New East Digital Archive

The first photography project to document the lives of Transnistria’s at risk LGBTQ youth

19 January 2018
Text and image Carolina Dutca

Being born in the forgotten and unrecognised region of Transnistria in eastern Moldova as an LGBTQ person is difficult and often dangerous. The majoritarian discourse considers homosexuality as an unhealthy deviation from the norm and as something that is never discussed. In Transnistria, there is silence about different sexual orientations as well as about physical attacks on members of the LGBTQ community. Carolina Dutca is trying to break the taboo through No Silence, an ongoing photography series with accompanying quotations from 17 people dealing with an internal struggle between their nature and the expectations of their society; a struggle to find their place and identity in a world that is not yet ready to accept them. In her native Transnistria, the exhibition sparked a great deal of discussion after it had to be cancelled due to pressure from local police — including threats to Dutca and her family. No Silence is the first documentary photography project dedicated to LGBTQ life in one of the New East’s most openly homophobic regions.

Love doesn’t have to be divided in two

Don’t you know who pansexuals are? Well, I am one of them. We don’t care for gender any more than we do for eye or hair colour. We really don’t care who the person in front of us is – a man, a woman, a transsexual, an intersexual, a bi-gender or an androgyne. We are in search of a soul mate, and it makes no difference to us which body they will have. Isn’t that beautiful?

I won’t be ashamed to murder a gay

That’s what my older brother said, holding me out of the eighth floor window. I knew about his homophobia so I was trying to keep it all secret. But when my brother got hold of my private correspondence, his fears were confirmed. Due to the never-ending threats and beating I left home on the verge of suicide. Were it not for the support of my loved one, this story would have died with me.

Society should not restrict love

I have not experienced discrimination in my environment and in society as such. The only problem for me was to come out to my parents that I am a lesbian. They reacted harshly and refused to accept the fact. But I don’t care much and live happily with my girlfriend, ignoring the restrictions they tried to impose on me.

Freedom ends at the doorstep

I cannot take my loved one’s hand in the street; I cannot share my joy. I am forced to lie about who I am everyday. Otherwise, in the best case, I would have to answer uncomfortable questions and face disapproving looks; in the worst case — to fear for my health, dignity and financial situation.

We need to be with someone who makes us happy

During the long years of being married to a man, I managed to find my true self. I realised that I was under the influence of stereotypes enforced by society while I was really attracted to women only. When She appeared in my life, I finally felt that I had a meaningful relationship. We didn’t have to play roles anymore: you — a man, me — a woman. I could simply be myself.

I was not born to always wear a mask

I am gay. There is nothing shameful about this but, for some reason, I live in constant fear. There is always something scary — the risk of losing your job, of being misunderstood, of realising that there is no bright future for you in your home land. But now, by tearing the mask off, I want to meet my fear face to face. From now on, it is the fear, or me. I want to live without fear.

One girl is great, two is even better

This is what most heterosexual men think. When they hear that I am bisexual, they offer a threesome without any hesitation. Full of stereotypes promoted by the porn industry, they often see homosexual love as mere physical contact without any right to noble feelings. Don’t people like me deserve true love?

What makes me leave the country

It hurts when you lose friends by telling them who you are. It hurts even more when your parents refuse to understand you. This string of events made me consider moving to a place where human rights protection is more than mere words. I chose Finland, a country where discrimination is punishable by law; a country where it is safe to be happy.

Nothing human is alien to me

I am a normal person and I want to be honest with everybody the way I am when I am alone with Him and the Sea. I want to take his hand or embrace him when I am overwhelmed with emotion; I want to introduce myself as his husband and not his brother or friend; I want to stop telling stories about a girlfriend that doesn’t exist; I want to escape the fear that I would lose my job; I simply want to be happy like any other human.

You think this is about sexual characteristics?

It is not. Because we choose, first and foremost, a person. The soul isn’t of any sex, and I consider the soul to be the most important thing. I cannot be with someone just because of their attractive body — I need to be attracted to their personality. For this reason, there is no difference for me when it comes to choosing my partner, I don’t care if it is a man or a woman.

Society has made me secretive

Everyday, I am forced to play heterosexual roles to avoid homophobia. I try to make a joke when people ask me “Who do you prefer?” I have to hide my bisexual nature all the time. We are not actors and life is not a play where we have to learn new parts every day.

I play for both teams in life

I am attracted to both men and women equally. I became aware of it at a young age when I realised that I was falling in love with classmates – both boys and girls. I do not consider it a drawback at all; rather, I see it as an advantage. Woody Allen famously said: “Bisexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date on a Saturday night.”

Thank you for feeling free inside

I remember how I first learned about homosexual relationships from a TV show where a lesbian couple was the target of verbal abuse. I remember how I asked my mother to explain everything to me. “This happens when girls love girls and men love men, but I will accept anybody you will fall in love with,” my mother said. And so I was never afraid to show my love for anyone.

I am afraid to let myself go

I remember being attracted to girls since kindergarten. This attraction stayed with me, but from my teenage years I began to fear that showing feelings towards the female sex would cause my friendships to break down. This is the reason I have had only boys in my life, but deep inside, I am firm and confident that I am bisexual, and I hope to overcome this fear in the near future.

Those who truly love will always understand

When he called me that night, I didn’t understand from the beginning how serious it was. His despair was endless. He walked 20 kilometres in the dark of the night trying to escape from those closest to him who failed to understand him and abused him. From that moment, I’ve been trying to protect him from all dangers which could be brought on him by those who surround him.

I refuse to live like this

Spitting, humiliation and abuse from those whose duty it is to protect human rights; broken bones, constant tears, nights spent in the streets due to conflicts with those who are supposed to be closest to you; permanent “correction” by religion, threats to lock me up in a mental hospital — this is what forces me to remain silent.

I am afraid to confide in others

It is very unpleasant when people in whom you confided reject you when they learn that you made “an untraditional choice”. It hurts when your close friends tell you: “You are a good guy, fun to be around, but we are not going to be friends anymore because you are gay…” Why does my private life have such a strong impact on relationships with other people?