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August 12, 2022 2:47 am

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Gay Life and Links

‘It’s Scary’: Gay Men Confront a Health Crisis With Echoes of the Past


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Monkeypox has sparked frustration and anxiety among gay and bisexual men in New York, who remember mistakes and discrimination during the early years of the AIDS crisis.

Kelvin Ehigie, right, a bartender at 4West in Harlem, worries about the monkeypox outbreak and the confusion it’s creating in the gay community.

Kelvin Ehigie, right, a bartender at 4West in Harlem, worries about the monkeypox outbreak and the confusion it’s creating in the gay community.Credit…Sara Naomi Lewkowicz for The New York Times

Liam Stack

It was happy hour at a gay bar in Harlem, 4West Lounge, and the after-work crowd had come to drink rum punch and watch “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

But instead, perched on stools, the men talked about the rapidly spreading monkeypox virus: their efforts to snag a coveted vaccine appointment, in a city where demand for the shots far outstrips supply; the slow government rollout of vaccines and treatment; and their confusion about how the disease spreads and how to stay safe.

“It feels like survival of the fittest, with all the pandemic waves and now monkeypox and all these vaccine problems,” said James Ogden, 31, who secured a vaccine appointment after weeks spent navigating the city’s glitchy online sign-up process.

Kelvin Ehigie, 32, the bartender, agreed. When asked about the future, he said: “I do not feel confident.”

For gay and bisexual men in New York, the summer has been consumed with similar conversations as monkeypox cases spike among men who have sex with men.

There is widespread fear of the virus, which primarily spreads through close physical contact and causes excruciating lesions and other symptoms that can lead to hospitalization. There is fear of the isolation and potential stigma of an infection, since those who contract monkeypox must stay home for weeks. And some fear the vaccine itself, in an echo of the hesitancy and mistrust that hindered the coronavirus response.

Many are also furious at the lags and fumbles in the government’s effort to contain the disease, including delayed vaccines and mixed messaging about how the virus spreads and how people should protect themselves.

And some are anxious that monkeypox could be twisted into a political weapon to be used against gay and transgender people, whose rights have come under increasing fire from Republicans in recent months.

Last week, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a global health emergency, after it spread from parts of Africa where it is endemic to dozens of countries and infected tens of thousands of people around the world over the course of three months. As of Thursday, there were more than 3,000 confirmed cases in the United States, and 1,148 in New York, but experts suggest cases are being undercounted.

Mr. Ehigie received the first shot of the two-dose vaccine regimen after a referral from his therapist, but worried the city might never give him a second.

And, while he said everyone understands how H.I.V. spreads, monkeypox still felt like a mystery to him and many others. “Especially being in New York,” he said, “where everyone is in close contact with everyone else all the time, it’s scary.”

Many gay and bisexual men signed up for monkeypox vaccinations offered by the city through a glitchy online process.Credit…Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

Nearly all of the cases outside of Africa have been in men who have sex with men. In New York, only 1.4 percent of monkeypox patients self-identified as straight, with the rest describing themselves as gay, bisexual or declining to say, according to city data.

The disease is rarely fatal, and no deaths have been reported outside of Africa.

But the combination of government failure and a virus that has so far primarily affected gay and bisexual men has drawn frequent comparisons to the early years of the H.I.V./AIDS epidemic.

Card 1 of 7

What is monkeypox? Monkeypox is a virus similar to smallpox, but symptoms are less severe. It was discovered in 1958, after outbreaks occurred in monkeys kept for research. The virus was primarily found in parts of Central and West Africa, but in recent weeks it has spread to dozens of countries and infected tens of thousands of people, overwhelmingly men who have sex with men. On July 23, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a global health emergency.

I fear I might have monkeypox. What should I do? There is no way to test for monkeypox if you have only flulike symptoms. But if you start to notice red lesions, you should contact an urgent care center or your primary care physician, who can order a monkeypox test. Isolate at home as soon as you develop symptoms, and wear high-quality masks if you must come in contact with others for medical care.

What is the treatment for monkeypox? If you get sick, the treatment for monkeypox generally involves symptom management. Tecovirimat, an antiviral drug also known as TPOXX, occasionally can be used for severe cases. The Jynneos vaccine, which protects against smallpox and monkeypox, can also help reduce symptoms, even if taken after exposure.

I live in New York. Can I get the vaccine? Adult men who have sex with men and who have had multiple sexual partners in the past 14 days are eligible for a vaccine in New York City, as well as close contacts of infected people. Eligible people who have conditions that weaken the immune system or who have a history of dermatitis or eczema are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated. People can book an appointment through this website.

Those years were marked by acts of homophobia that remain seared in the minds of many gay Americans. The White House press secretary made jokes about AIDS at a 1982 press briefing. Churches refused to provide funerals for the dead. And President Ronald Reagan did not deliver a public speech on the epidemic until 1987, by which point roughly 23,000 Americans had died of the disease.

Disagreements within the New York City Department of Health about how to communicate the risks of the disease spilled into public view last week. Some epidemiologists have argued that officials should more explicitly advise men who have sex with men to reduce their number of partners, or even consider short-term abstinence. (The director general of the W.H.O. made a similar recommendation this week, including that men should reconsider having “sex with new partners,” according to STAT News.)

A department spokeswoman has said messages advising men to abstain from sex in particular could stigmatize gay and bisexual men and repeat the mistakes of the past.

That history was on many people’s minds (and many people’s banners) at a protest last week in Manhattan that was organized by activist groups including ACT UP, which formed in 1987 in response to government inaction on H.I.V./AIDS.

“I am sad that we have to be here,” said Erik Bottcher, a city councilman whose district includes Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, neighborhoods that have been hit hard by the outbreak.

“We have been forced to do this for so long, we have been forced to fight for our own health care when we got let down by the government,” he said. “Shame on the government for letting us down again.”

Nearby, protesters carried signs comparing President Biden to Mr. Reagan.

Jon Catlin, 29, a graduate student, said he knew several people with monkeypox in New York and many more in Berlin, where he lives part time to do research. He said he studies the evolution of the idea of catastrophe in German thought, and “whose suffering counts as a crisis.”

“Because it is happening to queer people,” Mr. Catlin said, the government has been slow to treat monkeypox as a true crisis, waiting to deploy vaccine doses until cases had grown exponentially.

“AIDS wasn’t treated as a crisis at first either,” he added, before citing a homophobic saying from that time. “The quip about the ’80s is ‘the right people were dying.’”

But as much as the protesters wanted to combat what they described as indifference, many were also concerned that increased attention could bring with it hostility from heterosexual people.

Speaking at the rally in Manhattan, Mordechai Levovitz, the clinical director at Jewish Queer Youth, warned the crowd of about 100 people that the L.G.B.T.Q. community could become a scapegoat in the event of a larger and more widespread monkeypox outbreak.

“You know what will happen,” he shouted into a microphone. “A few months from now, on the cover of every magazine, there will be children with monkeypox on their face, and they will come after us.”

That was a concern shared by some of the men at 4West Lounge.

Chavis Aaron, 33, the bar manager, said the public focus on gay and bisexual men made him uneasy. He knew two gay people with the disease, and understood the statistics on who the outbreak was impacting most, but still thought “this is really everybody’s problem,” he said.

“The situation is still all foggy and crazy,” he added. “We are getting information from Instagram and the news and each one is saying something different.”

Gay and bisexual men and activist groups have protested the government’s slow response to monkeypox.Credit…Andrew Seng for The New York Times

Some people are improvising different ways to protect themselves against an illness that can last for a month, but their methods can be dangerous and deeply unscientific.

“Most of my friends are not having sex or they are just being really selective,” said Mr. Ehigie, the bartender. He also knows men who are opposed to vaccines in general “because they think the vaccines have a political agenda or will cause bad side effects.”

Others, he said, had embraced a potentially dangerous approach — in which they waited a few days after having sex to see if a rash broke out before resuming sexual activity — that he thought they may have adopted after reading the wrong things online.

Two years of pandemic isolation have made people eager for human connection. There has so far been little appetite in the L.G.B.T.Q. community to cancel events.

Some events have made minor concessions to monkeypox, including Pines Party, a large annual gathering on Fire Island in July, which asked partygoers to get vaccinated and not attend if they feel unwell.

But the outbreak has caused the cancellation of other events in the city, including several regular sex parties that are less high profile but more high risk than dance parties.

At smaller bars like 4West Lounge, things have been quieter lately. Some of that probably had to do with the hot weather, or with a clientele that partied too hard during Pride Month in June, its staff said.

But some of it was also the result of the outbreak, they said. Mr. Aaron said he could think of a few regular customers who stopped coming in as much after the monkeypox case numbers began to climb in July.

“After Covid, a lot of people have PTSD,” he said. “They’d rather not go out than take the risk.”


Categories
Gay Life and Links

Putin allies turn Ukraine war into fight against U.S. LGBTQ+ values


Various Russian figures and allies of President Vladimir Putin have recently used the Ukraine war as an excuse to target the LGBTQ+ community.

Among them is Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of the Chechen Republic and a longtime supporter of Putin. In a message on his Telegram channel, he took aim at transgender people, saying that he does not want his “children and the children of their children to grow up in an atmosphere of satanic ideas of gender disgrace and for the sake of the economies of other states.”

