By Elise Honningdalsnes
“Everyone should be able to feel comfortable in their own skin,” says Dorjjantsan Ganbaatar, also known as Jack, at the LGBT Centre here in Ulaanbaatar. The LGBT centre is arranging Equality and Pride days for the 4th time next week, and are hoping that people will come celebrate with them.
The centre arranges this annual event to spread the message of equality and non-discrimination during the Equality and Pride days which will start on the 26th of August. This annual event is very important to the LGBT community as this is a great chance to show the visibility of the community and to show what they stand for.
The main events that will take place include the opening concert, a film festival, thematic discussions, an art exhibition, a play, and of course, the pride parade. Everyone is welcome to come join, celebrate and promote equality. There are expected to be about 50-60 people participating in the pride parade, whilst the film festival has a capacity of more than 200 people.
This is the third time Jack is helping plan and implement the celebrations and he proudly says that the event is becoming bigger and bigger each year, with more people attending. When the event first was arranged in 2013, the planning committee experienced difficulties and people were too scared to attend. However, when the event was arranged again in 2014, the first parade took place. “The first time we had the parade was wonderful, people were smiling to us and they were positive,” says Jack.
“It’s getting easier and easier year by year,” he says. Even though they’ve experienced problems when it comes to finding venues and funding for their events, they are overall happy when it comes to this year’s planning.
Many people come to the LGBT centre to find someone to talk to and to be somewhere where they can feel accepted. It is still very hard for young Mongols to come out, and then especially to their parents. Many still experience being kicked out of their home, whilst others never return to the centre after having the conversation with their parents. “You’re never alone, the centre is here to help you,” says the Health Programme Manager of the LGBT centre.
Many young Mongols go abroad to countries such as Canada and Australia, where they can feel more accepted and there they often get married to their same-sex partners, as that tend to be easier for them than coming back. A few others suppress their feelings and go through with a ‘traditional marriage’ with someone from the opposite sex in order to live up to social expectations.
“This trend is gradually changing because young people want to live their own lives as it is, and not being forced to do anything that they don’t feel comfortable with,” says Zorig Alima, the owner of the only gay bar in Mongolia.
“It is still very tough, but society is becoming more open,” Jack says, “[society has] changed dramatically the past four years, and things will only get better.” The LGBT centre’s hard work has led to massive changes in the Mongolian society. New laws have come in place and people have become more open towards the LGBTI community.
Zorig used to run a nightclub before opening up his current bar, d.d/h.z. He says that the clientele has changed a little as more people come in to relax and to talk to him. The bar functions as a ‘safe-place’, as most of the people know each other and they can be themselves in Zorig’s company.
As part of the community, Zorig is supporting the Equality and Pride days and to show his support he has been doing fundraising events to collect money. Over the weekend he also donated 500 MNT for every beer sold at his bar towards the events next week.
The main supporters of the Equality and Pride days are all international, with the three main contributors being the Australian Embassy, The German Goethe Institute and the Alliance Francaise in Mongolia.