They fall, they stand up, they survive and rise: as a minority group that identifies with a gender different than the one assigned to them at birth, transgender people often feel mistreated, misunderstood and detached from the rest of the world. And the world, in turn, constantly pushes its prejudices against them — by treating them as “others” or identifying them by the wrong gender. Trans communities are made of people with stories and experiences to tell — three Ukrainian trans people talk about their life. It is more than a statement. It is a rebellion against stereotypes and norms.

 

Olena Semenova, 40, Human Rights activist, Kyiv (Ukraine)

Yes, I am bigender. I am out of binary. I am part of the LGBT+ community and I am proud of all my identities.

In the beginning it’s hard. Constantly, questions pop up in your head, like: What is going on with me? Why do I feel so lonely? Why do I not fit in?

“But let me tell you, every puzzle piece fits into place,” says Olena Semenova.

S_he has been a Human Rights activist for almost twenty years. As a Co-Chair of the NGO “LGBT Association ‘LIGA'” and a board member of Transgender Europe, s_he spreads his wings everywhere. S_he feels the duty to bring greater acceptance to the trans community and trans people in the LGB community through the projects s_he does. At the same time, s_he just wants to be a person who can live his life. Yourself is yourself. And coming to this conclusion has not been easy.

Since his childhood, Olena understood that s_he is a lesbian. S_he never doubted this part of his identity.

“When I was young, when I was thinking about who I am and why, I noticed that I am different.”

However, it was not just about his sexual orientation. For years s_he tried to convince himself that s_he is a “different type of woman”, but Olena learned that s_he was mistaken.

“I just don’t identify as male or female. I’m somewhere in between.” S_he wanted to be neutral but having the binary concept dominating society, s_he couldn’t understand where his place was. “I’m still trying to form this concept of my gender. It is not a nonbinary one, but it’s definitely out of binary.”

“For many people understanding their own sexual orientation is a process: many lesbian women have to live through a few marriages and heterosexual partnerships before they really understand and accept themselves as being homosexual.”

This was the same story for him regarding his gender identity. Olena lived through all the stages: of trying to be hyper-feminine, trying to follow all gender standards that are expected from society, then trying to be hyper-masculine until s_he asked himself why s_he is trying to fit in standards that simply don’t fit him. S_he started to think about whether you can leave a person out of society because you do not like his identity, because you think that, if s_he was born a woman, s_he must necessarily follow the path that society has set.

So Olena began to accept his identity, and like every identity, it took time to develop.

“It was pure luck that I just got to know what my sexual orientation is. There were words existing for homosexuality and information to define myself. However, regarding my gender identity, I had no information for years. I didn’t have a name for it.” For people who are already involved in the community, the access to information is, according to Olena, much easier compared to people living outside the community in cis-hetero standards. “Fortunately, today we have the internet which helps a lot in connecting with the community and getting some information.”

 

Discrimination begins early

The internet does not only help in receiving information, but it paves the way for a new kind of coming out:

“Facebook works great for this purpose because I can simply write about my identity on this platform and all my friends will know.”

However, Olena mostly came out with his pronouns because s_he defines as s_he wants to define himself. “Unfortunately, there are no good pronouns for my case. That’s why I use ‘s_he’.”

Coming out was also a process for Olena. In the beginning, s_he used this pronoun in a very narrow circle of friends and family, but after a while s_he put it in official mails at work as well. The reaction was mostly positive, specifically his cisgender friends and colleagues were really accepting of his identity.

“My concept of coming out is simple: if people do not accept me the way I am, the door is wide open for them to leave.”

Olena has his job, s_he has his friends and his Canadian wife who support him. That gives him strength.

However, there are always two sides to every story. Olena faced rejection for being visibly non-conforming to his gender. So s_he remembers all kinds of discrimination, assaults and bullying because s_he has never been “girly” enough:

“I was bullied in my own family but I don’t think they were conscious about it. I was never the girl they expected me to be.” Olena remembers his parents not allowing him to cut his hair short although s_he hated it. When s_he turned 17 years old, there came the day when s_he got the permission to have his hair at chin-length, “and it was one of the happiest days of my 17-year-old life.” S_he had been forced to look how his parents wanted him to, not how s_he felt. Starting with his family, discrimination went on in high school and didn’t stop at his workplace. “It’s all this simple stuff. For example, when I enter a public washroom, people shout at me that boys aren’t allowed at a female location. When I try to enter the men’s washroom, boys would bully me.”

