Witold / Anton Shebetko, Ukraine
“I’m probably the kind of person who is lucky in terms of self-acceptance. Ever since I was young, I have been in contact with people who are also part of the community. If you look at Ukraine in general, then of course there is a difference in where you live. In small towns it is more difficult to express yourself.
My mother found out that I was gay at the age of 15 from my diary. At first she didn’t accept it, but as I grew up she decided to focus her love on who I really am and not on my orientation.
It seems to me that in Ukraine there is little cohesion between the community itself; there are few responsible people. Yes, we have Prides and every year there are more and more people attending, but many people in the community are indifferent to them. I myself was inactive for a long time, I did not understand why all this was necessary, until some time passed and I began to take part in Pride. There are many people like me, both in the capital and in small towns – there, people think less about their rights.
The change in me happened because I started dating my beloved. We were together for 10 years. I began to face various problems: the death of relatives, the illness of loved ones. I thought that if I stay alone, then only my boyfriend will be responsible for my life, but he has absolutely no right to this. This personal experience has greatly changed my attitude towards community rights.
I have always been confused by the Ukrainian gay culture, if you can call it that. But in recent years there has been a breakthrough. I do not know what caused it, perhaps globalization and openness of the world.
The attitude towards LGBTQ+ in Ukraine has changed because there are more visible people. We have problems with homophobia, but I have never experienced sidelong glances because I hug someone on the street, or hold their hand. Maybe I’m just lucky. I heard a lot of stories about how rednecks attack guys. But not everyone is faced with this, and personally I feel safe in Kyiv.
My best friend is dating a right-wing guy, this is her current boyfriend. It was a big shock for me, but then we began to communicate more often and we did not have any conflicts with him on the basis of homophobia. First he studied us, and then he infiltrated our company. We can say that we have defeated homophobia in him.
About war. On February 24, I visited my friends who live in Amsterdam. The first days of the war passed in complete shock. We went to demonstrations in The Hague and Brussels, it helped somehow to engage.
Before that, I had traveled with my friends in Latin America for a month and it so happened that my flight was through Amsterdam, in which I decided to stay for a while. Now I am in Berlin. My parents remained in Kyiv; they are divorced. Mom took my cat, I offered for her to come here, but she refused.”