In the beginning of July, Lithuania’s annual "Vilnius Pride 2023" was memorable event not only for the participants themselves, but also for ordinary passers-by: bright and impressive costumes, music and free-spirited people chanting slogans reminding about rights they want filled the streets of Lithuanian capital.
According to LGBT community members, the desired changes and freedom to live and love the way they want are of crucial importance, but they do understand that there is still a lot to do and talk about.
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What do community’s member think
While some only watched the LGBT march from the side, others took part themselves. The event attracted both LGBT community and people simply supporting them and believing that there is enough space for everyone in Lithuania. Although public awareness of the LGBT community in our country is raising, community member Mantvydas think that there is still room for improvement.
Situation not as good as it could be
"It is not as good as it could be. It could certainly be better, but times are changing, maybe in 20-30 years considerable changes would take place", said Mantvydas.
One of the central problems that the Lithuanian LGBT community still encounters is that we do not have legal same-sex marriage in Lithuania. Austėja admits – she is really sad about it. "We still practice discrimination against people who just want to love", she adds.
For her, there is another very important aspect of injustice and discrimination. "It is not legal for same-sex persons to have a child. They can adopt, but have to do it in secret. That is what discrimination is about. It is argued, that two mothers or two fathers cannot raise a child, but that is not true", Austėja thinks. However, she believes that a lot has been already achieved. "Lithuania has come a long way; it has progressed in every possible sense".
"Pride" parade is a big celebration
Mantas Mackevičius from LGBT community says that there are many reasons why he attends the "Vilnius Pride" parade, but for him it is not just a protest. It is also a big celebration.
"Everyone has the right to live the way she or he wants, the right to love – this is our life. We have the right share and celebrate it", he said.
Asked how many times he has already participated in the event, Mackevičius smiles: "Less times than Gražulis. Gražulis has been involved more times".
However, it was not the first time that Mackevičius had attended a parade of the LGBT community. He is very proud that such event has also been held in his hometown Kaunas. "I am from Kaunas; I had the opportunity to attend "Kaunas Pride". It was a very big celebration, because what seemed impossible, nevertheless had happened", Mackevičius explains.
Considerable changes felt in interactions with others
According to Mackevičius, changing society’s attitudes towards the LGBT community, its rights and freedoms are noticed when simply talking to people. "Some people have stereotypical views, and you cannot change their minds, but I think it is their problem. When talking to people I know, I notice a lot of people who have changed their attitude", he says.
The fashion designer came out about his orientation quite early, when he was still at school, but even today he has to deal with some forms of bullying, even in doing business. "I have been open about my orientation since 9th grade, and it is very important for me not to hide, be open about it. It is the only way I can feel good about myself", says Mantas and adds that he knows how to ignore haters. "There has always been some negativity, but I simply block them and move on".
Fighting for the well-being of future generations
The LGBT community will have to fight for its rights for a long time to come, says Mackevičius, but he is happy to be able to contribute to the better life for future generations. "Just like women already seem to have all the rights, but for some reason we have not fully evolved to Homo Sapiens – the intelligent man, so to speak. I think this struggle would go on, and not only for us, but for many people. I do not think I will live long enough to see the desired results, but I am happy to contribute to for better future", said Mantas.
In July, Vilnius was painted in rainbow colours for the "Vilnius Pride 2023" event. The participants gathered near the National Mažvydas Library and marched along Gediminas Avenue towards the Cathedral Square. The marchers waved flags and posters, played music and chanted about their freedoms and rights. Around 5,000 people took part in the event, including not only members of the LGBT community, but also people to who wanted to express their support and solidarity.
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