Well-known Russia-1 host Olga Skabeyeva has also used hateful rhetoric toward LGBTQ+ people on at least two recent occasions, according to tweets from BBC reporter Francis Scarr. On Tuesday, Scarr shared a video of Skabeyeva saying Russia will also have to “denazify” the “trans-fascists” in addition to Ukraine. Scarr posted another clip on Thursday of Skabeyeva saying Russia can ultimately win out over Western powers by waiting for the West to run out of people due to a lack of human reproduction in connection to LBGTQ+ people.

Last month, the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) wrote that while LGBTQ+ rights were bad in Russia before the war in Ukraine, the situation has only gotten worse since Putin ordered his troops to invade the country in late February. The think tank wrote that after the war began, “homophobic propaganda has been expanded from one of the supporting pillars of Russian quasi-ideology to include justification for its war of aggression.”

CEPA also noted that the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, a strong ally of Putin, stated during a March sermon that fighting against LGBTQ+ ideals was part of the justification for the war in Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin speaks during a forum

Various supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin have used the war in Ukraine as an excuse to hit out at the LGBTQ+ community. In this photo, Putin is seen speaking during the Powerful Ideas for New Times Forum on July 20 in Moscow.
Getty Images

Apti Alaudinov, a commander in the Chechen Republic’s military, has also made comments with sentiments similar to those in Kadyrov’s statements. During an appearance on Russia-1, a Kremlin-run station, Alaudinov said that Putin’s forces in Ukraine are fighting a “holy war” against LGBTQ+ ideology and the Antichrist, according to a translated clip posted Sunday on Twitter by Russian propaganda expert Julia Davis.

Meanwhile, Russian lawmakers are also seeking to further restrict LGBTQ+ rights. Currently, a Russian federal law passed in 2013 bans the promotion of “nontraditional sexual relations” to minors. Russia’s State Duma seeks to expand that, though. On Tuesday, Duma members introduced legislation that likens LGBTQ+ messaging to war propaganda, according to the state-controlled RT network.

RT wrote that a note accompanied the State Duma bill that offered an explanation for its intent.

“In Russia, at the legislative level, it is not allowed to promote suicide, drugs, extremism, criminal behavior, as they are considered negative and socially dangerous phenomena. At the same time, formally, until now, there is no ban on propaganda of the denial of family values and non-traditional sexual relations, including with the use of film distribution,” the note reportedly said.

Newsweek reached out to the Russian Foreign Ministry for comment.


Categories
Gay Life and Links

Once a Crucial Refuge, ‘Gayborhoods’ Lose L.G.B.T.Q. Residents in Major Cities


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Many are choosing to live elsewhere in search of cheaper housing and better amenities. They are finding growing acceptance in other communities after decades of political and social changes.

Credit…Ian C. Bates for The New York Times

Adam Nagourney
Published July 3, 2022Updated July 4, 2022

SAN FRANCISCO — Cleve Jones has lived in the Castro neighborhood for nearly 50 years, almost from the day he graduated from high school in Phoenix and hitchhiked to California.

He has been a political and cultural leader in San Francisco, organizing gay men and lesbians when the AIDS epidemic devastated these streets in the early 1980s. He created the nationally recognized AIDS Memorial Quilt from a storefront on Market Street. He was a face of the anger and sorrow that swept the Castro in 1978 after the assassination of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to the Board of Supervisors.

Mr. Jones has helped define the Castro, dancing at its gay bars seven nights a week when he was younger, gathering with friends for drinks and gossip as he grew older. To this day, he is recognized when he walks down its sidewalks. “Hi Cleve — I know who you are,” said Lt. Amy Hurwitz of the San Francisco Police Department, after Mr. Jones began to introduce himself.

But in May, Mr. Jones, 67, left for a small home with a garden and apple and peach trees 75 miles away in Sonoma County after the monthly cost of his one-bedroom apartment soared from $2,400 to $5,200.

The departure of Cleve Jones, a political and cultural leader who helped define the Castro, has sent tremors through L.G.B.T.Q. neighborhoods across the country.Credit…Ian C. Bates for The New York Times

His story is not just another tale of a longtime resident priced out of a gentrifying housing market. Across the country, L.G.B.T.Q. neighborhoods in big cities — New York, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco among them — are experiencing a confluence of social, cultural and economic factors, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, that is diluting their influence and visibility. In a few cases, some L.G.B.T.Q. leaders say, the neighborhoods’ very existence is threatened.

“I walk around the neighborhood that encouraged me for so many decades, and I see the reminders of Harvey and the Rainbow Honor Walk, celebrating famous queer and trans people,” Mr. Jones said as he led a visitor on a tour of his old neighborhood, pointing out empty storefronts and sidewalks. “I just can’t help but think that soon there will be a time when people walking up and down the street will have no clue what this is all about.”

Housing costs are a big reason for that. But there are other factors as well.

L.G.B.T.Q. couples, particularly younger ones, are starting families and considering more traditional features — public schools, parks and larger homes — in deciding where they want to live. The draw of “gayborhoods” as a refuge for past generations looking to escape discrimination and harassment is less of an imperative today, reflecting the rising acceptance of gay and lesbian people. And dating apps have, for many, replaced the gay bar as a place that leads to a relationship or a sexual encounter.

Many gay and lesbian leaders said this might well be a long-lasting realignment, an unexpected product of the success of a gay rights movement, including the Supreme Court’s recognition of same-sex marriage in 2015, that has pushed for equal rights and integration into mainstream society.

There are few places where this transformation is more on display than in the Castro, long a barometer of the evolution of gay and lesbian life in America. It is a place where same-sex couples crammed the streets, sidewalks, bars and restaurants in defiance and celebration as L.G.B.T.Q. people in other cities lived cloistered lives.

The Castro houses the old campaign headquarters of Harvey Milk, an openly gay politician who was assassinated in 1978.Credit…Ian C. Bates for The New York Times

It was the stage for some of the first glimmers of the modern gay rights movement in the late 1960s; the rise to the political establishment with the election of openly gay officials like Mr. Milk; and the community’s powerful response to the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.

“Gayborhoods are going away,” Mr. Jones said. “People need to pay attention to this. When people are dispersed, when they no longer live in geographic concentrations, when they no longer inhabit specific precincts, we lose a lot. We lose political power. We lose the ability to elect our own and defeat our enemies.”

Cynthia Laird, the news editor of The Bay Area Reporter, an L.G.B.T.Q. newspaper based in San Francisco, said she was reminded of this transformation every time she walked through the neighborhood.

“I wanted to get a picture of people walking in the rainbow crosswalk at the corner of Castro and 18th Street and there was nobody walking,” she said. “The Castro and San Francisco have changed a lot over the past 25 years. We have seen a lot of L.G.B.T.Q. people move from San Francisco to Oakland — which is where I live — and even further out in the East Bay.”

Mr. Jones’s departure has sent tremors through gay neighborhoods across the country, all the more so because it happened in the midst of annual pride celebrations marking the advances of the L.G.B.T.Q. movement since the New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar, in June 1969.

A visitor brought carnations to the AIDS Memorial Quilt in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on June 11. The national effort began in the Castro neighborhood in the 1980s.Credit…Ian C. Bates for The New York Times

“What I see in Houston is we are losing our history,” said Tammi Wallace, the president of the Greater Houston L.G.B.T. Chamber of Commerce, who lives in Montrose, the city’s gay neighborhood. “A lot of individuals and couples are saying, ‘We can move to different parts of the city and know we are going to be accepted.’”

Daniel B. Hess, a professor of urban planning at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and the co-author of a book about the evolution of gay neighborhoods, said U.S. census data over the past three decades showed a decline in the density of same-sex couples in Chelsea and Greenwich Village in New York City, Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., West Hollywood in Los Angeles County and the Castro, which he called “America’s premier gay neighborhood.”

“Gay men are moving out of gay neighborhoods,” he said. “They are settling in other urban neighborhoods and close-in suburbs. And non-L.G.B.T.Q. people are moving in and knocking down the concentration in gay neighborhoods.”

Dr. Hess said part of this was generational. The men and women who established these neighborhoods “wanted to segregate and be surrounded by gay people,” he said. “In contrast, when you ask young people today what they want, they would prefer an inclusive coffee shop. They don’t want anyone to feel unwelcome.”

Twin Peaks Bar in the Castro. Historically, gay men and women have moved into relatively downtrodden neighborhoods, like the Castro and Montrose in Houston, fixing them up.Credit…Ian C. Bates for The New York Times

Some gay leaders argued that the instinct to live in communities of like-minded people remained a powerful draw and that there would always be some version of a gayborhood, though perhaps not as concentrated and powerful.

“I say this as a gay man: It’s nice to live in a community where there are a lot of other queer people there, where I can go out and walk on the street to a gay bar,” said Scott Wiener, a California state senator who lives in the Castro. “Where I can walk two blocks to get an H.I.V. and S.T.D. test at a clinic that won’t judge me.”

“We have to be very intentional of protecting these neighborhoods — and keeping them queer,” he said. “With that said, I also believe that the Castro is very strong and has very deep L.G.B.T.Q. roots.”

