Pride and Prejudice? Couples on LGBTQ+ love around the world

Tuesday, 14 February 2023 10:47 GMT

An aerial photograph taken with a drone shows members and activists of the LGBTQ+ community standing in a heart-shaped formation, in Tirana, Albania May 17, 2021. REUTERS/Florion Goga

Image Caption and Rights Information
Five LGBTQ+ couples in countries from the United States to India on their relationships and facing down threats to their rights

By Lucy Middleton

LONDON, Feb 14 (Openly) - Many LGBTQ+ people still face barriers to being with the person they love.

More than 65 countries criminalise gay sex, while only 32 nations worldwide have legalised same-sex marriage. Elsewhere, such as in parts of the United States, there have been moves to push back against LGBTQ+ rights.

In many countries, from Russia to Uganda, widespread hostility towards LGBTQ+ people can make it unsafe to be open about same-sex relationships.

Here's how people in LGBTQ+ relationships in Russia, India, Bulgaria, the United States and Uganda described the challenges they face. All interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Scotty and Jeffrey Tremaine, aged 30 and 32 respectively, have been together for almost seven years and live in Colorado in the United States. They married in 2020.

Scotty: We met at a gay bar in Dallas, Texas, where we were both amateur drag queens.

I had a crush on him from the day I met him. We were best friends for years, then he drove to see me in a musical and brought flowers - then he kissed me.

That was probably when I knew he was the one.

We left Texas because the state Republicans were discussing no longer recognising same-sex marriages. We decided we wanted to get out of there, in case that did pass.

In Texas, you have to look over your shoulder if you want to hold hands in public and guns are openly carried. All of our family is back in Texas, but Colorado is the safest place for us.

Denver is a very gay-friendly city, there is queerness everywhere. This is a very liberal state.

Natalia Soloviova, 34, and Elena Aab, 36, are LGBTQ+ activists from Novosibirsk, Russia. They have been together almost 12 years.

Natalia: We met in a gay club thanks to our mutual friends. I saw her on the dance floor and immediately knew we'd know each other for a long time.

In Russia, a huge amount of stigma surrounds us from all sides, from neighbours to hate speeches on TV. Now with the new law on "propaganda" (banning material deemed to promote homosexuality) this is becoming worse and worse.

It hurts me personally that we don't have rights like other families: we're such a typical couple ... we go shopping on weekends, we pay taxes and have bought property together. But (according to) the state and the law, we're nobody to each other.

We live in a big city, and I think due to my combative nature, we do not directly encounter violence on the streets. But I know it isn't so easy in all parts of Russia.

Ankana Dey (L) and her partner Koyel Ghosh (R), pose for a selfie together outdoors in India. Koyel Ghosh/Handout via Thomson Reuters Foundation

Koyel Ghosh, 33, and Ankana Dey, 24, are LGBTQ+ activists in Kolkata, India, and have been together for two and a half years.

Ankana: I'm not a very physically romantic person, in the sense of public affection. And Koyel also can be very shy.

However, in places where we feel that our presence is making other people uncomfortable, we hold our hands as a form of resistance. We're going to behave just like any other couple you see and you're going to have to get used to seeing us.

Koyel: I'm open about our relationship, but have I told my family members? No. I don't think it's important after the abandonment they put me through (after coming out as LGBTQ+).

Ankana and I live alone together. Going back isn't an option for either of us.

We're afraid, we meet people everyday who are facing so much violence from their families. They face homelessness, forced migration, being completely cut off. These are the consequences of coming out.

The ability to fight back without giving up gives us a lot of hope. What I have with Ankana doesn't need a social stamp of approval to validate it.

Frank Mugisha, 38, is an LGBTQ+ activist in Uganda. He has been with his partner, whom he asked not to name, since 2007.

Frank: We met through a movie screening, but it was hard - I'm openly gay and he isn't out fully, due to family pressure. It made it so hard for us to express our love, exchange gifts or visit each other. Everything was in secrecy.

My partner has now left Africa altogether due to the amount of stigma and lack of safety he faced.

It's so hard, but we see each other when I travel. He had to be safe.

We live under so much fear and paranoia in Uganda, anti-LGBTQ+ groups have increased and they're asking for strong punishments for gay people. The death penalty has been proposed at points.

My family are divided but I still have contact with them - and I'm so proud of my activism.

Vladislav Petkov (R) and his partner Shogo Mori (L) pose together with the Progress Pride flag at Sofia Pride in 2022. Vladislav Petkov/Handout via Thomson Reuters Foundation

Vladislav Petkov, 35, and Shogo Mori, 29, met four years ago in Sofia, Bulgaria. They travelled to Denmark to marry last year.

Vladislav: We met on Grindr. He is amazing. He makes me feel like a better person.

Shogo is originally from Japan and is in Bulgaria studying. One of the reasons we got married was to ensure he would be able to stay in Europe after he graduates this year.

We got married in Denmark because unfortunately we can't do it in Bulgaria.

Bulgaria is not becoming friendlier, especially in the last couple of years. We have had a series of snap elections and LGBTQ+ issues have been weaponised.

We can live together, maybe not as publicly as we'd like to. I have felt gradually less safe than I used to here and we're more careful in public. I try and be appreciative - Bulgaria is not the best for LGBTQ+ rights, but also not the worst.

We are planning to move to Spain as there they will recognise our marriage and Shogo will be able to stay in Europe.

Related stories:

OPINION: What are the risks to LGBTQ+ equality in 2023?

Ukraine war brings a push for LGBTQ+ rights, but will it last?

Why is the Anglican Church torn over same-sex relationships?

(Reporting by Lucy Middleton; Editing by Sonia Elks. The Thomson Reuters Foundation is the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters. Visit

Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Update cookies preferences