When Ukrainian mother Olena Globa discovered her teenage son's love poems about a man, she confronted him and demanded, "Are you a faggot?"
When her son Bogdan responded that he was gay, she felt her "ideal family turned into a nightmare." In a short documentary produced by Thomson Reuters Foundation, Globa said that initially she was not able to understand and accept her son, but "couldn't explain how loving parents could turn into not loving ones."
After she distanced herself from her son emotionally, he began to feel unsafe at home and in society and moved to the U.S., seeking asylum from anti-LGBTQ persecution. He is still waiting to see if that asylum will be granted.
Over eight years Globa came to terms with her son's sexuality and felt gulity for not accepting and supporting him when he desperately needed it. She turned that pain into a new purpose.
In 2013, Globa founded TERGO, a support group for parents of LGBTQ people, because she wanted "the other moms and dads not to repeat my mistake," she said. TERGO is a beacon of hope in a country not far from the undeniable atrocies in Chechnya.
Globa opens meetings by stating, "The biggest homophobic person in Ukraine was me." She combines her personal journey with the coaching and perspective of a psychologist who also speaks with the group. As parents share their challenges and steps toward acceptance, the progress Globa heralds becomes tangible. One mother who struggled to accept her transgender daughter shared, "Now I see more and more how she flourishes as a woman."
Despite Ukraine decriminalizing homosexuality in 1991 and passing a law to protect LGBTQ people from workplace discrimination in 2015, discussing the topic is still taboo.
By reaching the hearts of fellow parents, Globa has grown confident that one day, "Ukraine will be a safe place for LGBT people to live an realise themselves."
Watch the documentary about Globa and her work below. And check out more LGBTQ stories from the Thomson Reuters Foundation.