These changes follow a comparable pattern in American history: Immigrants establish ethnic neighborhoods to escape discrimination and build community ties, but those enclaves lose their distinction and energy as subsequent generations move to suburbs that have become more welcoming

In this case, it is also a story of gentrification, economic cycles and social change. Gay men and women have moved into relatively downtrodden neighborhoods, like the Castro and Montrose, fixing them up. Once housing costs become too high, residents and younger generations have relocated to another downtrodden neighborhood.

Preparing to join the Capital Pride Parade in Washington. Across the country, L.G.B.T.Q. neighborhoods are struggling with a confluence of social, cultural and economic factors that threatens their very existence.Credit…Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

In New York City, that has meant a shift from Greenwich Village to Chelsea to Hell’s Kitchen; in the Los Angeles area, a migration from West Hollywood to neighborhoods like Silver Lake. But the relocations this time have been more far-flung.

“I know a lot of new gay dads who are living in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill,” two neighborhoods in Brooklyn, said Corey Johnson, a former speaker of the New York City Council who is gay and lives in Greenwich Village. “They are not traditional gay neighborhoods. Schools are better. It’s more affordable. And you have more space.”

Mr. Johnson argued this had in fact resulted in an increase of openly gay and lesbian members of the City Council. But other L.G.B.T.Q. leaders said there was a real danger in this kind of diaspora.

“I think it’s important that we have spaces where we walk around, hold hands and maybe share a brief kiss and not be too worried,” said Tina Aguirre, the manager of the Castro L.G.B.T.Q. Cultural District. “We need to live in queer neighborhoods. It’s just not as pressing as it was in the ’80s and ’90s.”

Paying homage in 1996 on Castro Street, where Mr. Milk once owned a camera store.Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

On a beautiful afternoon in June, gay rainbow flags were fluttering up and down Castro Street as Mr. Jones walked by reminders of an earlier era. The Castro Theater, a landmark backdrop for parades and protests over decades, is reopening after a long closure forced by Covid-19. Men, mostly, were drinking in bars, and some of the sex shops were open. At one point, a completely naked man walked nonchalantly past on the sidewalk.

“I guess he’s trying to keep the neighborhood gay, too,” Mr. Jones said.

Mr. Jones paused by the storefront where Mr. Milk had a camera shop. In 1979, Mr. Jones lived two houses away and watched from his apartment when the police moved in on protesters on Castro Street following the lenient verdicts handed down to Dan White, a former supervisor, for the assassinations of Mr. Milk and George Moscone, the San Francisco mayor. “The night of the White Night riots, when the police counterattacked, we were out on the fire escape up there just watching the chaos,” Mr. Jones said.

Mr. Milk, evicted from his Castro Street storefront, had later moved his camera shop over Market Street. That was the space Mr. Jones used for the AIDS quilt project. It is today a restaurant.

Mr. Jones is not happy about leaving this corner of San Francisco, but said he had little choice. He had lived in his Castro apartment for 11 years before his landlord asserted that he forfeited his rent control protections by living in Sonoma County, effectively forcing him out by more than doubling his rent. He said he liked having the getaway of his home in Guerneville, but had considered himself a city person from the day he arrived here as a teenager from Phoenix.

“Everything good in my life has come out of this neighborhood,” he said.

Credit…Ian C. Bates for The New York Times

Categories
Gay Life and Links

No ‘Gay Gene’, But Study Finds Genetic Links to Sexual Behaviour


Home » News » World » No ‘Gay Gene’, But Study Finds Genetic Links to Sexual Behaviour

Last Updated: August 30, 2019, 08:39 IST

Pride Parade (File Photo) (Image: AP)

Pride Parade (File Photo) (Image: AP)

London: A large scientific study into the biological basis of sexual behaviour has confirmed there is no single “gay gene” but that a complex mix of genetics and environment affects whether a person has same-sex sexual partners. The research, which analysed data on DNA and sexual experiences from almost half a million people, found there are thousands of genetic variants linked to same-sex sexual behaviour, most with very small effects. Five of the genetic markers were “significantly” associated with same-sex behaviour, the researchers said, but even these are far from being predictive of a person’s sexual preferences. “We scanned the entire human genome and found a handful – five to be precise – of locations that are clearly associated with whether a person reports in engaging in same-sex sexual behaviour,” said Andrea Ganna, a biologist at the Institute of Molecular Medicine in Finland who co-led the research. He said these have “a very small effect” and, combined, explain “considerably less than 1% of the variance in the self-reported same-sex sexual behaviour.” This means that non-genetic factors – such as environment, upbringing, personality, nurture – are far more significant in influencing a person’s choice of sexual partner, just as with most other personality, behavioural and physical human traits, the researchers said. The study – the largest of its kind – analysed survey responses and performed analyses known as genome-wide association studies (GWAS) on data from more than 470,000 people who had given DNA samples and lifestyle information to the UK Biobank and to the US genetics testing company 23andMeInc. Asked why they had wanted to conduct such research, the team told reporters on a teleconference that previous studies on this topic had mostly been too small to offer robust conclusions. “Previous studies were small and underpowered,” Ganna said. “So we decided to form a large international consortium and collected data for (almost) 500,000 people, (which) is approximately 100 times bigger than previous studies on this topic.”

The results, published in the journal Science on Thursday, found no clear patterns among genetic variants that could be used to meaningfully predict or identify a person’s sexual behaviour, the researchers said.

“We’ve clarified that there’s a lot of diversity out there,” said Benjamin Neale, a member at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard who worked with Ganna. “This moves our understanding (of same-sex sex) to a deeper and more nuanced place.” Sexual rights campaigners welcomed the study, saying it “provides even more evidence that being gay or lesbian is a natural part of human life”.

“This new research also re-confirms the long established understanding that there is no conclusive degree to which nature or nurture influence how a gay or lesbian person behaves,” said Zeke Stokes of the US-based LGBTQ rights group, GLAAD.


Categories
Gay Life and Links

Opinion | In Russia, Gay People Are Routinely Targeted. That’s Why This Ukrainian Soldier Is Fighting.


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transcript

In Russia, Gay People Are Routinely Targeted. That’s Why This Ukrainian Soldier Is Fighting.

When Putin invaded, Oleksandr Zhuhan chose to defend a country that hasn’t always defended him.

Thursday, July 7th, 2022

lulu garcia-navarro

From The earliest days of the war in Ukraine, we’ve seen the images of everyday Ukrainians signing up to defend their country against the Russian invasion leaving behind the lives they’d been living just days before. Wars can be uniting in that way with citizens coming together against a shared enemy, putting their differences aside. Oleksandr Zhuhan, Sashko for short, was one of those who joined Ukraine’s volunteer forces. He’s gay, and for him, Putin’s Russia held particular terror. Gay people are routinely targeted their, arrested without cause, even tortured. And among the reasons Putin gave for invading Ukraine, he said the country had embraced values, quote, “contrary to human nature.”

But Sashko had also experienced homophobia within Ukraine in the years leading up to the war. So when he started talking to my colleague, Courtney Stein in the early days of the fighting, he was facing dual fears a future under Russia, but also how he might be treated by the soldiers he was serving alongside. From “New York Times Opinion,” this is “First Person.” I’m Lulu Garcia-Navarro. Today, Sashko and the fight for his future in Ukraine.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Hi, Courtney. Today is calmer than it was yesterday, but still it’s not safe here. Anyway —

courtney stein

When we first started talking, Sashko was too busy to get on the phone.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN We hear bumping sounds like every 15 minutes or every half an hour.

He was just a couple of days into his enlistment, and these were the early days of the war when Russia was shelling Kyiv. His unit was stationed in what had been a mall there.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN And we are sleeping now next to the window shop. It looks somehow surrealistic because we see that beautiful clothes and we are wearing the same clothes that we came here in.

So I asked him to send me voice memos whenever he had a free minute. And what most came through was just how disorienting this all was for him.

oleksandr zhuhan

I haven’t — I hadn’t held a gun in my life until the 24th of February. I skipped all the lessons of —

courtney stein

In Ukraine, boys learn how to shoot guns in school. But Sashko never wanted any part of that sort of thing. He’d never imagined fighting in a war, even up to the moment he enlisted alongside the partner he calls his husband, though they can’t be legally married.

oleksandr zhuhan

We didn’t think that we would be given guns. We thought that we would do something like, I don’t know, cooking or cleaning or carrying heavy things, something like that. My husband is a director, and I am an actor and a director and a playwright. We are very stereotypically gay, if I can put it this way, like we are a gay couple who are vegans and we are very anti, I don’t know, war.

courtney stein

Or at least they had been, then Russia invaded. Sashko and Antonina spent the night of the invasion hiding in their bathroom, weighing whether to enlist.

oleksandr zhuhan

For both of us, it was a very difficult decision because we used to avoid places where there are lots of manly men, like stereotypically heterosexual men who want to fight. And we have met violence against gay people before and it was difficult.

courtney stein

But the day after Russia invaded when it became clear just how serious the situation was, both Sashko and Antonina signed up. They weren’t telling anyone they were together though.

oleksandr zhuhan

There was a situation when a man from our unit came up to us and asked, so are you brothers or friends? And since he only gave us like two options, I said friends very quickly. But then I was sorry and I kept thinking to myself, what would have happened if I had said we are husband and husband? What would have changed? I’m not sure.

