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Gay Time in Bulgaria

Gay tolerance is still not as widely accepted in Bulgaria as it is in Western Europe and the States. The reason for its homophobic attitudes is rooted in its Communist past. During this time homosexuals faced intolerance and severe violence if they were found out and today the older generation is still prejudiced. Fortunately the younger generation shows greater tolerance and times are slowly changing here as the country establishes EU jurisdiction and enforces new laws to protect gay people. More and more gay establishments are springing up in big cities and Bulgaria is now hosting several gay festivals.

Gay History

Homosexuals have experienced prejudice over many centuries largely due to misunderstandings and a lack of education on the topic as well as condemnation by various religions. During the years of Communism in Bulgaria homosexuals were deemed “imperfect.” Gay people were often beaten and ridiculed and those that lived through these times tend to avoid public places including those for solely gay entertainment. Even Bulgarian criminal law defined homosexuality as a perversion and criminalized homosexual acts in public. These out-dated ill-informed beliefs are still held by some people including some of those in power. If you declare your sexuality openly in some of the country’s villages be prepared for uproar but not necessarily condemnation; just bear in mind that most villagers will not have seen a gay person before.

New Laws

In 2004 new anti-discrimination law was passed to protect homosexuals in Bulgaria banning discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, religion, disability, age and sexual orientation, but many gays here remain skeptical as to its value believing that it was passed purely to pacify the only reason the bill passed was to pacify the EU and secure its membership in the community. Prior to that the age of consent for gay and lesbians in Bulgaria was lowered to stand in line with the age of consent for the heterosexual population, which is 16. The group Gemini LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) is helping Bulgaria to adapt to these changing times and evidence shows that more and more gay people are visiting the country particularly the capital. Their mission is to “create a better society for LGBT in Bulgaria so that all gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender people can feel safe and be accepted in the country." Gemini is currently working on programs with UNAIDS help to create educational and outreach programs.

More Gay Entertainment and Events

Though the gay scene is not fully accepted yet, times are changing and more homosexuals are coming out of the closet and openly letting their Bulgarian friends, relatives and employers know that they are happy being gay. Even some famous Bulgarians have come out of the closet.
In addition to the numerous gay entertainment spots now available, sex shops also cater for the gay community as well as heterosexuals and there is now a gay magazine and gay dating agencies. Sofia is also popular with Bulgarian homosexuals because it allows them to distance themselves from judgmental friends and relatives and of course, being the capital city it is home to a large number of gay establishments. The leading hang out in the city is the gay nightclub Spartacus, a trendy disco close to the university. There are also a number of internet sites like land, which provide detailed information on the best gay friendly hotels, bars, restaurants and clubs in Bulgaria and there information is not just limited to the capital.

The media has become much more gay-friendly and now report positively on gay events, and there are films with gay themes and gay movies at cinemas. The seaside capital Varna hosted the Balkan gay fest, which holds competitions like the "Miss Disgrace" contest, and "Mister Gay Bulgaria." In Sofia the Gay and Lesbian Fest has been held for four consecutive years now and last year Sofia held its first Gay Pride event, although this was marked with some violence.

Bulgaria lags behind Western Europe in terms of gay tolerance, however things are changing for the better; more gay and lesbian couples have chosen to make Bulgaria their permanent home and homosexual couples are now more visible in the beach and ski resorts, where there is more tolerance. It is still much harder to integrate in to village life here, but life in the cities contains some good entertainment and much more acceptance.