What is the best way for me - a gay man living in a country where I don't speak much of the language and where gay people are relatively repressed - to promote greater rights for gay people here?
I'm an English teacher in Riga, the capital of Latvia in eastern Europe. While there's a gay rights organization here called Mozaika
that I'd like to work with if they'll have me, I worry that the language barrier will be a big issue, not just in the office but at public events as well, especially dealing with police, protesters, and the like.
A larger problem is that, as far as I've come to understand in my month or so here, Latvia is one of the least progressive
places in Europe with regards to gay rights. I worry that playing a public role or being present in the media as an English-language resource for interviews or for other media generation would inform my students and/or their parents of my sexuality and perhaps bring negative consequences to me or my allies and colleagues at the language school I work at, anything from lower class attendance to being beat up on the street.
I realize that the threat of violence may sound a little far-fetched to those of you in more progressive regions of the world, but a look at this anti-gay Latvian website, No Pride
, pretty well lays out the thesis that at least some section of the population here believes that gay people, especially gay men like myself, are out to "convert" straight people - especially kids and teens - to being gay, through things like pedophilia; check out this poll
on their website. Again, back home in California, these arguments don't really hold any water, but homosexuality was only decriminalized here in 1992 and there are some pretty powerful forces at work against gay people here; gay marriage has already been banned.
So then, what can I do? I don't think I want a public role at all, but I want to help my brothers and sisters here feel a little more liberated. I don't have a lot of money, but I do have time, and I'm a hell of a proofreader. I don't want to be ruled by fear, but I'd prefer to remain safe.
My e-mail's in the profile if you'd rather respond that way.