courtney stein

In Ukraine, boys learned how to shoot guns in school. But Sashko never wanted any part of that sort of thing he’d never imagined fighting in a war, even up to the moment he enlisted alongside the partner he calls his husband, though they can’t be legally married.

oleksandr zhuhan

So I grew up in a small town in the Central Ukraine. When I was born, it was still the Soviet Union.

courtney stein

As a kid, Sashko spoke Russian in school. Then in 1991 when he was seven, Ukraine declared its independence. But it wasn’t a big patriotic moment in Sashko’s memory. What he remembers is the economic collapse that followed.

oleksandr zhuhan

People had to survive and they did different things, like some people stole, some people — I don’t the word for that. They did very bad things to survive and to get some food for their children.

courtney stein

Sashko and his parents lived in an apartment block with a shared courtyard.

oleksandr zhuhan

All the kids knew one another from the moment they were born. And I knew that there were some boys that my mom said, you mustn’t be friends with those boys because they smoke and their parents are not a very good family. Some of them smoked cigarettes beginning at the age of five I suppose.

courtney stein

What?

oleksandr zhuhan

Yeah. Yeah. That’s true.

courtney stein

Sashko wasn’t that kind of kid though. He was a rule follower.

oleksandr zhuhan

I was really very out of touch with the reality I think. I mean, I didn’t know much about sexuality, about homosexuality, or anything like this. I really like to draw, and I drew things like every day. I had albums. Do you do you say album or notebooks?

courtney stein

Notebooks.

oleksandr zhuhan

Filled with sketches. Yeah. And I had a secret notebook where I drew all like naked, people naked men. And I was about, I don’t know, 10 or 11 years old. And my mom found it and she said, oh my god, what was that? I was so ashamed. And she said that it was really a bad thing.

courtney stein

That was the message Sashko got from basically everyone growing up.

oleksandr zhuhan

Homosexuality was something that you should be ashamed of. And it was something that people in prison, you know, prisoners used to punish other prisoners. Does it make sense what I’m saying?

courtney stein

So it wasn’t like that people were actually gay. It was just a punishment.

oleksandr zhuhan

Yeah. Yeah. Or whenever you heard the word homosexuality, it was considered some of the world’s biggest threats, you know, like homosexuality atomic war.

courtney stein

And given that, when he left his hometown and went to Kyiv for college, he stayed in the closet. But in his second year, he fell in love with his roommate who was straight.

oleksandr zhuhan

One day I just decided that, oh my god, if he doesn’t love me then I have no more reason to live. I know now that it was very stupid, but I was 16. So I got all the drugs that I had, I mix them with alcohol and I drank them all. And at first, I fainted, but then my friends found me and they called the ambulance.

courtney stein

He ended up in the hospital. They called his mom to take him home.

oleksandr zhuhan

And of course, she started asking questions, and I had to tell her.

courtney stein

How did she respond?

oleksandr zhuhan

She said, it’s OK, I love you. Maybe one day you’ll meet a woman and you’ll have children and I’ll pray for you. Let’s pray together. And I said, oh my god, mom, don’t. Please, I — and that was like second coming out. I said, I don’t believe in God. I’m an atheist. Yeah. And then some years later, I’m a vegan. And you know, like it was a bingo, gay vegan atheist. No more hope for mom.

courtney stein

Which one was hardest for her, the atheist, the veganism, or the being gay?

oleksandr zhuhan

I don’t think that she accepted anything, any of these.

courtney stein

When he finished college, Sashko stayed in Kyiv. He met some other gay people, but he said it was still too early to call it a community. He started dating, but it didn’t always go well.

oleksandr zhuhan

One of them was a criminal, so that was that bad. Yeah. And so I embraced that some people find their partners in life and some people don’t. Some people die lonely. And it stopped scaring me because before that, I thought that it was one of my biggest priorities, you know, to find a partner, to make family, and so on.

courtney stein

Then in 2014, Sashko got a message on a dating site.

oleksandr zhuhan

And at that stage, I met Antonina. I looked through his profile and I found out that he was into theater and that he was a refugee from Crimea. And that looked interesting.

courtney stein

Antonina recently began identifying as non-binary and using she and her pronouns. But Sashko still goes back and forth.

oleksandr zhuhan

He or she, yeah, I’m still confusing these things. We arranged a meeting. It wasn’t a date. It was a meeting.

courtney stein

They connected at a big moment in Ukraine, the moment a lot of Ukrainians say was the actual beginning of this war. The Ukrainian president at the time, who Putin supported, had just fled to Russia after months of protests forced him from office. Within days, Russian troops moved in to occupy Crimea. And like a lot of L.G.B.T.Q. people there, Antonina fled and ended up in Kyiv.

oleksandr zhuhan

We met on the bridge which is non-existent now. And we spend the night like talking and drinking coffee, talking about children, about theater and all kinds of things. And it was like, I don’t know how many hours. And that’s how we met. I think that talking to him and spending evenings and nights talking about what’s right and what’s wrong made me the person I am today.

courtney stein

Not long after they met, Sashko says he and Antonina decided to stop speaking Russian. And they helped create a theater group that performed pieces calling out Russian aggression in Crimea and homophobia within Russian culture. Outside the theater, they were also calling on Ukraine to recognize L.G.B.T.Q. rights and taking part in some of the earliest Pride celebrations.

oleksandr zhuhan

I think it was 2015, the biggest slogan of this Pride was that we exist. And there were like less than 50 people and lots and lots and lots of the police.

courtney stein

Since then, Pride in Kyiv has grown. In recent years, the parade has attracted thousands of people, part of a broader liberalization, especially among young people in the cities. But with that liberalization, there’s also been a backlash. Sashko told me about a night last November when he and Antonina were approached by two men in the street.

oleksandr zhuhan

First they came up to us, and Antonina was wearing a tiny —

what’s this thing called that’s not a stripe but ribbon? Oh, I forgot the word.

courtney stein

Rainbow?

oleksandr zhuhan

Rainbow. Yes, rainbow ribbon. Thanks. And I felt this danger right away the way they looked at us. And they were like about 50 meters away, and the street was empty. And one of them started following us. And they started talking to us in a very rude manner like, hey, are you fags? What are you wearing? Do you believe in God? Are you patriots? And they started pushing us and so on. And that was the first time when all I am like anti-violent person. If there is a chance for the words to work it out, I usually use the words.

courtney stein

But then, one of the guys pushed Antonina to the ground.

oleksandr zhuhan

And I was like off. I went bananas. And I was so mad that I felt I could tear those men with my bare hands because I was like, I don’t know where I got the strength. But it was like the first, maybe the second time in my life when I got to hit a person right in the face. And I felt so, I don’t know, empowered. That was the word. Like I hit back, and they didn’t expect it. Like, they thought that they were like no attacking to fags who couldn’t hit back.

courtney stein

The attack was still fresh in Sashko’s mind when Russian forces invaded Ukraine just a few months later. It was all part of what was weighing on him and Antonina that night they spent huddled in their bathroom considering their options.

oleksandr zhuhan

I definitely had doubts like, I was not afraid to go and fight, but I was really — I felt a great anxiety if I would fit in. And being gay was part of things that gave me that anxiety. But on the second day when Russia went full scale and when we understood that it was not a joke, it’s going to be for a long time, we couldn’t make any other choice really. What mattered was to protect our country.

courtney stein

So that’s how Sashko and Antonina came to enlist in this war, fighting to protect a country that hadn’t always protected them alongside soldiers who in peacetime might have been their enemies.

oleksandr zhuhan

I’m not considering the option of losing my freedom, because for an L.G.B.T.Q. person to lose freedom, to get captured by the Russians is worse than death, so I’ll be fighting until I win or I die.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Hi, Courtney. It’s the eighth of March, Tuesday. So I’m going to go on describing what life has become for me since the war started.

courtney stein

Not long after he enlisted, Sashko sent me this voice memo.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN It’s been 13 days since Russia attacked Ukraine for no reason. I’m sick now, and almost everyone in our unit is either sick or getting better.

And it’s because it’s always cold in here. We’re sleeping on the floor now in sleeping bags. But I’m not complaining, it’s just that you ask me to describe what it is like here. I go patrolling three times a day.

On these patrols, Sashko and Antonina were often together but still keeping their relationship a secret.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN The commander is very loyal. Well, he doesn’t know or he doesn’t want to know that we are a gay couple. We don’t touch or we don’t hold hands, we don’t hug each other. And the riskiest thing that my husband has done since the first day he kissed me on the forehead when I said that I probably had temperature. And he pressed his lips against my forehead like just to check if I had temperature. But it was a kiss, I knew it.

He’s the one person who can —

I don’t know, who can calm me down and ask if I’m OK.

Hello, Sashko? OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Courtney, can you hear me now?

I can hear you. Can you hear me?

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Oh, that’s perfect. Yeah.

As winter turned into spring, Russia continued to focus a lot of its air power on Kyiv. At this point, the volunteer forces were largely playing a support role away from the fighting. So Sashko and Antonina weren’t seeing active combat, but the war was all around them.

How are you?

