premiers and readings. For the first time this year Sofia Pride Arts has announced a competition for an LGBTI+-themed show. The aim of the contest is to encourage young artists to create LGBTI+-themed works, thus enriching the thematic content of the arts festival as well as the diversity of the topics and stories in the contemporary Bulgarian theater. The winner will receive BGN 1000. The premier of the winning project will take place on June 3 during the festival at the Red House Center for Culture and Debate.
A book club gathers together fans of LGBTI+ literature every month in Sofia
The initiative Big Gay Book Club was created by the designer Sevda Semer and GLAS Foundation. The club focuses on LGBTI+ literature, but also on other books and stories. The meetings are held every first Thursday of each month in Sofia. The first meeting took place on January 31 at Credo Bonum Gallery and was dedicated to Garth Greenwell’s novel ‘What Belongs to You”. The second meeting was on March 1 and featured the graphic novel ‘Fun Home’ by the American writer and artist Alison Bechdel. The third meeting took place in early April and was dedicated to the novel ‘The Maestro’ by the Irish writer Colm Toibin. The club met at the residence of the Irish ambassador to Bulgaria Michael Forbes.
‘Bilitis’ joined two international initiatives for inclusion of LGBTI+ people in sport
Since the beginning of 2018 ‘Bilitis’ is a partner in the international project “Diverse Identities in Sport”. It’s aim is to engage and encourage the participation in sports activities for people, who are excluded from participating in mass sports because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Other parties in the initiative are Leap Sorts Scotland (UK), Discover Football (Germany) and Civil Works Association (Hungary). ‘Bilitis’ took part in а kick off meeting on a project funded by the Erasmus+ program, on partnerships in the field of sports as an instrument for social inclusion of LGBTI+ people. The meeting was held in February in Paris, France. The project aims to address the exclusion of people from sports, based on features like sexual orientation and gender identity, while addressing intersectional aspect of exclusion related to ethnicity, religion, refugee status, disability and others, besides ‘Bilitis’ partners on the project are Leap Sports (Scotland, UK), Saplinq (Slovakia), Seitenwechsel (Germany) and Paris 2018 (France).
The second HUGE party happened under the sign of freedom and French kisses
The initiative of HUGE and GLAS Foundation was held for the second time at the historic nightclub Yalta in the center of Sofia on March 17. DJ Karl Kay from France and the Spanish dancer Pau Sanz were the special guests this time around. Several hours before the party the artists together with the GLAS Foundation team visited Checkpoint Sofia to make tests for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and syphilis for free. Their action aimed to raise awareness of the need for gay men to examine their health status regularly.
LGBTI+ FACES & AWARDS
Lilly and Dari are exemplary LGBTI people of 2017
On January 15, 2018 ‘Deystvie’ gave its annual Exemplary LGBTI Person award for 2017 to Lilly and Dari, whose courage, perseverance, and willingness to fight are an inspiration to all of us. Their boldness gives us hope, and it could also change the life, acceptance and recognition of LGBTI+ people and their rights in Bulgaria.
Pol Naidenov was reelected for board member of OII Europe
The European branch of the organization of intersex activist OII Europe, reelected Pol Naidenov, co-chair of ‘Bilitis’ as а member of the board of the organization. This is high international recognition for Pol’s contribution for the intersex rights movement in Europe. His vision for the development of OII is related to the necessity the organization to increase its work in the field of dissemination of information on the needs and rights of intersex people within the wide public. Pol regularly participates in the media in Bulgaria.
New team additions
The cooperation of Sotir Kostadinov with LGBT Organization ‘Deystvie’ begins in December of 2012 when the organization begins its new web project. He helps with his skills of e-commerce web developer.
He have post graduate degree in University of National and World Economy. In his free time he enjoys sport and sci-fi.
In February 2018 Youth LGBT Organization ‘Deystvie’ was joined by Stoyo Tetevenski. He defines himself as a dreamer-activist, who focuses on economic inequality and its connection to the marginalization of various social groups. He studies International Relations at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, where he is one of the founders of the Students Equality Society.
The GLAS Foundation was joined by Alexander Milanov and Valeria Yotova. Alexander is a long-time social worker, author of books, a volunteer at Checkpoint Sofia and recently a contributor to the National Patient Organization. For GLAS Foundation he will work on projects related to sexual health, HIV prevention and social support. Valeria is actively engaged in various sports activities and will help ‘GLAS’ in its work to build the LGBTI+ community and socialization through sport events and initiatives.