Fed up with the discrimination he and his LGBT colleagues on the police force faced in Bulgaria, where “homophobia is a religion,” officer Petromir Genchev decided it was time to do something and established an association to protect their rights, a first in the largely conservative Balkan country. Although Genchev, 33, registered the group late last year, its existence largely remained a secret until he was interviewed in May by bTV, Bulgaria’s biggest private TV station. After the TV interview aired, the reaction from his colleagues in Vratsa, where he lives and serves in the local police force, was not encouraging to say the least, Genchev told RFE/RL’s Bulgarian Service. “Relationships are extremely tense. I haven’t heard from most of my colleagues since the broadcast,” Genchev said. Comments on the station’s website linked to the interview frequently referred to it as the “gay union,” along with disparaging descriptions. On the other hand, Genchev says queries about the group have been trickling in from other officers across the country. The group — formally called the Trade Union of the Employees of the Interior Ministry for Equality and Integration — has already been accepted as a member of the European LGBT Police Association, an umbrella organization of national lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) police associations from across Europe.