So Olena asks himself: What evidence should s_he present to them to prove that this is the washroom s_he can visit? S_he has lived through many kinds of such situations and still does.

 

Be the change

“In the past, I couldn’t really stand up against it, but now I am even more powerful.” Coming out helped Olena a lot because s_he is in peace with his gender identity and s_he is ready to stand up against any type of discrimination or bullying. “I am still a shame for my family. My parents would not tell any other relatives, but it is my parent’s choice. The only thing that counts is that I am open: yes, I am bigender. I am out of binary. I am part of the LGBT+ community and I am proud of all my identities.”

Transgender, lesbian, activist – these are all parts of her. Since 2012, Olena has considered himself a migrant as well. S_he would usually spend three months in different countries to come back to Ukraine for further three months. When s_he first left Ukraine to work in another country, s_he thought that s_he would finally go to a better place where s_he would be free of homophobia and transphobia.

“But I had to live as a migrant to understand how much I love Ukraine.”

S_he knows that a change is a step-by-step process. By comparing the development of the human rights for LGBT+ people in the European Union and Ukraine, Olena approximates that the time gap lies between 20 to 30 years: “But we are moving faster than Europe moved from the point when people started to fight to de-criminalize homosexuality or equalize marriages because Europe already paved the way.” In his opinion, the reason for the slower development is the widespread corruption in Ukraine which stops the country from progressing human rights. When Olena sees how far his country has come in the last years, considering the pride movement, for example, it makes him excited for the future.

To not only change society but how s_he feels about himself, Olena is currently collecting money for his transition. S_he wants to change some parts of his body s_he has never felt good about. Society is greedy to know more about medical transitioning, but there are more layers of what it means to be trans:

“People have this concept in mind how binary and non-binary people must look like. I hate it. I mean, it’s not just about your appearance but about what’s inside your head.”

 

Embrace your anger

“I love the song ‘We are Family’ by Sister Sledge because it gives me feelings of community.”

For him, this song is about a queer family that unites all types of friends: gay friends, straight friends, ex and future queer friends that become close. It is about what s_he wants his parents, the LGBT+ community and the whole Ukrainian society to understand: we are one big family. One big family where every member should be treated equally “regardless of whether you are a man, woman, trans person, gay, straight, rich, poor, black or white. It is a human right to be treated as a human being and to have equal rights for all people.” So s_he fights every day to achieve his goal while being angry and embracing it. “This emotion is a big engine that moves me forward towards my fears and helps me to deal with my disappointments. At the moment, activists are working on same-sex marriages in Ukraine, and I am very angry that we still have to fight for it: why do we need to ask the heterosexual majority if we can marry? Nobody asks us regarding heterosexual marriages, so why should we?” This anger makes him see the unfairness, the violation of rights which s_he needs to change. So s_he wants people to be angry. Angry enough to change the world.

 

Viktoriya Didukh, 29, former soldier, Kharkiv (Ukraine)

I felt like an actor in my own TV-show: you play this role but it isn’t your true self.

“It’s not like that one shiny day trans people wake up and think: today I am going to change my gender. It’s not a choice. Nothing has happened in my life to make me trans. I was just born this way,” explains Viktoriya Didukh.

It was a long way to accept her true self. For many years, she lived in silence until she decided to raise her voice.

Viktoriya has early memories of feeling different, but not being able to put her finger on exactly what that meant. When she was five years old, she started to acknowledge this feeling inside of her. She was scared because she couldn’t understand what was going on. “I remember lying in bed as a little child, staring at the wall of my room and asking myself: why is this happening to me? Why am I captured in this body, but I don’t want to be a boy?” Growing up in a conservative family and lacking information about transgender people – and more important: how to live as one – the little girl tried to copy her two older brothers. The thought about telling anyone and sharing her story seemed too terrifying. So, Viktoriya started to wear only dark clothes in school and replied to teachers in an aggressive manner just to show her classmates how manly she is.

Only in the comfort of her room, Viktoriya could be herself. So, the little girl waited until her family left the house and she was all alone. “Then I would wear makeup and put my mom’s clothes on.” When she grew up and earned some money, she bought dresses and skirts but still waited until nobody could disturb her. “Normally, when you buy new clothes, you can’t wait to proudly present them to everybody. But I had to hide mine.” Before her body changed, it was easier to accept herself. In puberty, however, Viktoriya couldn’t stand her reflection in the mirror in these fancy skirts and dresses she once loved on her because she had to realize: it wasn’t the clothes that didn’t fit her body, it was her body that didn’t fit the clothes. She collected all her ‘feminine’ pieces and threw them in the garbage. Buying them, wearing them, throwing them away – Viktoriya repeated this procedure over and over again, and each time she lost a little bit more of her hope to find a place in society.

