Coming to Lithuania, I had only a vague idea of the country, the LGBT rights situation, or the work I was going to be doing. I knew Lithuania was considered one of the most homo-, bi- and transphobic countries in the European Union: that it was one of very few European countries without any legal recognition of same-sex unions, and that gender confirmation legislation was virtually non-existent. What I didn’t know was how that translated into the advocacy work of a local LGBT rights organization or the lives of the LGBT community in the country.
Now, after my time at LGL, the picture is much clearer. I got to experience the methods and challenges associated with LGBT advocacy work in such a delicate environment. Some of the problems I even experienced first-hand, like the arson attack on the LGL office and the hostility with which the public reacted to it. On the other hand, I also saw the different avenues of local, national and international project work on behalf of the community that LGL is involved in. I really enjoyed to be able to be involved in a number of different projects through small tasks as well as being able to attend meetings, seminars and conferences on a variety of topics LGL is doing work on.
My main focus during my internship was on the topic of transgender people, as it is something I have a strong personal and professional interest in. While at LGL, I learned a lot about the legal and social situation of trans people in Lithuania and got to follow the ongoing legislative process closely. I also organized a workshop for the local trans community, which I am hoping will lead to more regular meetings for trans people.
Overall, I experienced a lot of different sides of NGO advocacy work and I am thankful to the LGL staff, volunteers and community members that I got to collaborate with and learn from. I hope to return to Vilnius to celebrate Baltic Pride 2019 with you!