Фото: Anton Vaganov / Reuters
On December 5, president Vladimir Putin signed a law banning ‘LGBT-propaganda,’ which practically deprives the Russian queer community of the right to exist openly. The new ban equates homosexuality with pedophilia and introduces multi-million ruble fines for distributing any kind of queer content. State pressure on the community began in Russia a long time ago, but this law made the already vulnerable position of LGBTQ+ people even worse.
Mediazona compiled a list of LGBTQ+ rights projects in Russia. Their activists told us what they do, how to support them, and who will be affected by the new repressive measures.
ComingOut LGBTQ+ Group provides free legal, psychological, and career online counseling. The project's staff is monitoring discrimination and engages in strategic litigation. They also provide a program for Russian-speaking trans, detrans and non-binary people all around the world called ‘Trans*mission.’
“You can help us by joining our volunteer team, by spreading information we publish on our social networks, or by donating to cryptocurrency wallets,” says Alexander Voronov, executive director of ComingOut.
The ComingOut team left Russia back in the spring; the organization has no intention of complying with the new discriminatory laws. Voronov admits that it will become more difficult to work with media outlets, publishers, and bloggers because of self-censorship. But human rights activists have faced such tendencies before—because of the law on ‘LGBT propaganda among minors,’ he says. “I think we'll find ways to level them out and keep working—as we have been doing for years so far.”
The project helps LGBTQ+ people from Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia who have been affected by war. Queer Svit specializes in online counseling and, in emergency cases, financial assistance with relocation to a safe place. “We help Ukrainians with humanitarian aid and short-term housing in Europe,” adds project founder Anne-Marie Tesfaye.
“You can help us by telling others about our work,” Tesfaye says. The project also accepts donations.
Tesfaye says that more enquiries started coming from Russia after the State Duma passed the law in November: these people were alarmed by the news and didn't understand what was going on. For the most part, they wanted psychological and legal advice rather than help with relocation.
Website (in Russian)
Since 2014, the centre has provided ‘comprehensive support’ to the LGBTQ+ community in Yekaterinburg and the Sverdlovsk region: legal assistance, psychological support, emergency aid in cases of life and health threats. In addition, says Arseny Pastukhov, head of the organisation, it holds various events at the community center.
“Over the past year we’ve worked a lot with the challenges that emerged after February 24 and later, with the beginning of mobilisation. We gave advice on issues related to military conscription, held emergency psychological support groups, published explanatory materials and instructions on self-support,” he adds.
“You can support us by donating,” Pastukhov says. In addition, the centre is holding an online concert Stand Up Without Borders on December 15 (to buy a ticket from abroad, fill out the form on the concert's site). Part of the proceeds will go to support the organisation.
Pastukhov says that because of the anti-LGBTQ+ law, the centre's PR team will have to restructure its work. “For now, we don't know to what extent we'll be able to function in important areas of education and raising awareness,” he notes. The workload of the psychological service has increased because of growing anxiety in the LGBT community and Russian society in general, Arseniy adds. The centre also expects that there will be more calls for emergency help. “The bills and the discourse surrounding us are heating up the situation and may provoke homophobic outbursts,” he says.
The project seeks to improve the quality of life for transgender people and their loved ones in Russia. “We provide psychological support, help with finding a job and socialising. We also help people in crisis situations with informational consults and cooperate with doctors,” the representatives of the centre said.
The project accepts donations from outside of Russia via Patreon.
Because of the new law, it has become more difficult to find friendly specialists and funding for the centre. At the same time, more and more people are anxious and seek help. “We fear a big wave of transphobia and violence—and we intend to continue our work despite the new law”, said the centre's representatives. “Support organisations are now needed more than ever.”
The foundation provides legal and psychological assistance, helps with relocation in emergency cases and organises international campaigns in defense of the LGBT+ community. It also works on strategic cases in courts, and trains psychologists and lawyers, says Sphere's head of communications Noel Shayda. In addition, the project plans to develop a new line of work with feminist initiatives.
“Due to the liquidation of our legal entity in Russia, we are not yet able to accept donations, but that will be sloved soon. Otherwise, you can come to us to volunteer, for example,” Shaida said.
According to Noel, the law will not prevent the project from working, but it will make it much harder to “get the word out to queer people in Russia.” The organisation expects that soon the demand for their support services may increase. It's now possible to fine anyone for anything, basically, so people feel more vulnerable and anxious.
The following three organisations, unfortunately, don't have a way to support them from abroad and operate in Russian only.
Website (in Russian)
The organization operates in the Far East. “We provide psychological, legal, and sometimes emergency assistance to LGBT people. We hold support groups, educate them about their rights and how to fight for them and to create a safe space,” says Regina Dzugkoyeva, head of the organization.
“Go to our website and donate, subscribe to our social media and put likes, write comments. Do not agree with the new law and write letters to deputies—or even directly to the president,” Dzugkoeva says.
The Lighthouse is preparing for possible resource blockages and police visits to their events. “Simply put, we will continue to work, but perhaps now it will be more difficult,” adds Dzugkoeva.
Website (in Russian)
Help LGBT+ people who faced partner violence. This is the first project of its kind in Russia, says its coordinator Alla Chikinda. “We've brought together psychologists and lawyers who specialize in relationship violence,” she says. Alla notes that the topic of partner violence is very taboo, especially within the LGBT+ community. The project's staff educates people on this matter and shows them “how to build more respectful and trusting relationships.”
“The most important help is to spread the word about our project,” says the coordinator. “Re-post our texts, talk about our support service in your community.”
Chikinda believes that the tightening of legislation may bypass them. The new law is primarily needed to take control of the distribution of information in the media, publishers, and streaming services, she says: “What our project does is mainly services. At first glance, we don't see how the law can affect us. When the first precedents—protocols, court cases—appear, then we will analyse and take action.”
Kilokot was previously known as T-Action, which stopped working after the Ministry of Justice declared it a “foreign agent” at the end of November. But the project's team continues to help transgender people. Kilokot provides psychological and legal counselling, organises various themed events, HIV and syphilis testing. “Citizens of the Russian Federation have every right to form interest groups and discuss among themselves the issues of transmutation of cats into sprats—and back,” says activist Ekaterina Messorash.
“If you have a desire to support the creative collective of kilkots, it can be done, as before, with donations or a subscription to the Boosty,” specifies Messorash.
The activist notes that the new law significantly restricts the public activities of LGBTQ+ initiatives: “Publicly, we virtually cannot call things by their proper names.” However, this is “not very critical in a country with a wealth of experience in the use of Newspeak, euphemisms, metaphors, and other artistic devices,” she adds.
Editor: Dmitry Treshchanin
Translator: Daria Fomina
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