In Bulgaria, gay and lesbian people are told not to demonstrate or discuss their sexuality, whether privately or publicly. But for Kristina, being open and visible is the first step to changing mentalities.
When did you first realise you were attracted to women?
I knew I was attracted to women when I was seventeen years old. I met a girl while I was doing an internship for my university. One day, we had a meeting for work and she asked me to come an hour earlier. I had no idea what was going on but I knew there was some sort of connection between us. Indeed, she came an hour earlier with a red rose. That’s how everything started and at that point I felt so many emotions and understood that I was attracted to women. It felt right and I knew I had true feelings for this girl.
In the past, I was dating boys and thought I’d have a husband and kids like every woman I knew.
Today I can confirm I’m 100% homosexual and I am loving my life.
Was it difficult for you to accept your homosexuality?
At the beginning I remember thinking it may be a phase but that quickly evolved and I was perfectly happy with finally feeling like I understood my feelings. It’s true however that many people from the community are struggling to accept themselves because being gay here is not exactly accepted yet.
Who did you come out to first?
The first person I came out to was my best friend. She was really surprised but she was happy for me. We had a long conversation and she was interested in knowing more about same-sex relationships between two girls. It felt nice to be able to completely open up and share my feelings and emotions with someone.
The following coming outs were very basic. I think I just started to introduce myself as a lesbian because I wanted people to know who I am and I wanted to feel completely free all the time without having to deal with ambiguous situations. I don’t like ambiguity and I completely embrace being a lesbian. I consider it to this big part of me.
Are you out at work?
Yes and everyone is really supportive. Even my recruiter knows and she’s perfectly fine with it. In fact, sometimes we talk about our lives and she asks me how things are with my girlfriend. I’m grateful for that and I know that not everyone has the same experience at work.
Are you out to your parents?
No I haven’t come out to my parents yet because I know they wouldn’t accept it. One night we were watching TV at home and there was a show that talked about Pride in Sofia and my mum immediately pressed the power button and said ‘no I can’t watch these fags anymore.’ At that moment, it was difficult to hear these words but I preferred to protect our relationship by not saying anything.
However, I suspect that they know about me but they’re just in denial. We never talk about the fact that I’m twenty-five years old and I have never mentioned any men or brought anyone home. It’s common sense.
But I don’t want to tell them because I really do have a good relationship with both my parents. I truly love them and the last thing I want is to hurt or disappoint them. They’re really supportive in everything else in my life so I don’t want to ruin that.
I feel like someday however I will have to open up about who I am. If I have a serious relationship or plan on getting married (in another country…) I would have to tell them.
Are your gay friends out to their parents?
No, most of my gay friends haven’t told their parents. In fact, I don’t think I have friends whose parents know about them being gay. In Bulgaria the older generation doesn’t accept homosexuality and the stigma is huge probably due to their education. But I really believe it’s getting better.
Have you ever been to Pride in Sofia?
No, I’ve never been to Pride in Sofia because I was in the US for the past three years. But as far as I know, more and more people are coming and people are Bulgarians are becoming more accepting. However there still are many protests before and after Pride as we see many facebook groups being created to protest against the event in order to ruin it. But people are less scared to show love on the streets and I’m excited to see how much it can grow in upcoming years.
Would you say that lesbians are more accepted than gay men?
Yes, I do think lesbians may be more accepted than gay men. For example, If you’re walking on the street holding your partner’s hand, reactions will differ whether it’s two women or two men holding hands. People tend to be more accepting of women being together for some reason I can’t explain.
You volunteer for Single Step, an organisation whose mission is to support, motivate and empower LGBTI youth, their families, friends and allies in Bulgaria. What do you do for them?
I started working at Single Step in the communication and media department. It’s really important for me to be more active and help LGBTI youth embrace who they are. They need to express themselves and feel supported. I believe it’s very important to have an organisation like Single Step in Bulgaria. Society needs to become more accepting of diversity and understand that we are all “normal” and that it’s not a sin.
What are your hopes for LGBTI people in Bulgaria?
I hope that Bulgarians will become more accepting and more supportive of us all. I was lucky at work and with my friends but I know that’s not the case for everyone. Parents must also work on being more accepting and supportive of their children in that regard.
We must not feel like we are doing something wrong and that we are unnatural or sinful.
Instead, I would hope that Bulgarians start embracing diversity and fight the stigmas associated with being gay or part of the LGBT+ community. It’s time for us all to support each other, especially in times like these.