10 Days of Activism Blog by Sotiris Koulermou, YouAct member, Cyprus

doaIt has come to my attention throughout my experience with LGBT activism that visibility is crucial. The aim to enlarge visibility is interrelated with creating an accepting society and in particular to secure the rights of LGBT people in order to be regarded as equal with everyone else regardless of their sexuality. Unfortunately, the lack of legal protection for same-sex relationships and the stereotypes within several societies, for instance the Cypriot context that I come from, creates this imperative to create an organised community for the promotion and assertion of rights through awareness raising, educational activities and advocacy.

I refer to visibility as the primary consideration particularly because it is considered to be the root for the progress and development of LGBT issues. In other words visibility aims to create an accepting society, a civilised community, and especially a just State that respects the differences among people and continues to regard them all as equal. My personal principal motivation for this engagement with LGBT issues lies within the discrimination that I have faced on a personal level. This type of discrimination started from bullying at school and continues by exclusion from any legal protection on an equal level with a heterosexual person. As a young person I envision a society that is based on equality, mutual respect and acceptance.

It is unacceptable on the part of the State, after having decriminalised homosexuality, which indicates knowledge that homosexual people exist within the society, to consider these people as ghosts in the society. Acceptance of existence of LGBT people requires the adjustment of the legislation in such a manner that satisfies the rights of LGBT people on an equal basis with heterosexual people for instance with access to legal protection under a civil union. I envision a society where homosexual couples that have been sharing their lives for several years, earn the right to also legalise such relationships in order to secure inheritance, family and all other rights that only derive from a legally recognised union.

Decision makers have to hear the voices of young people, especially those young people that have recently been victims of bullying, abuse and /or victims of other forms of discrimination. It is important for young people, who are a vital part of the present and future all societies, to pass on their messages for the changes that they want to see in the world. It is additionally important that the voices of young people reach decision-makers in order to create the provisions for development, acceptance and equality so that we create a functioning society which respects differences and does not exclude any person from any form of legal protection. Decriminalization of homosexuality is always the primary state that, thanks to the European Convention of Human Rights, has been achieved in all the States that have signed the Convention. However, it is only a small step and further protection and true acceptance of LGBT people is undoubtedly required for the creation of a harmonized and just society. I am determined that all the LGBT activists around the world, having the greatest motivation (which is nothing but mere self-respect) will continue to work hard to achieve all those things that should be considered as common sense but does not appear to be common at all at the moment. I do trust that young people can and will make the change for LGBT people because we are the change we want to see in the world.