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Well, it’s been tough time. Tonight, there were like three regions where the bombs fell, and one of them was right next to us, next to our base. But it’s OK. We’re alive and more or less healthy. In 15 minutes, I’ll have to go to unpack the big cars with provisions and ammunition. So that’s our job. That’s the riskiest thing I’ve done so far. We’re just defending the base. And how are you feeling about that being your role right now?

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN I’m OK. Well, on the first day when we came here, lots of guys, they were like, wow, I want to go and fight and so on. And I was like, I’m pretty much OK with the things as they are now. And the terrible thing is that we are getting used to this state of things. And I don’t want this to be my usual state.

The day before yesterday, we went to the place where we learn to shoot guns. We have Kalashnikovs, and I was thinking about my old sewing machine because I work in the theater so I can saw costumes for a theater place. And I was thinking about, well, I used to hate to oil my sewing machine, but I would love to do it now instead of oiling my gun. So it was like, you know, those flashbacks about what life used to be.

Hi, Courtney. It’s been a month and two days since the beginning of the war, and I have been thinking a lot about it one hell of a time, which happened not so often because we are either too busy or too exhausted to think.

There are things that depress me, but there are good things though.

For example, some people from our unit, they added us as friends on Facebook. And one of them came up to me the other day and he said, I read your post on Facebook. And he said, I didn’t put a like below this post, but I really want to say that I think it’s a great post and I liked it.

In the post, Sashko talked about the similarities between the fight for L.G.B.T.Q. rights and Ukrainian independence. He said that where Russia was driven by fear and hate, he hoped Ukraine would follow a different path after the war, a path of tolerance and acceptance.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN So it was a good thing, and that really made my day.

For the next few weeks, Sashko’s unit stayed in the same warehouse in Kyiv, protecting ammunition and resupplies for the regular army troops that were pushing the Russians back in other parts of the city. Then in April, Ukrainian forces retook the suburbs, places like Bucha, where hundreds of civilians were tortured and killed. Sashko messaged that he and Antonina had been moved and were now doing a different job but still mainly on guard duty. A few days later, we got on the phone.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Hi, Courtney.

antonina ramanova

Hello, Courtney.

courtney stein

And I got to hear Antonina for the first time.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Yeah, Courtney, the thing is, Antonina speaks very little English.

antonina ramanova

My English is not very good.

courtney stein

So Antonina just listened while Sashko and I talked. Sashko said that now he assumed people in their unit understood that he and Antonina were a couple, but they still weren’t publicly acknowledging their relationship.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN But sometimes we like, I don’t know, touch fingers or — well, that’s mostly it. We touch fingers. That’s it.

I saw on your Facebook pages that you have decorated your guns with stickers. OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Yeah.

It feels like a small act of resistance.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Yeah. And our guns really stand out from the other guns.

Can you describe them? OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Yes. So like there’s a rainbow and a unicorn and a pineapple.

Do other people decorate their guns or is it just you guys?

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN No, not really. We are the only ones with the stickers. Now, I saw one more person with a sticker, but it was like a sticker of a skull. And we have those optimistic, cute stickers.

And has your commander, anyone ever mentioned it like as a security concern or question you about it? OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Yeah, yeah, yeah. One person came up to me like two days ago and said, that sticker has lots of white and it’s going to be a problem if we fight in the darkness like it could be seen from afar. And I said, OK, so when we fight in the darkness, I’ll take it off.

At the end of April, Putin declared victory in Mariupol, and Russian troops continued to push into Eastern and Southern Ukraine where hundreds of Ukrainian troops were dying every day. Sashko sent me a text message. Their unit had been given a choice, they could pack up and go volunteer in Kyiv as civilians or they could help bolster the military’s ranks and join another battalion and be sent to the front lines in the south.

This time, the decision wasn’t so clear. Sashko thought that he could be more useful as a volunteer. But for Antonina, returning to Kyiv was out of the question. Sashko wrote me that Antonina was intent on going with or without him. So he decided he was going too. But they weren’t sent right away.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN We’re waiting here for the transfer.

Weeks passed. Then at the end of May, Sashko got back in touch.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Hi, Courtney. Sorry for not responding to you right away.

Things had been busy, he said.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN And on Wednesday, that’s tomorrow, we are going to Mykolaiv. Mykolaiv is a city in the south of Ukraine. It’s close to Odessa.

Mykolaiv, Sashko explained, was part of the New frontline in the war. Like in Mariupol to the east, the Russians had managed to cut off water to Mykolaiv, forcing many of the city’s half a million residents to flee.

Before leaving for the south, Sashko and Antonina were sent home to Kyiv for a few days. Their apartment hadn’t been damaged in the shelling. And for the first time in the three months since they signed up for the territorial defense, they were able to sleep in their own bed. And with the Russians no longer anywhere near the city, cafes and shops were open again.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN We were walking around the city, and I felt like I was walking next to a fish tank looking at people who are having their lattes. And the war seemed very real, but this life in Kyiv, the peaceful life seemed like something impossible. And I could physically feel it. I felt weak at my knees, and I had a strange feeling in my stomach and everything seemed so unstable.

And I just can’t pull myself together. Everything feels like a very bad, meaningless movie without the end. And the worst thing, the thing that I’m afraid most is that the war is going to be for like two, three, five, eight years more.

Sashko and Antonina met up with a friend from the theater world while in Kyiv. But Sashko could only think about war. He no longer related to his past life, and he was distracted by his upcoming deployment.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN And the thing that I’m worried about is that in the new battalion, maybe there will be like real army people with strong hierarchy. I have an idea that in Mykolaiv in that new battalion, I’m going to be more open about my sexuality. Like I’m not going to wait if anyone asks or I’m not going to let them be guessing.

A few days later, I heard from Sashko again. They had made it to Mykolaiv.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Hey there, Courtney. Hope you’re hearing me OK.

They’d begun digging trenches in anticipation of a new Russian offensive.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN And today when we met our commander, and he was like getting acquainted, speaking to us, giving his speech, he said, I’ve had gay guys in my unit before and it was no problem with them. So if I see or hear any cases of homophobia, this unit is not a place for homophobia. Is that clear? And we are not going to talk about that again.

He said, I don’t care who you are or what you do until you break the rules. So if you’re a good fighter, then I’m OK with you.

Russian troops were sending a near-constant stream of bombs and missiles toward Mykolaiv. Huge swathes of the city had been burned to the ground or completely destroyed. But on one quiet evening, I was able to talk to Sashko by phone. And I asked him to tell me more about what happened with his commander.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN He said, I know that there are guys in our unit who are gay. Like, he just looked at me and I raised my hand like, here I am, hello.

He made the things clear, you see.

And how did the other people in the unit respond?

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN They were like, OK. Yeah. They didn’t say much. I mean, the way they talk, they are not like some narrow-minded, homophobic savages. What I expected because I expected the worst. Army is still a world of manly men, but we are not — I mean, I don’t feel threatened physically and I feel much more confident now. I really feel like here I just have to be like a good soldier. And that’s like some guarantee that at least the commanders will protect me if anything happens. But I’m sure that nothing bad will happen.

A few weeks later, I got this message from Sashko. OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Hey, Courtney. Sorry for taking so long to respond to your message. Here’s just another piece of information, which I think is important to see a bigger picture of what’s happening here in Ukraine. So yesterday I think, that was yesterday, L.G.B.T.Q. person was beaten.

And that happened when the guy was going to give an interview about his boyfriend who had died in this Russian-Ukrainian war. And at that time, a group of young men came up to him and they attacked him. And they started shouting homophobic things and they beat him.

I don’t know what to add.

Over many months of conversation, Sashko and I had talked a lot about his hopes for the future and for the future of Ukraine. So many of them revolved around his uncertainty of what version of the country would greet him and Antonina if and when the war finally ended. But one time, I’d gotten a different answer.

Do you think about the future?

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Yeah, I sometimes stop and think about the future. And I’m trying not to make some great plans like, oh, I’m going to write a play about this war or I’m going to, I don’t know, to write a song. Just very, very small things, down to earth things. Like my mom, she lives in the Central Ukraine.

And they bought a house in the village. And they went there yesterday for the first time. And she sent me a video and she said, we’re waiting for you and Antonina to come and live there and repair it because the house is very old. And there’s a garden with fruit trees. And I was, oh my God, yeah. I’d really love to do that, mom.

lulu garcia-navarro

“First Person” is a production of New York Times Opinion. We’ll be back next Thursday with a new episode. Today’s episode was produced by Courtney Stein. It was edited by Stephanie Joyce and Lisa Tobin with help from Kaari Pitkin. Engineering by Isaac Jones. Original music by Isaac Jones, Pat McCusker and Carole Sabouraud.

Fact-checking by Mary Marge Locker. The rest of the first person team includes Cristal Duhaime, Christina Djossa, Olivia Natt, Derek Arthur and Jason Pagano. Special thanks to Kristina Samulewski, Shannon Busta, Kate Sinclair, Jeffrey Miranda, Paula Szuchman, Irene Noguchi, Patrick Healy and Katie Kingsbury.

transcript

In Russia, Gay People Are Routinely Targeted. That’s Why This Ukrainian Soldier Is Fighting.

When Putin invaded, Oleksandr Zhuhan chose to defend a country that hasn’t always defended him.

