EU trainee interview with Karin-Liis Lahtmäe

In the second of our interviews with some of the European Institutions’ trainees, in which we attempt to learn about LGBT+ communities across Europe, we meet Karin-Liis Lahtmäe. A trainee in the Executive Agency of Small– and Medium-Sized Enterprises, she talks about her role as an ally.

What is the situation of the LGBT+ Community in your country?

Legislatively, Estonia seems to be doing (a bit)  better than the rest of the former Soviet bloc countries. On 1st January 2016, the Cohabitation Agreement Bill became a law and Estonia now recognises same-sex unions. Also, following a December 2016 court ruling, same-sex marriages performed abroad are recognised as well. Furthermore, although joint custody isn’t allowed, individuals in same- sex relationships can adopt. Besides, same-sex couples are allowed to take a foster child and lesbian women can use IVF (in-vitro fertilization). Nonetheless, there is still a gap between legislation and social acceptance.

Isn’t    Estonian    society    open-minded about LGBT+ relationships?

The 2015 Eurobarometer statistics show that 51% of our population is against EU- wide same-sex marriage. Walking on the streets one would not see gay couples holding hands, publicly showing any type of  affection.  Most of my friends have told me that they would not feel comfortable doing that in Estonia. As a society, we have our (hopefully not too long and winding) road ahead of us.

What is your opinion on the distinction that is continuously being made between LGBT+ and straight allies within the movement?

Firstly, human beings are social beings and I firmly believe that we are stronger together. Secondly, I think it is a matter of majority/minority’s power to influence the public discourse. If a group is in a leading position in discussions, then what this group should be saying is “we have a lot of say, have your say too, and if you want to lead the next round of discussions, be my guest, I do not feel superior or inferior as a result and neither should you”. So, if the allies have seemingly more power in the public discourse (i.e. the freedom to express themselves without having to fear for their mental and physical sovereignty), they should use that say, share that say, and pass that say on for it to be put to good use.

“LGBT+ allies are important because we are stronger together.”

– Karin, 27, EASME

What is your opinion on the distinction that is continuously being made between LGBT+ and straight allies within the movement?

I would like to be an ally, however, being a “straight ally” is too heteronormative for my taste. Personally, I  would not make that distinction be- cause it creates unnecessary differentiation when we should be fighting for the same cause, regardless of who  we identify as. I understand how one might put forth the argument that not being an innate part of the LGBT+ community would somehow create a natural differentiation but, then again, there  are  LGBT+  people  who  do not wish to be allies of some of the messages put forth. As long as there is understanding and empathy as to why one chooses this or that distinction, we are all good. Or we will be, together.



Written by: María Aparicio

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