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Appeal to Gay and Lesbian Community of Eastern Europe
by the international conference "Our world: equality and cooperation"
(Kiev, Ukraine, October 19-21, 2000)

We appeal for equal rights and opportunities for all people regardless of their sexual identity, and for all-around cooperation in attainment of this goal. The realization of such equal rights and cooperation comprise the major task that has necessitated and determined our conference's being held at this time. Equality is necessary, possible and inevitable if our countries are truly to join the contemporary democratic European community. Our countries declare in words their willingness to confirm and realize equality. It largely depends on us whether these words will become reality.

We gathered in Ukraine's capital to discuss problems common to the countries of the former communist bloc, to learn about the real situation in our countries, and to share our experiences in solving gender identity issues. Though the situation of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender persons (as well as the general situation vis-a-vis human rights observation in each state) has specific national distinctions, we still share a large number of problems. First among these shared challenges are the inamicable disregard of our problems on the part of state bodies and political parties, the disunion of lesbian&gay and human rights movements, and attempts by others to present lesbian&gay issues as marginal ones and even as alien to our societies.

Though we can rely on experience and material assistance from the West, the only possibility of bringing about a real change in the situation in our countries is to change conditions from within. It is impossible to protect the rights of those who are not visible. Public organizations, first of all, have to speak out about rights and concerns of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals - to make the society, state, and politicians pay attention to basic human rights. A vicious circle exists: members of society are distrustful and fearful of those they know about only through snippets of information and hardened prejudices. Lesbians and gays are fearful of discrimination and so are not willing to "come out". This process has to be turned around. After getting objective information and accepting homosexuals as ordinary people, society's members will inevitably, we expect, grow milder and liberalize their attitudes towards homosexuals. Such a progressive attitude change will in turn be conducive to encouraging more lesbian&gay people to live openly - without worrying about their well-being and sometimes life itself. This first step has to be taken principally by avantgarde men and women with vision and boldness, and then to be taken again and again until inertness, mistrust and prejudices are overcome through the implementation of better attitudes befitting the new millennium we are all in.

In this struggle it is necessary to make resourceful use of all possible forms of assistance available to our lesbian&gay movement from other public organizations - first of all, from those engaged in furthering human rights and anti-AIDS activity. We must not keep apart from the social life of our countries, nor shut ourselves up in our own shells, nursing our problems and hurts. We have to consider the reality of the cultural, social and political situation. Sometimes thoughtless imitation of Western methods may result in just a deepening of alienation and dislike on the part of society. At other times only vocal actions are able to tear down the wall of indifference and misunderstanding. To make use of others' mistakes and successes, we have to establish effective information exchange among our groups. We must not waste the possibilities of programs existing for the development of international cooperation. An international project often draws greater attention than separate actions by isolated groups. The most authoritative pan-European lesbian&gay organization is ILGA-Europe (International Gay & Lesbian Association, European Region). We believe we have to employ the potentials of this and other organizations in coordinating our efforts both on a European and a national scale.

Lastly, we appeal for respect regarding each other's efforts to achieve our common goal - hopefully resolving and harmonizing disagreements over some principles that may be held by our fellows in our common cause. We do not need, and must in unity rise above, mutual demands and grudges. We need new ideas, proposals and plans for cooperation in Eastern Europe. Often gay organizations get stuck in mutual discords and arguments, wasting their main energy in obstructing the work of similar groups, rather than using energy in useful activity. We note that we have minorities within our midst: people with challenged physical abilities; ethnic, national, racial and other groups needing protection and support. We all must not forget about the problems of these of our people; their specificity and individuality are woven into the background tapesty of our shared interests.

We call upon all lesbian&gay organizations and groups of the East European countries - Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Rumania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, Croatia, Czechia, Estonia and Yugoslavia - to support the Appeal of our conference to the presidents, governments and parliaments of these countries. May this action become another step in our cooperation and show the unity of our demands and our goals. Let all people see that the lesbian&gay movement in the countries of our region is not something alien or brought in from outside, and that we, as citizens of our states, are willing to construct our future and to construct and participate in the future of the entire new Europe.

Our World Gay and Lesbian Center

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