Ihar’s mom, Nadzieja, participates in a campaign against LGBTQ discrimination in Belarus: #StopHateBy. Journalists for Tolerance, a civic society organisation fighting for equal rights and freedom of speech, produces series of video with LGBTQ parents. The video is in Russian, hopefully they’ll put English subtitle soon. She’s very brave for speaking out, and we’re really proud of her.

In the meantime, here is the English translation of what she says:

Some 14 years ago
He came back for holiday again to visit me
My son came to me
He looked somewhat unusual and lost
And he said, “Mum, I wanna tell you something.”
I remember I replied, “How – gay?
Does it mean bent?”
Yes, I said that to him…
He said, “That’s right, mum, that’s how people call us.”
I always thought that only men who spent in prisons very long time would do that – those who didn’t have enough sex otherwise.
That’s how I used to think.
I just asked him, “Ihar, please explain this to me. Tell me.”
He said,”Sure, mum, ask away about anything, but sex.”
He wasn’t interested in girls.

I remember he fell for a boy in the grandmother’s village where we spent our summer holidays.
There was a boy from Leningrad there too
He liked him a lot.
When that boy played with others elsewhere, he would get upset and jealous. Now I understand what it was.
He abandoned his dream to become a priest.
I think, because he is gay.
He wanted to be open.
A priest should be able to understand his parishioners and lead by example, but he would have to keep it secret deep inside.
He wouldn’t be accepted here.
Our society is homophobic.
So, a gay priest…
Often people here equate gays with paedophiles and name-call them.

I wanted to tell about that to our relatives – to my mum and sister, even though I had a gut feeling that they won’t accept Ihar.
Still, I wanted to present him in the best possible light.
That’s how I thought back then.
He had already came out by then, said openly he was gay.

Now the time was for me to say that
I am a mother of a gay son.

My sister started looking for some kind of sins in me.
All my past mistakes she interpreted as a reason for god to punish Ihar.
Then sister’s friends started making comments…

In 2010, there was Minsk Pride.
Only for ten or fifteen minutes
I didn’t expect it all would turn so ghastly.
I was standing and holding a young man’s hand.
The police grabbed him away from me and dragged him to their bus.
I cried and lamented, “Don’t take him away, he is normal.”

Now I am ashamed of those words.
I am sad and it hurts.
And I am ashamed of our society.

If I kept silent, if I didn’t tell anyone, I’d hurt my son,
It would mean that I didn’t accept him.
With relatives, it didn’t work out, unfortunately.

When I said for the first time,
“You know, my son is gay” –
I felt a huge relief.
It was my coming out.

We, parents, shouldn’t keep silent.
Just take the first step.