Skip to Content

Gay in Georgia: “If you are Georgian, you need to be a straight man. “

Gay in Georgia: “If you are Georgian, you need to be a straight man. “

The current Spartacus Gay Travel Index Georgia is number 96 in its ranking, with an overall rating of -5. In categories such as same-sex marriage, persecution, anti-discrimination laws, or transgender rights, the country does not score in a single case with a positive rating – all are either 0 or negative. Although homosexuality and being gay in Georgia has been legal since 2000 (think about it for a second), it is taboo in large parts of the country, with far-reaching consequences for lesbians, gays, and queer people. For my article “LGBTQ + Georgia” on Couple of Men, I have looked more closely at the current situation of the LGBTQ + community and what it means to be gay in the Republic of Georgia.

written by Sarah Tekath
translated by Karl Krause

> Where to be queer safely?

Gay in the Republic of Georgia Zur aktuellem Situation der LGBTQ+ in Georgien © Mikheil Meparishvili
Flying the Rainbow flag: Being Gay in the Republic of Georgia © Mikheil Meparishvili

Gay in Georgia: Strong Influence of the Orthodox Church

The cause of the difficult situation for the LGBTQ + community in Georgia is the great influence of the Orthodox Church. Moreover, the Georgian population is strongly conservative, with a partly open rejection of homosexuality. For example, in a 2011 poll, most respondents preferred having a person with an alcohol use disorder rather than a homosexual as a colleague. Education on sexual diversity does not take place in schools in Georgia. In this climate, disclosing one’s (gay) sexual identity and exposing it to the public is a major risk factor. A coming-out is often associated with significant negative effects, such as job loss. Transgender people are repeatedly denied access to the university.

Puerto Rico's West Coast with perfect sunsets | Gay Travel Index 2024 by Spartacus ©

Gay Travel Index of 2024

The Berlin-based Spartacus informs LGBTQ+ and queer travelers about how gay-friendly a holiday destination is according to several ranking factors and criteria. Gay travelers can use the Gay Travel Index 2024 to prepare for their gaycation and as a guide when choosing a holiday destination. But which country ranks first? Where is it safe to travel to as a gay and LGBTQ+ traveler?

The Day of the Family in Georgia

Even in private, there is a clear idea of family, love, and sexuality in Georgia. Since 2014, 17 May in Georgia is the day of the family, officially proclaimed by the Georgian Orthodox Church. However, there is a particular image of what a family in Georgia (should) look like. Namely, not gay, lesbian, bi, or transgender.

Gay in the Republic of Georgia Tag der Familie in Georgien? Und was ist mit den LGBTQ+ in Georgien © George Gogua /
Tag der Familie in Georgien? Und was ist mit den LGBTQ+ in Georgien © George Gogua /

On the occasion of this day, also the day against homophobia, events and demonstrations of the LGBTQ + community in the capital Tbilisi take place regularly, albeit with a higher risk level. In 2012, around 20 people demonstrating rights and equality for LGBTQ + were massively harassed by Orthodox priests and their supporters. The following year, the LGBTQ + activists faced a mob of several thousand (some sources speak of up to 20,000) homophobic members of the conservative Orthodox Church. The LGBTQ+ activists finally fled on a bus. A few days before the event, Ilia II of Georgia, head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, called homosexuality an anomaly and disease.

Gay in the Republic of GeorgiaTag der Familie in Georgien? Und was ist mit den LGBTQ+ in Georgien © George Gogua /
Tag der Familie in Georgien? Und was ist mit den LGBTQ+ in Georgien © George Gogua /
Gay in the Republic of Georgia Tag der Familie in Georgien? Und was ist mit den LGBTQ+ in Georgien © George Gogua /
Tag der Familie in Georgien? Und was ist mit den LGBTQ+ in Georgien © George Gogua /
Gay in the Republic of Georgia Tag der Familie in Georgien? Und was ist mit den LGBTQ+ in Georgien © George Gogua /
Tag der Familie in Georgien? Und was ist mit den LGBTQ+ in Georgien © George Gogua /

In 2018, the actions of the LGBTQ+ activists were canceled at short notice. Their protection could not be guaranteed, officials said. Furthermore, in 2019, LGBTQ+ organizations or other activists did not organize an event on May 17. Too big is the fear of renewed attacks.

Being Gay in the Republic of Georgia
Being LGBTQ+ in the Republic of Georgia
Gay in the Republic of Georgia

Daily threat & hostility to the LGBTQ + community

In Georgia, it does not suffice to conform to the optics that the conservative and radical sections of the population consider to be the norm. It does not have to be explicit gay acts, such as kissing or holding hands, in public. Sometimes an earring, a beard, or a certain way to dress can be enough to be beaten, explains Michael Mepharishvili from the NGO Equality Movement in Tbilisi. Also, there are only a few places where LGBTQ+ can live out their identity openly. When the Equality Movement was founded in 2013, there was only one LGBTQ+ club in the capital, and now there are 6. However, visiting these clubs always involves a risk. It can happen that people are caught, threatened, and attacked when entering or leaving the premises by radical groups. But also hostility and insults in restaurants, on the bus, or on the street are almost commonplace.