Thursday, July 7th, 2022

lulu garcia-navarro

From The earliest days of the war in Ukraine, we’ve seen the images of everyday Ukrainians signing up to defend their country against the Russian invasion leaving behind the lives they’d been living just days before. Wars can be uniting in that way with citizens coming together against a shared enemy, putting their differences aside. Oleksandr Zhuhan, Sashko for short, was one of those who joined Ukraine’s volunteer forces. He’s gay, and for him, Putin’s Russia held particular terror. Gay people are routinely targeted their, arrested without cause, even tortured. And among the reasons Putin gave for invading Ukraine, he said the country had embraced values, quote, “contrary to human nature.”

But Sashko had also experienced homophobia within Ukraine in the years leading up to the war. So when he started talking to my colleague, Courtney Stein in the early days of the fighting, he was facing dual fears a future under Russia, but also how he might be treated by the soldiers he was serving alongside. From “New York Times Opinion,” this is “First Person.” I’m Lulu Garcia-Navarro. Today, Sashko and the fight for his future in Ukraine.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Hi, Courtney. Today is calmer than it was yesterday, but still it’s not safe here. Anyway —

courtney stein

When we first started talking, Sashko was too busy to get on the phone.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN We hear bumping sounds like every 15 minutes or every half an hour.

He was just a couple of days into his enlistment, and these were the early days of the war when Russia was shelling Kyiv. His unit was stationed in what had been a mall there.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN And we are sleeping now next to the window shop. It looks somehow surrealistic because we see that beautiful clothes and we are wearing the same clothes that we came here in.

So I asked him to send me voice memos whenever he had a free minute. And what most came through was just how disorienting this all was for him.

oleksandr zhuhan

I haven’t — I hadn’t held a gun in my life until the 24th of February. I skipped all the lessons of —

courtney stein

In Ukraine, boys learn how to shoot guns in school. But Sashko never wanted any part of that sort of thing. He’d never imagined fighting in a war, even up to the moment he enlisted alongside the partner he calls his husband, though they can’t be legally married.

oleksandr zhuhan

We didn’t think that we would be given guns. We thought that we would do something like, I don’t know, cooking or cleaning or carrying heavy things, something like that. My husband is a director, and I am an actor and a director and a playwright. We are very stereotypically gay, if I can put it this way, like we are a gay couple who are vegans and we are very anti, I don’t know, war.

courtney stein

Or at least they had been, then Russia invaded. Sashko and Antonina spent the night of the invasion hiding in their bathroom, weighing whether to enlist.

oleksandr zhuhan

For both of us, it was a very difficult decision because we used to avoid places where there are lots of manly men, like stereotypically heterosexual men who want to fight. And we have met violence against gay people before and it was difficult.

courtney stein

But the day after Russia invaded when it became clear just how serious the situation was, both Sashko and Antonina signed up. They weren’t telling anyone they were together though.

oleksandr zhuhan

There was a situation when a man from our unit came up to us and asked, so are you brothers or friends? And since he only gave us like two options, I said friends very quickly. But then I was sorry and I kept thinking to myself, what would have happened if I had said we are husband and husband? What would have changed? I’m not sure.

courtney stein

In Ukraine, boys learned how to shoot guns in school. But Sashko never wanted any part of that sort of thing he’d never imagined fighting in a war, even up to the moment he enlisted alongside the partner he calls his husband, though they can’t be legally married.

oleksandr zhuhan

So I grew up in a small town in the Central Ukraine. When I was born, it was still the Soviet Union.

courtney stein

As a kid, Sashko spoke Russian in school. Then in 1991 when he was seven, Ukraine declared its independence. But it wasn’t a big patriotic moment in Sashko’s memory. What he remembers is the economic collapse that followed.

oleksandr zhuhan

People had to survive and they did different things, like some people stole, some people — I don’t the word for that. They did very bad things to survive and to get some food for their children.

courtney stein

Sashko and his parents lived in an apartment block with a shared courtyard.

oleksandr zhuhan

All the kids knew one another from the moment they were born. And I knew that there were some boys that my mom said, you mustn’t be friends with those boys because they smoke and their parents are not a very good family. Some of them smoked cigarettes beginning at the age of five I suppose.

courtney stein

What?

oleksandr zhuhan

Yeah. Yeah. That’s true.

courtney stein

Sashko wasn’t that kind of kid though. He was a rule follower.

oleksandr zhuhan

I was really very out of touch with the reality I think. I mean, I didn’t know much about sexuality, about homosexuality, or anything like this. I really like to draw, and I drew things like every day. I had albums. Do you do you say album or notebooks?

courtney stein

Notebooks.

oleksandr zhuhan

Filled with sketches. Yeah. And I had a secret notebook where I drew all like naked, people naked men. And I was about, I don’t know, 10 or 11 years old. And my mom found it and she said, oh my god, what was that? I was so ashamed. And she said that it was really a bad thing.

courtney stein

That was the message Sashko got from basically everyone growing up.

oleksandr zhuhan

Homosexuality was something that you should be ashamed of. And it was something that people in prison, you know, prisoners used to punish other prisoners. Does it make sense what I’m saying?

courtney stein

So it wasn’t like that people were actually gay. It was just a punishment.

oleksandr zhuhan

Yeah. Yeah. Or whenever you heard the word homosexuality, it was considered some of the world’s biggest threats, you know, like homosexuality atomic war.

courtney stein

And given that, when he left his hometown and went to Kyiv for college, he stayed in the closet. But in his second year, he fell in love with his roommate who was straight.

oleksandr zhuhan

One day I just decided that, oh my god, if he doesn’t love me then I have no more reason to live. I know now that it was very stupid, but I was 16. So I got all the drugs that I had, I mix them with alcohol and I drank them all. And at first, I fainted, but then my friends found me and they called the ambulance.

courtney stein

He ended up in the hospital. They called his mom to take him home.

oleksandr zhuhan

And of course, she started asking questions, and I had to tell her.

courtney stein

How did she respond?

oleksandr zhuhan

She said, it’s OK, I love you. Maybe one day you’ll meet a woman and you’ll have children and I’ll pray for you. Let’s pray together. And I said, oh my god, mom, don’t. Please, I — and that was like second coming out. I said, I don’t believe in God. I’m an atheist. Yeah. And then some years later, I’m a vegan. And you know, like it was a bingo, gay vegan atheist. No more hope for mom.

courtney stein

Which one was hardest for her, the atheist, the veganism, or the being gay?

oleksandr zhuhan

I don’t think that she accepted anything, any of these.

courtney stein

When he finished college, Sashko stayed in Kyiv. He met some other gay people, but he said it was still too early to call it a community. He started dating, but it didn’t always go well.

oleksandr zhuhan

One of them was a criminal, so that was that bad. Yeah. And so I embraced that some people find their partners in life and some people don’t. Some people die lonely. And it stopped scaring me because before that, I thought that it was one of my biggest priorities, you know, to find a partner, to make family, and so on.

courtney stein

Then in 2014, Sashko got a message on a dating site.

oleksandr zhuhan

And at that stage, I met Antonina. I looked through his profile and I found out that he was into theater and that he was a refugee from Crimea. And that looked interesting.

courtney stein

Antonina recently began identifying as non-binary and using she and her pronouns. But Sashko still goes back and forth.

oleksandr zhuhan

He or she, yeah, I’m still confusing these things. We arranged a meeting. It wasn’t a date. It was a meeting.

courtney stein

They connected at a big moment in Ukraine, the moment a lot of Ukrainians say was the actual beginning of this war. The Ukrainian president at the time, who Putin supported, had just fled to Russia after months of protests forced him from office. Within days, Russian troops moved in to occupy Crimea. And like a lot of L.G.B.T.Q. people there, Antonina fled and ended up in Kyiv.

oleksandr zhuhan

We met on the bridge which is non-existent now. And we spend the night like talking and drinking coffee, talking about children, about theater and all kinds of things. And it was like, I don’t know how many hours. And that’s how we met. I think that talking to him and spending evenings and nights talking about what’s right and what’s wrong made me the person I am today.

courtney stein

Not long after they met, Sashko says he and Antonina decided to stop speaking Russian. And they helped create a theater group that performed pieces calling out Russian aggression in Crimea and homophobia within Russian culture. Outside the theater, they were also calling on Ukraine to recognize L.G.B.T.Q. rights and taking part in some of the earliest Pride celebrations.

oleksandr zhuhan

I think it was 2015, the biggest slogan of this Pride was that we exist. And there were like less than 50 people and lots and lots and lots of the police.

courtney stein

Since then, Pride in Kyiv has grown. In recent years, the parade has attracted thousands of people, part of a broader liberalization, especially among young people in the cities. But with that liberalization, there’s also been a backlash. Sashko told me about a night last November when he and Antonina were approached by two men in the street.

oleksandr zhuhan

First they came up to us, and Antonina was wearing a tiny —

what’s this thing called that’s not a stripe but ribbon? Oh, I forgot the word.

courtney stein

Rainbow?