“I felt like an actor in my own TV-show: you play this role, but it isn’t your true self.”

That’s why she started to cut her wrists. She knew her life situation was bad, but leaving the comfort zone and stepping into the unknown seemed even worse. The Ukrainian mass media increased her insecurity. “They mainly present being transgender as an illness that has to be cured. But I never considered myself as being mentally disabled.” Viktoriya spent 28 years of her life trying to live by the rules of society, as a male, although she knew she was female inside, and this nearly destroyed her.

“It was more than depression. It was about having to fake who I was for so long.”

 

Leave it or change it

Viktoriya joined the Ukrainian army to fight for her motherland, even though it has rejected her femininity more than once. In summer 2019, she went on duty patrolling with a Kalashnikov while depressing thoughts filled her mind again: Why should I exist like that? Who really needs me? But then there came the moment when she realized that either she decides to change her life or to leave the world forever behind. “So in this one night, with nothing else to lose as I just couldn’t go on as I was, I blurted out to a friend.” Viktoriya grabbed her mobile phone and told her everything.

“That was my first coming out. The first time someone knew about my secret. And for this one night, the thoughts of committing suicide vanished. It wasn’t the exact words that stopped me from doing it, it was her support.”

However, shortly after that the fear and depression came back even stronger. The break-up with her girlfriend pushed her to the edge once again. “I just couldn’t bear it anymore. So, I took an overdose of pills but they had no effect on me.” A few days later, she went on duty again. This time, she remembered a phrase which she had seen scratched on a tile: ‘Strong is not the one who’s never fallen, but the one who’s fallen and stood up’. After taking a deep breath, she chooses change and calls her mother. “I told her about all the moments that upset me in childhood. As a little girl I used to be so sad that it reflected in my attitude. That’s why I built a shield around me to protect myself from others. I know it’s not easy to reach a person like that, but my parents have never even attempted to get through to help me.”

The next call was to her middle brother. When Viktoriya heard his voice on the other side of the phone, she couldn’t make a sound. She could write, however. She sent him a text, explaining her self-researched diagnosis: gender dysphoria – which means the distress trans people feel because of the mismatch between their gender identity and their biological sex.

“I knew how I felt, but for a long time I didn’t know there was a term for it. I was basically just trying to Google what I felt.” Trembling, she opened her brother’s reply: ‘You want to change your gender? Fine. It’s your life!’.

It didn’t take long until the whole family got together via video chat. There, Viktoriya told them everything – from the beginning to this day. “I have to admit, sometimes I regret coming out to my parents. They were supportive. They still are, but not in a psychological way.” Her parents still misgender her, use he instead of she and call her by her old name. But it’s not just about her. She fears the social consequences her coming out could mean for her family.

“If I come home, and all our family friends and neighbours see me wearing dresses, long hair and makeup, they will bully them.”

One year after Viktoriya resigned from the military, she took the final step and became the first trans woman who served in the army and came out publicly. She never actually had to serve with other soldiers who knew about her true identity. When national television broadcast her story, she received different types of calls from former colleagues asking, “Are you a girl now?” and reassuring her, “I had a boyfriend, now I have a girl-friend. Don’t worry, this is your business.” However, she overheard lots of rumours about herself as well. Soldiers were discussing her coming out and making jokes about it. They couldn’t understand how someone like her could serve in the military. Random people on social media were saying that ‘this guy has gone crazy’.

“Once you are coming out, you are burning all the bridges to your previous life. There is no coming back. It changes your whole world.”

That’s why Viktoriya is a member of the non-governmental organization ‘Ukrainian Soldiers and our Allies’. She wants to support the over one hundred members who served in the army – the ones who experienced the same fear, the ones who want to go public and the ones who aren’t ready for this step yet.

 

From he to she

It took Viktoriya many years full of anxiety to realize that this was the right path for her. For over nine months, she has used hormones to combat her gender dysphoria. Day by day, week by week, the changes of her body become more and more visible. Her red coloured hair is growing faster, her breasts are growing bigger and her skin is getting softer.

