Nonetheless, compared with Latvia, the heart of Westminster is a paragon of tolerance, and for Mr Sants, living in a place where he does not stand out because of his sexuality is an exciting novelty. “One thing I have experi enced since coming to London is that I have for gotten I am gay,” he said. “By this I mean I have forgotten what it feels like to be different, which is something new and wonderful. Here people don’t recognise me in the street. They don’t point and say ‘He is gay. He is different.’ I would almost say that I am healed because of this.”
Growing up in the 1980s, Mr Sants attended church secretly in the hope that religion might help him overcome what he regarded at the time as his immoral impulses.
He said: “I thought that perhaps I should kill myself because I was a man who wanted to commit crimes.”
Gay relationships were illegal in Latvia until the early 1990s, and homophobia remains widespread.
“There was a time in around 2005 when, possibly for a year or two, I was one of only two publicly known gay guys in the whole country,” said Mr Sants. “Those who came out, most of them had to immediately emigrate. By the time I came out at the age of 36 I had been through different healing programmes. I had been to psychiatrists and psychotherapists and had gone to ‘ex-gay’ ministries with evangelical Christians who believe homosexuality can be cured. When I turned 33 a serious thing happened and I understood – and this was really like a revelation – that actually it was completely OK. I understood then that hiding my homosexuality was a sin.”