oleksandr zhuhan

Rainbow. Yes, rainbow ribbon. Thanks. And I felt this danger right away the way they looked at us. And they were like about 50 meters away, and the street was empty. And one of them started following us. And they started talking to us in a very rude manner like, hey, are you fags? What are you wearing? Do you believe in God? Are you patriots? And they started pushing us and so on. And that was the first time when all I am like anti-violent person. If there is a chance for the words to work it out, I usually use the words.

courtney stein

But then, one of the guys pushed Antonina to the ground.

oleksandr zhuhan

And I was like off. I went bananas. And I was so mad that I felt I could tear those men with my bare hands because I was like, I don’t know where I got the strength. But it was like the first, maybe the second time in my life when I got to hit a person right in the face. And I felt so, I don’t know, empowered. That was the word. Like I hit back, and they didn’t expect it. Like, they thought that they were like no attacking to fags who couldn’t hit back.

courtney stein

The attack was still fresh in Sashko’s mind when Russian forces invaded Ukraine just a few months later. It was all part of what was weighing on him and Antonina that night they spent huddled in their bathroom considering their options.

oleksandr zhuhan

I definitely had doubts like, I was not afraid to go and fight, but I was really — I felt a great anxiety if I would fit in. And being gay was part of things that gave me that anxiety. But on the second day when Russia went full scale and when we understood that it was not a joke, it’s going to be for a long time, we couldn’t make any other choice really. What mattered was to protect our country.

courtney stein

So that’s how Sashko and Antonina came to enlist in this war, fighting to protect a country that hadn’t always protected them alongside soldiers who in peacetime might have been their enemies.

oleksandr zhuhan

I’m not considering the option of losing my freedom, because for an L.G.B.T.Q. person to lose freedom, to get captured by the Russians is worse than death, so I’ll be fighting until I win or I die.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Hi, Courtney. It’s the eighth of March, Tuesday. So I’m going to go on describing what life has become for me since the war started.

courtney stein

Not long after he enlisted, Sashko sent me this voice memo.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN It’s been 13 days since Russia attacked Ukraine for no reason. I’m sick now, and almost everyone in our unit is either sick or getting better.

And it’s because it’s always cold in here. We’re sleeping on the floor now in sleeping bags. But I’m not complaining, it’s just that you ask me to describe what it is like here. I go patrolling three times a day.

On these patrols, Sashko and Antonina were often together but still keeping their relationship a secret.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN The commander is very loyal. Well, he doesn’t know or he doesn’t want to know that we are a gay couple. We don’t touch or we don’t hold hands, we don’t hug each other. And the riskiest thing that my husband has done since the first day he kissed me on the forehead when I said that I probably had temperature. And he pressed his lips against my forehead like just to check if I had temperature. But it was a kiss, I knew it.

He’s the one person who can —

I don’t know, who can calm me down and ask if I’m OK.

Hello, Sashko? OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Courtney, can you hear me now?

I can hear you. Can you hear me?

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Oh, that’s perfect. Yeah.

As winter turned into spring, Russia continued to focus a lot of its air power on Kyiv. At this point, the volunteer forces were largely playing a support role away from the fighting. So Sashko and Antonina weren’t seeing active combat, but the war was all around them.

How are you?

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Well, it’s been tough time. Tonight, there were like three regions where the bombs fell, and one of them was right next to us, next to our base. But it’s OK. We’re alive and more or less healthy. In 15 minutes, I’ll have to go to unpack the big cars with provisions and ammunition. So that’s our job. That’s the riskiest thing I’ve done so far. We’re just defending the base. And how are you feeling about that being your role right now?

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN I’m OK. Well, on the first day when we came here, lots of guys, they were like, wow, I want to go and fight and so on. And I was like, I’m pretty much OK with the things as they are now. And the terrible thing is that we are getting used to this state of things. And I don’t want this to be my usual state.

The day before yesterday, we went to the place where we learn to shoot guns. We have Kalashnikovs, and I was thinking about my old sewing machine because I work in the theater so I can saw costumes for a theater place. And I was thinking about, well, I used to hate to oil my sewing machine, but I would love to do it now instead of oiling my gun. So it was like, you know, those flashbacks about what life used to be.

Hi, Courtney. It’s been a month and two days since the beginning of the war, and I have been thinking a lot about it one hell of a time, which happened not so often because we are either too busy or too exhausted to think.

There are things that depress me, but there are good things though.

For example, some people from our unit, they added us as friends on Facebook. And one of them came up to me the other day and he said, I read your post on Facebook. And he said, I didn’t put a like below this post, but I really want to say that I think it’s a great post and I liked it.

In the post, Sashko talked about the similarities between the fight for L.G.B.T.Q. rights and Ukrainian independence. He said that where Russia was driven by fear and hate, he hoped Ukraine would follow a different path after the war, a path of tolerance and acceptance.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN So it was a good thing, and that really made my day.

For the next few weeks, Sashko’s unit stayed in the same warehouse in Kyiv, protecting ammunition and resupplies for the regular army troops that were pushing the Russians back in other parts of the city. Then in April, Ukrainian forces retook the suburbs, places like Bucha, where hundreds of civilians were tortured and killed. Sashko messaged that he and Antonina had been moved and were now doing a different job but still mainly on guard duty. A few days later, we got on the phone.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Hi, Courtney.

antonina ramanova

Hello, Courtney.

courtney stein

And I got to hear Antonina for the first time.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Yeah, Courtney, the thing is, Antonina speaks very little English.

antonina ramanova

My English is not very good.

courtney stein

So Antonina just listened while Sashko and I talked. Sashko said that now he assumed people in their unit understood that he and Antonina were a couple, but they still weren’t publicly acknowledging their relationship.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN But sometimes we like, I don’t know, touch fingers or — well, that’s mostly it. We touch fingers. That’s it.

I saw on your Facebook pages that you have decorated your guns with stickers. OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Yeah.

It feels like a small act of resistance.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Yeah. And our guns really stand out from the other guns.

Can you describe them? OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Yes. So like there’s a rainbow and a unicorn and a pineapple.

Do other people decorate their guns or is it just you guys?

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN No, not really. We are the only ones with the stickers. Now, I saw one more person with a sticker, but it was like a sticker of a skull. And we have those optimistic, cute stickers.

And has your commander, anyone ever mentioned it like as a security concern or question you about it? OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Yeah, yeah, yeah. One person came up to me like two days ago and said, that sticker has lots of white and it’s going to be a problem if we fight in the darkness like it could be seen from afar. And I said, OK, so when we fight in the darkness, I’ll take it off.

At the end of April, Putin declared victory in Mariupol, and Russian troops continued to push into Eastern and Southern Ukraine where hundreds of Ukrainian troops were dying every day. Sashko sent me a text message. Their unit had been given a choice, they could pack up and go volunteer in Kyiv as civilians or they could help bolster the military’s ranks and join another battalion and be sent to the front lines in the south.

This time, the decision wasn’t so clear. Sashko thought that he could be more useful as a volunteer. But for Antonina, returning to Kyiv was out of the question. Sashko wrote me that Antonina was intent on going with or without him. So he decided he was going too. But they weren’t sent right away.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN We’re waiting here for the transfer.

Weeks passed. Then at the end of May, Sashko got back in touch.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Hi, Courtney. Sorry for not responding to you right away.

Things had been busy, he said.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN And on Wednesday, that’s tomorrow, we are going to Mykolaiv. Mykolaiv is a city in the south of Ukraine. It’s close to Odessa.

Mykolaiv, Sashko explained, was part of the New frontline in the war. Like in Mariupol to the east, the Russians had managed to cut off water to Mykolaiv, forcing many of the city’s half a million residents to flee.

Before leaving for the south, Sashko and Antonina were sent home to Kyiv for a few days. Their apartment hadn’t been damaged in the shelling. And for the first time in the three months since they signed up for the territorial defense, they were able to sleep in their own bed. And with the Russians no longer anywhere near the city, cafes and shops were open again.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN We were walking around the city, and I felt like I was walking next to a fish tank looking at people who are having their lattes. And the war seemed very real, but this life in Kyiv, the peaceful life seemed like something impossible. And I could physically feel it. I felt weak at my knees, and I had a strange feeling in my stomach and everything seemed so unstable.

And I just can’t pull myself together. Everything feels like a very bad, meaningless movie without the end. And the worst thing, the thing that I’m afraid most is that the war is going to be for like two, three, five, eight years more.

Sashko and Antonina met up with a friend from the theater world while in Kyiv. But Sashko could only think about war. He no longer related to his past life, and he was distracted by his upcoming deployment.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN And the thing that I’m worried about is that in the new battalion, maybe there will be like real army people with strong hierarchy. I have an idea that in Mykolaiv in that new battalion, I’m going to be more open about my sexuality. Like I’m not going to wait if anyone asks or I’m not going to let them be guessing.

A few days later, I heard from Sashko again. They had made it to Mykolaiv.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Hey there, Courtney. Hope you’re hearing me OK.

They’d begun digging trenches in anticipation of a new Russian offensive.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN And today when we met our commander, and he was like getting acquainted, speaking to us, giving his speech, he said, I’ve had gay guys in my unit before and it was no problem with them. So if I see or hear any cases of homophobia, this unit is not a place for homophobia. Is that clear? And we are not going to talk about that again.

He said, I don’t care who you are or what you do until you break the rules. So if you’re a good fighter, then I’m OK with you.