“Even my erections in the morning stopped, plus I lost ten kilograms of weight. It’s all only through my hormone therapy!”

After starting her transition, she felt like she was living a more authentic version of herself. As she began to become more comfortable in her body, she noticed how much more comfortable she was becoming in herself. “When I look into the mirror now, I like what I see with the changes I made. This gives me the strength to move forward.” There Viktoriya stands: smiling because she finally feels great about herself.

This new attitude doesn’t go unnoticed. “Recently, I had to visit the registration office of the Ukrainian military. While I was waiting in line, the responsible worker talked to another visitor. During their dialogue, he suddenly pointed at me while saying ‘After this girl.’ He took me for me, noticing me as a girl, although I was wearing unisex clothes that day. Or on another day, I got into a ticket control. Because I am a former soldier, I possess a free pass to the subway. When the ticket inspector asked for my ticket and compared the old picture on the document to the person sitting in front of him, he could not believe his eyes that it is the same person.” She is still in the process of change, but moments like that make the work worth it.

Viktoriya is not trapped in a body she hates. She is just wrapped in words that don’t relate to the way her skin feels on her bones. “I’m trying to understand myself and figuring it all out as I go along. But I think we all are.” With having laws that hardly protect LGBT+ people from discrimination, she hopes for a better education of the Ukrainian society.

“Most people discriminate against trans people because they don’t understand us. They don’t know why we feel this way. But we are human beings as everyone else. We should have the opportunity to decide our own lives.”

 

Vald Shylova, 24, student, Monheim (Germany)

Psychologically, I wouldn’t survive in Ukraine at the moment

Imagine having to leave your own country because of being discriminated against for who you love and who you are. That is exactly what the 24-year-old student Vald Shylova had to experience. Currently, they live in a shared room in western Germany. Vald accepts that being trans is a part of their life’s journey. Now they want the rest of the world to accept it, too.

“Looking back at my early days, even as I was a young child, there were many signs that I was falling out of the heterosexual male-female system. I remember always being in love with female characters from movies. At that time, I told myself that I would like to be friends with them or that I would like her to be my sister. I also wanted to be very close with my female friends in the real world. I just couldn’t place these feelings at that time.”

After all, Vald was born as a girl, so they must fall in love with boys. At least that’s the concept of society. When Vald turned 15 years old, they started to understand that they liked women not only on a basis of friendship, but also in a romantic way. “I came to a new class. There was a girl with whom I wanted to be friends more than with anyone else.” At first, Vald didn’t understand what was going on. But then they started having dreams about kissing her. “You have to understand: I grew up in an Orthodox Christian family. Every morning and every night I prayed. So of course, the dreams shocked me a lot.” Vald had that period where they thought it wasn’t right to have these feelings. They weren’t sure if this was a result of something psychologically wrong with them. They were attracted to women, but the thought of coming out as a lesbian was too terrifying.

“I really had this image in my mind that I am a disgusting woman, that it simply couldn’t be. So I started searching the internet about how I could get rid of these thoughts and feelings.”

It took time until Vald realized that it wasn’t a problem.

“Fortunately, I had two very close friends who encouraged me that my feelings were completely normal. Through them, I started to accept the fact that I am a lesbian step by step.”

Toward the end of eleventh grade, Vald met a man. They got along very well and became a couple. “Then I identified as bisexual. My boyfriend, however, didn’t accept that part of me. He kept saying: ‘If you’re in a relationship with me, you have to be straight.'” Two and a half years later, the couple broke up. “I suddenly felt a sense of freedom. I could finally be myself again.” Less than four weeks passed by when they found out on the internet that there exists Queer Home in Kharkiv. When Vald visited the Community Centre, they felt a lot of pressure: “For the first time, I consciously noticed lesbians and gay men.” In Queer Home’s common room, many books on a variety of LGBT topics lay spread out across the tables. As they picked up a book, the coordinator of the Community Centre, Anna Sharyhina, approached them. “She told me that they were receiving many such books as gifts at that moment, and they wanted to open a library. I love books more than anything. So I suggested helping with the project.” For three years Vald worked for the local LGBT+ NGO Sphere, got involved in other projects and events, such as Kyiv Pride, and was also active in feminist activism.

 

Who am I?

While sorting these books, Vald began to read many of them themselves. As they read about gender as a social construct, they started to reflect on their own identity.

“I learned what trans meant through the books I read. I realised that a lot of those things trans people say are very similar to what I experienced. A lightbulb went off in my head. I thought, this explains why I had never identified as a girl as long as I could remember.”