Gay in Myanmar, also known as Birma in Asia

Gay in Myanmar

Purse throwing and racing in high heels – These are recordings of the Drag Queen Olympics in Yangon, Myanmar. The country, which is also known colloquially as Burma and which is still one of the most conservative countries in Southeast Asia. Life for LGBTQ+ people there is anything but easy.

Being Gay in Myanmar >

The work of Equality Movement in Georgia

But even in the Republic of Georgia, there are organizations that do not simply want to accept the given circumstances without a fight. These include Identoba in the city of Kutaisi and Equality Movement in the capital Tbilisi.

Equality Movement was originally called LGBT Georgia. However, this name brought with it the problem that no one wanted to provide the founders with office space. As soon as it became clear which views the NGO represents, the rejection came in as well. After the change to the more neutral name Equality Movement the situation got a little better – but not good because, nevertheless, the organization had to move several times to avoid hostility and attacks.

Gay in the Republic of Georgia Gay Pride Rainbow Group of people LGBTQ+ activists Aktuelle Situation der LGBTQ+ in Georgien © Mikheil Meparishvili
Current situation of the LGBTQ+ community in the Republic of Georgia © Mikheil Meparishvili

Even in the current office, there is a security service that can be called in an emergency. Again and again, it happens that private printing services refuse an order when it becomes clear that it is about LGBTQ+ information material. For transgender people, there are special driving services that they should bring safely to the office or to the doctor. Equality Movement also offers free and anonymous HIV testing and information events in nightclubs and at festivals. It is also planned to create a map of Tbilisi with ‘safe places’ for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Gay in the Republic of Georgia

The attempt of a dialogue between both sides, however, does not exist, explains Mepharishvili. Instead, it would rather be a radicalization on both sides. “There is no space for dialogue.”

The situation of LGBTQ+ in Georgia is slowly improving

“Compared to neighboring Turkey and Russia, the situation is still good,” Michael Mepharishvili tries to see the situation positively. Within the young, Europe-oriented generation, more and more tolerance and openness for homosexuality can be seen. In a survey by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in mid-2018, at least, there was a small increase (2%) in LGBTQ+ rights advocates. Overall, 23% of respondents rated gender equality as important, with 26% at least neutral. Nevertheless, 44% of respondents clearly opposed the importance of LGBT rights.

In October 2017, an openly lesbian politician, Nino Bolkvadze, ran for public office for the first time. The same month, Georgian footballer Guram Kashia showed off a rainbow bracelet on the occasion of the International Day of Coming Out at a game in the Netherlands. The action triggered unrest in their country with several arrests.

Schwulsein in Russland Being gay in Russia under the ban on homosexual propaganda

Being Gay in Russia

Although homosexuality is not officially illegal in Russia – same-sex sexual acts have been legal since 1993 – Russia passed a law in 2013 that criminalizes speaking positively about homosexuality in the presence of a minor. Officially, lawmakers aim to protect minors. So, they claim…

Being Gay in Russia >

… but not fast enough

Certainly, Georgia’s desire to become part of the European Union will benefit the LGBTQ+ community. Nevertheless, many of the changes and improvements in their country are not fast enough. Georgia has just under 4.5 million inhabitants and many members of the LGBTQ+ community go abroad looking for more freedom and tolerance. Michael Mepharishvili explains: “I am afraid that I will soon be alone in this fight.”

Do you want to know more about our gay travel adventures and LGBTQ+ news from around the world? Follow us on InstagramTwitterYouTube, and Facebook!

More interesting articles for you:

Gay Georgia: About the current situation for LGBTQ + community in Georgia

Sarah’s article about Gay Georgia is the first part of her coverage. In the next few days, we will publish another interview with LGBTQ+ activist Tsiala Ratiani. But that’s just the beginning of the work of our reporter Sarah. More travel reports on the situation of the LGBTQ+ community will follow in the coming weeks and months. The aim of this series is to expose the sometimes dangerous situation for lesbian, gay, and queer people in less privileged countries, thereby contributing to equality, love, and tolerance throughout the world.

Do you have stories and stories that should be told on Couple of Men? E-mail us or private message on social media. Do not worry, all data will be treated confidentially and securely. And yet: Happy Pride and #lovewins!

Photo Source: Mikheil Meparishvili,
Source of Information: BBC News | The Guardian | RT News | OC Media | Georgia Today

Do you want to know and see more of us gay couple travel bloggers? Stay tuned on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook! See you around in Europe or on one of our next gay pride trips around the world!

Karl & Daan.

Do you like it? – Pin it!