LGBT Groups Pensive About IDAHO as Church Marks Family Purity Day
Georgian LGBT+ rights groups have all opted for a low-key celebration – albeit with mixed messages — of the highly contested date of May 17, International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT).
Tbilisi Pride, a non-profit focused on reclaiming freedom of assembly and expression for LGBT+ people, hosted a panel discussion titled “May 17: Memory and Prospects,” involving Public Defender Nino Lomjaria, activists, journalists, and an opposition MP.
“We are not going to give up public space in general,” Ana Subeliani, Tbilisi Pride co-director told reporters in Holiday Inn Tbilisi hotel, which hosted the event.
“On the contrary, we’ll continue to fight so that as soon as possible, any citizen of this country, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, can walk anywhere in the country, including the street of political importance [meaning Tbilisi’s main Rustaveli avenue], to make a manifestation and express their positions.”
Subeliani said while Georgia in recent years saw some achievements for LGBT+ people, like anti-discrimination legislation, concerns persist, including top officials issuing statements that call for violence.
She also slammed the authorities for the failure to bring organizers of homophobic violence on July 5, 2021, which disrupted the planned pride parade and left more than 50 journalists injured.
Left-Leaning Groups Talk ‘Real Problems’
Four other LGBT+ community organizations, including Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group, Equality Movement, Temida, and Identoba Youth, made a joint separate statement, focusing on “real challenges” that concern LGBT+ Georgians.
“By taking to the streets on this day, LGBTQ activists and community organizations have spent years trying to raise the issue of social, economic, and political oppression of LGBTQ people in public,” the group said.
Over the last decade, however, it stated, these efforts have “turned into a powerful tool of political manipulation, instrumentalization, overshadowing fundamental socio-economic concerns, and public controversy, by all state and non-state institutions and groups that produce and support anti-progressive and anti-social policies.”
The joint statement said both groups speaking on behalf of the “homophobic majority” or “LGBT minority” are trying to present LGBT people as a homogeneous group of specific ideologies and political interests fighting for exclusive power.
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This leaves no room for discussing “real issues,” including the right to dignified labor, quality healthcare, right to housing, education, and security, the statement added.
Albeit recognizing that LGBT+ persons are most deprived of public spaces, the four queer organizations stated that “the entire society is losing public spaces that are “intensively turned into the sources of privatization and economic profit for a few.”
Only by understanding how, why, and by whom are we deprived of these rights we will be able to see the common ground of our common concerns and awaken real public solidarity, the group concluded.
Orthodox Church Marks Family Purity Day
The Georgian Orthodox Church Patriarchate, on its part, marked on May 17 the ‘Family Purity Day,’ introduced in 2014 to counter IDAHOBIT, a year after unchecked homophobic violence in central Tbilisi.
Members of the Orthodox parish, led by senior clerics, gathered in thousands on the First Republic square in the afternoon and marched down the Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi’s main thoroughfare.
Metropolitan Shio Mujiri, the Georgian Patriarch’s locum tenens, held prayers in the Kashveti Church on Rustaveli Avenue. Addressing the parish, he listed reason, word, religion, and marriage as the main characteristics of a human being.
“Marriage is one of the key characteristics of a man that distinguishes us from animals,” the Metropolitan asserted.
“Family is a precious thing for us as a God-given sacredness and one of the main features of a man,” he added in the sermon.
In his words, “today we defend this sanctity as the need arises to do so. Our ancestors had no such need, it was all taken for granted.”
The parish then continued their march toward the Zion Cathedral in old Tbilisi, with a stopover outside the nearby walled four-floor residence of the Orthodox Church Patriarchate. Patriarch Ilia II, 89, was seen giving blessings to joyous believers from the balcony.
In 2013, several thousand protesters, backed by radical Orthodox clergy, violently assaulted an attempted IDAHOT rally. A year later, in 2014, the Church declared May 17 as Family Purity Day. Gay rights groups have since been unable to mark the day freely, fearing the absence of security guarantees.
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