Even as a child, Vald didn’t act like the ‘typical type of girl’. “When I was ten years old, I went to a market with my mom. I asked her to buy me a headband, because that day I decided to become a real girl.” For one week they tried to dress femininely, wore dresses to school, “I even asked friends to do my makeup. Even back then I knew that I was expected to behave in a certain way, but it was all only pretend. That wasn’t me.” When they got together with their boyfriend, they tried the same thing. This time their attempt lasted longer: they wore skirts, high heels and grew their hair long. Just like a typical woman. It wasn’t until their early 20s when Vald began to understand that they didn’t identify as a woman. “That completely confused me. At the beginning, I thought, ‘If I’m not a woman, then I must be a man.’ But as a man, I didn’t feel comfortable either. So I was even more confused. I constantly asked myself: Who am I?” The more books they read, the more they understood that their identity was not part of the traditional system. Outside of male and female. They are non-binary.

“For me, that means I don’t identify as a man or a woman. I don’t need any gender identity for myself. I am Vald. I love music. I like drawing. And I am non-binary.”

 

Taught to be silent

Vald was already taught in school that homosexuality and, in fact, anything that deviates from social norms is unnatural.

“Many people don’t deal with this topic at all. In school, we didn’t even get the chance to get informed about themes related to the LGBT+ community.”

In their entire school years, they had no sex education lessons at all. Only in some minor subjects, the LGBT topic was briefly touched. What the pupils learned in it: homosexuality is wrong. “And without more information, people, like me, take it as given.” Even in the LGBT+ community, many members don’t know what non-binary means. “Also from people in the community, I’ve been asked the question: ‘You have a vagina. So you’re a girl, aren’t you?'” The problem here is that most people inside and outside of the community simply don’t know what transgender and its subcategories stand for.

Even while studying management at a Ukrainian university, Vald encountered homophobia and transphobia among lecturers. “At the university I made no secret of the fact that I like women. As a result, the teacher of the administrative law subject mentioned more than once that homosexuality was absolutely not okay and shouldn’t exist. At that point, I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut. Such statements were taught by professors at a university! But it shows the lack of education in Ukraine: if the information is missing, how are people supposed to know it better?” In addition to people who have hardly dealt with the LGBT+ topic, there is another category that rejects the queer community: right-wing extremists. According to them, the LGBT+ community is destroying the traditional order of family.

“They spread the idea that because of events like Christopher Street Day or homosexuals adopting children, people change their own sexual orientation causing the whole society to collapse.”

 

One decision away from a different life

Within three weeks, Vald made the decision to leave their home country.

“There were, of course, several reasons that caused me to flee from Kharkiv to Germany. However, one event in particular left a lasting impression.”

It was the summer of 2018. A few days before the student left for the Netherlands as part of an exchange program, supported by Erasmus, they visited the Community Center ‘PrideHub’ where they worked as a project assistant to finish a few reports before their stay abroad. When they were done with their work, they decided to smoke a cigarette in front of the Community Centre. But before Vald could reach the door, ten men in gas masks stormed the building. Less than half a meter away from them, a smoke grenade exploded. “Then everything went so fast.” The room filled with smoke. They quickly rushed to the other part of the Community Centre to warn the people there. “Alarm! Alarm! Over and over I yelled that one word. But the others immediately understood what was going on.” The men destroyed everything: the kitchen, the toilet and the working space. “I can’t say how long it took. Was it three minutes? Five? Maybe ten?” After that, the intruders left the building. “I was so high on adrenaline. That night, I hadn’t yet understood how dangerous this situation actually was.”

A few days later Vald went to the Netherlands to participate in the international project. As they left the main train station in Amsterdam, they spotted a drawing on the street. Painted in chalk, it showed a same-sex couple holding hands. “Suddenly, a bad feeling filled my whole body. I couldn’t help it. I started crying.” Vald was unable to participate properly in the project, the feeling didn’t disappear throughout their whole stay. They had already been struggling with depression in the past, but now suicidal thoughts were creeping up on them. “At that time, one of my Ukrainian friends was living in a refugee camp in the Netherlands. Since we hadn’t seen each other in a long time, I went to her place and spent the night there. That helped me to calm down a bit.” The next day, it was time to leave. Time to go back to their home country. “I started packing my stuff, when I had a panic attack. I started crying again. The thought of flying back to Ukraine was unbearable.” They stayed with their friend in the camp for two more weeks.

