1. Gays and lesbians are told not to demonstrate or discuss their homosexuality.

“I have nothing against gays, for as long as they don’t show who they are in public” — is a commonly used self-contradicting phrase. If you accept someone, why would you ask him to hide who he really is? Do we Bulgarian heterosexuals hide our orientation by not holding hands or kissing in public? No. It is a hypocrisy to say we will ‘accept’ the different ones but to expect them to suppress their personality. Living in shame and darkness creates an emotional trauma for LGBTI people, which makes them 2-3 times more prone to suicide here.

2. LGBTIs are often threatened with violence.

Every month, there are homosexuals who become victims of physical assault because of their different sexual orientation. Around 86% of those victims haven’t reported the assault to the police, mainly due to fear of xenophobia and lack of trust in the institutions. According to Amnesty International, Bulgaria has failed to “adequately investigate and prosecute hate crimes”.

Sofia Pride march is often blocked by nationalists. The march is guarded by police but street attacks happen after the event is over. Even women become victims of violence. Skinheads and nationalists are the usual suspects who use rocks, bottles, and even Molotov cocktails in the past. Due to the fact that the march is severely guarded, nationalists now go to anti-gay pride marches, legally organized by five nationalist parties in the country. One of these parties, Ataka, currently has representation in Bulgarian parliament. Last year’s slogan of the counter-march was “68 years of xenomania is enough.”

The law on protection against discrimination was amended in 2004 and 2015 to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and identity. The criminal code, however, does not include punishment for violence based on sexual orientation or identity

3. Homosexuals are often labeled “a threat to Bulgarian family values.”

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church condemns homosexuality, calling it a “deadly sin which must be confessed or eradicated.” “They are a danger to the good upbringing of our children, destroy the foundations of the traditional family and threaten the good health of our society,” said the church in an official statement, urging the institutions to cancel last year’s Sofia Pride march. The year was 2012. One priest even called on “everyone who considers themselves Christian or Bulgarian” to throw rocks during the gay pride.

4. If the truth is out, homosexuals might get fired or hassled at work.

Deystvie organization shares how a lesbian who tells her colleagues how she has been on a holiday with her girlfriend might get hassled at work or even fired. Half of the Bulgarian participants’ answers in a study done state they don’t want to work in the same room with a homosexual. More than half of them would not let their child to go to a school where there is a homosexual teacher. Nearly 40% of employers admit they wouldn’t hire someone if they know he is gay.

5. Half of those who hate homosexuals think LGBTI people are sick.

Homosexuality used to be considered a disease in the 80s in Bulgaria. Half of those who hate gays and lesbians think homosexuality is a condition that should be cured. However, more than 35 years of scientific research proves that homosexuality is not a disease, it is not a mental or emotional problem. There is no “cure” for it. Dragging a child who has confessed his different sexual orientation or identity to a psychologist won’t have a reversal effect. Actually, to be able to come out is important for the psychological health of LGBTI individuals.

6. Lesbians are often sexually harassed by straight men.

“I don’t like gays, they are nasty. But lesbians making love look beautiful!” — I have heard my straight male friends say this too many times. There is nothing wrong in fantasizing about having sex with lesbians. The problem is when sex is the only thing that comes to the straight mind when hearing the word “lesbian” or “bisexual woman”. Lesbians and bisexual women also have personalities, jobs and hobbies.

7. Friends are often lost after hearing the truth.

The word friends should be put in quotes here. Here it goes — “friends.” I am a straight Bulgarian woman. And I have no problem accepting or being friends with homosexuals, bisexuals and even transsexuals. To me, they make the world a more colorful and interesting place. Why do some of us still insist to live in grayness?