“This time was not easy for me. I cried every day. I never wanted to leave Ukraine. After all, us citizens are supposed to be there for our own country. But continuing my old life like nothing had happened wasn’t an option either.”

Several times a day, they experienced a back and forth of emotions: leave or stay. Then they made their decision.

In early August, Vald returned to Ukraine to say goodbye to their friends and family. On October 30, they already arrived in Germany.

“I was afraid. Afraid of the future, but I knew it was the right decision.”

 

The fight for their right

When they arrived in Germany, many of their previous expectations did not match the reality. “I was really surprised how many Germans are informed about the LGBT+ community and accept it, even without being a part of it. Especially compared to Ukraine. However, that’s by far not the only difference. For the two years I have been living here already, I have never felt unsafe. When I think about it that way, it’s almost a little bit boring.” Especially with regard to the Pride march, there are major differences between the two countries.

“In Germany, people walk down the streets for several hours, and at the end of the day it’s over. Pride in Ukraine looks very different.”

Vald talks about iron barriers securing the March. Comparable to the procedure at the airport, there are only two or three entrances where you are checked by security officers for weapons and pepper spray. Policemen on both sides protect the running column. After around 20 minutes the march is over. “Then it’s hide and seek. You have two ways to get home: either you walk a bit and then get on a train at another stop, so no one knows where you’re going exactly, or you take the bus. Even the driver doesn’t know where he’s going to let passengers off at the beginning.” For the whole day, there exists a general warning to avoid the city centre of Kyiv and not to post selfies with your location. The reason: right-wing extremists are hunting for LGBT+ people every single time. “So I’m used to more adrenaline.”

Vald started to realize the seriousness of some situations and the danger they were living in only after they had already left Ukraine.

“Sometimes, I miss the adrenaline, too. It made me feel like I was making history together with the other activists, making an important contribution. I admit, sometimes the thoughts appeared whether I might return to my home country someday. I am proud of the people who stayed in Ukraine to continue the fight for tolerance. But I know: psychologically, I wouldn’t survive in Ukraine at the moment.”

 

We feel normal

Currently, Vald is studying social work in Dusseldorf, has been working at the LGBT+ organization Rosa Strippe as an educational employee since February 2020, and can thus finance their own living. Nevertheless, they have been waiting for their court hearing for two years now, which they requested because their application for asylum got rejected. “The reason is that, supposedly, I have enough support in Ukraine to live a normal life there. Besides, Ukraine is considered as a safe country.” This means that not only their future in Germany is uncertain, but also that they cannot change their name officially because of their current status of residence in Germany. “I associate my name given at birth with a person that I am not any longer.”

Vald’s physical appearance is not important to them.

“Trans for me is more about the head and less about the body. I hate the connection society has created between appearance and social role.”

It puts them in a conflict. “I have big breasts. On the one hand, I would like to get rid of them because society immediately identifies me as a woman. On the other hand, however, I don’t want to give them up because they are a part of me and I like my body as it is. I also enjoy wearing pink t-shirts. I used to avoid them because people immediately associated ‘woman’ with it.” Stereotypes like that make them feel insecure. It’s an attempt to frame people in terms of how they should look, how they should behave and what goals they should pursue. “A classic example of this is the idea that women need to take care of their family while men work on their career. However, this image does not correspond to a reality where everyone is treated equally. Clothes should just be called clothes and people just called people.” A person can be a transgender woman and have a beard or choose to take hormones and not conform to any stereotypes of beauty. It’s about choosing who you are, how you want to live and not letting society tell you otherwise.

“The thing about trans people is, we feel very normal. It’s the way we are, it’s only when people say you’re not normal that you feel that way. So, I think that we have a long way to go, but at least the world is finally talking about us.”

 

Be masculine and feminine, be neither and both. Be unapologetic. Just don’t set aside your own comfort for people’s egos. This is the message Olena, Viktoriya and Vald spread every day while living like themselves. Every single one of them hope to their role in creating a fairer and more equal world in their own way. They fight not only to accept LGBT+ people as a community but as individual humans, just as we all are, ourselves.

 

This material is prepared as part of the Covering LGBT issues in transnational journalism project with the support of the Eastern Partnership Program of the German Federal Foreign Office

 

Pia Eichinger

Student from Munich; currently studying journalism at the Catholic Universityof Eichstätt-Ingolstadt