Russian troops were sending a near-constant stream of bombs and missiles toward Mykolaiv. Huge swathes of the city had been burned to the ground or completely destroyed. But on one quiet evening, I was able to talk to Sashko by phone. And I asked him to tell me more about what happened with his commander.

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN He said, I know that there are guys in our unit who are gay. Like, he just looked at me and I raised my hand like, here I am, hello.

He made the things clear, you see.

And how did the other people in the unit respond?

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN They were like, OK. Yeah. They didn’t say much. I mean, the way they talk, they are not like some narrow-minded, homophobic savages. What I expected because I expected the worst. Army is still a world of manly men, but we are not — I mean, I don’t feel threatened physically and I feel much more confident now. I really feel like here I just have to be like a good soldier. And that’s like some guarantee that at least the commanders will protect me if anything happens. But I’m sure that nothing bad will happen.

A few weeks later, I got this message from Sashko. OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Hey, Courtney. Sorry for taking so long to respond to your message. Here’s just another piece of information, which I think is important to see a bigger picture of what’s happening here in Ukraine. So yesterday I think, that was yesterday, L.G.B.T.Q. person was beaten.

And that happened when the guy was going to give an interview about his boyfriend who had died in this Russian-Ukrainian war. And at that time, a group of young men came up to him and they attacked him. And they started shouting homophobic things and they beat him.

I don’t know what to add.

Over many months of conversation, Sashko and I had talked a lot about his hopes for the future and for the future of Ukraine. So many of them revolved around his uncertainty of what version of the country would greet him and Antonina if and when the war finally ended. But one time, I’d gotten a different answer.

Do you think about the future?

OLEKSANDR ZHUHAN Yeah, I sometimes stop and think about the future. And I’m trying not to make some great plans like, oh, I’m going to write a play about this war or I’m going to, I don’t know, to write a song. Just very, very small things, down to earth things. Like my mom, she lives in the Central Ukraine.

And they bought a house in the village. And they went there yesterday for the first time. And she sent me a video and she said, we’re waiting for you and Antonina to come and live there and repair it because the house is very old. And there’s a garden with fruit trees. And I was, oh my God, yeah. I’d really love to do that, mom.

lulu garcia-navarro

“First Person” is a production of New York Times Opinion. We’ll be back next Thursday with a new episode. Today’s episode was produced by Courtney Stein. It was edited by Stephanie Joyce and Lisa Tobin with help from Kaari Pitkin. Engineering by Isaac Jones. Original music by Isaac Jones, Pat McCusker and Carole Sabouraud.

Fact-checking by Mary Marge Locker. The rest of the first person team includes Cristal Duhaime, Christina Djossa, Olivia Natt, Derek Arthur and Jason Pagano. Special thanks to Kristina Samulewski, Shannon Busta, Kate Sinclair, Jeffrey Miranda, Paula Szuchman, Irene Noguchi, Patrick Healy and Katie Kingsbury.

July 7, 2022

Produced by ‘First Person’

Since the beginning of the war, Ukrainians of all backgrounds have come together to fight their common enemy, Russia. But for some Ukrainians, that enemy holds particular terror. In Russia, gay people are routinely targeted for their identity — arrested without cause and even tortured. That’s what motivated Oleksandr Zhuhan to join the volunteer Territorial Defense Forces, despite experiencing homophobia in Ukraine.

[You can listen to this episode of “First Person” on Apple, Spotify or Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]

Before the war, Zhuhan said, he avoided places with “stereotypically heterosexual men.” So when he enlisted in February, he went back into the closet, telling his fellow soldiers that he and the partner he was serving alongside were “friends.” In the months since, Zhuhan has been fighting two battles: one for his country and one for his identity.

Warning: This episode contains explicit language.

(A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)

Image07fp-ukrainian-solider-image-articleLarg

Credit…Antonina Romanova

“First Person” is produced by Derek Arthur, Christina Djossa, Jason Pagano, Cristal Duhaime, Olivia Natt and Courtney Stein. The show is edited by Kaari Pitkin, Stephanie Joyce and Lisa Tobin. Scoring by Isaac Jones, Pat McCusker and Carole Sabouraud. Mixing by Isaac Jones. Fact-checking by Mary Marge Locker. Audience strategy by Shannon Busta, with editorial support from Kristina Samulewski. The executive producer of Opinion audio is Irene Noguchi, and the director of New York Times audio is Paula Szuchman. Special thanks to Jeffrey Miranda, Kate Sinclair, Patrick Healy and Katie Kingsbury.


Categories
Gay Life and Links

Гомофобия Путина — от анекдотов до сроков


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Он спокойно говорил о том, что считает себя либералом, затем рассказывал о величии Российской Империи, но спустя время сожалел о распаде СССР. 

ЛГБТ — едва ли не единственная тема, которая Путина возмущает независимо от политической конъюнктуры. Как президент, рассказывающий анекдоты про геев, решил сажать их в тюрьму?

Анекдоты — над геями можно смеяться

Владимир Путин очень любит рассказывать анекдоты, пусть и не все из них звучат адекватно. Геи, в глазах Путина, относятся к чему-то смешному и анекдотичному по своей природе.

«Вот говорят, что Пётр Ильич Чайковский был гомосексуалистом, правда, мы любим его не за это, но он был великий музыкант, и мы все любим его музыку. Ну и что?» — так в пересказе Путина звучал советский анекдот.

Чайковским разговоры о музыке не исчерпываются. Путин называл Элтона Джона выдающимся человеком и музыкантом. Затем добавлял, что «миллионы людей у нас любят его искренне, несмотря на его ориентацию».

В 2019 году Владимир Путин возмущался большим количеством гендеров, используемых на Западе.

«Сейчас ведь чего только нет. Я вот говорил тоже в интервью… Шесть или пять полов напридумывали. Я вот… Трансформеры, транс… Я не понимаю даже, что это такое», — иронизировал Путин.

Подобные вещи можно интерпретировать и как фирменный юмор прапорщика, столь любимый Путиным, и как реальный взгляд на мир.

«Они», «Эти люди»

Владимир Путин с большим трудом говорит про ЛГБТ-персон. Очевидно, что эта тема ему кажется слишком грязной, чтобы вербализировать её. На помощь президенту приходят эвфемизмы.

«Я работаю с такими людьми, я их иногда награждаю государственными медалями и орденами за их достижения в тех или других сферах. У нас абсолютно нормальные отношения, и я не вижу здесь ничего особенного», — говорил Путин в середине десятых.

«С такими людьми», «их» — вполне естественная риторика для президента. В 2017 году во время съёмок документального фильма о Путине Оливер Стоун решил спровоцировать президента РФ «каверзным вопросом». Американец спросил Путина, смог бы он принять душ в подводной лодке рядом с геем. Путин заявил, что «предпочитает не ходить в душ с ним». Впрочем, одним эвфемизмом дело не кончилось, так что Путин напомнил, что он мастер спорта по дзюдо.

От разговоров к посадкам

Если в нулевых разговоры Путина о ЛГБТ могли просто возмущать людей, то постепенно власть перешла от слов к делу. В 2013 году был принят закон о запрете гей-пропаганды среди несовершеннолетних. Как это часто бывает, неприятный дискриминационный закон за несколько лет оброс массой трактовок, а депутаты стремились его дополнить. Спустя два дня после его принятия вступил в силу и закон о запрете опеки и усыновления детей лицами, состоящими в однополом союзе. Закон о гей-пропаганде получил больший резонанс, так что президенту приходилось защищать его чаще.

Путин отмечал, что закон необходим для улучшения демографической ситуации в России.

«У нас люди, которые выступили инициаторами этих законов, и которые принимали этот закон (я, кстати, не был инициатором этого закона), исходили из того, что однополые браки не производят детей. А Россия переживает непростые времена, с точки зрения демографии. И мы заинтересованы в том, чтобы семьи были полноценные, чтобы детей было больше», — защищал закон президент.

Этот закон регулярно вызывает вопросы у иностранных журналистов и политиков. Практически каждый визит президента в другую страну сопровождался высказываниями о ущемлении прав ЛГБТ-россиян. Впрочем, как только Путин перестал ездить в другие страны, необходимость в защите закона отпала сама собой.

В 2009 году Россия предоставила Совету ООН по правам человека доклад о необходимости продвижения традиционных ценностей. Образ страны как убежища традиционалистов активно навязывался и внутри неё, и за её пределами. Давление на ЛГБТ сочеталось с христианско-советским взглядом на «правильную» жизнь человека.

При подготовке поправок к конституции Путин заявил, что в России нет и не должно быть дискриминации по признаку сексуальной ориентации. При этом, по мысли президента, Россия выступает против навязывания ценностей, так что закон о гей-пропаганде должен продолжать действовать. В конституции остался запрет на дискриминацию, но социальная группа ЛГБТ не упоминается и в список защищённых не входит.

Быть гомофобом выгодно?

В 2019 году Левада-центр провёл опрос об отношении россиян к ЛГБТ. 56% респондентов заявили, что относятся к ЛГБТ отрицательно. 31% опрошенных сказали, что перестали бы общаться с знакомым, если бы узнали о его гомосексуальной ориентации. Цифры говорят, что мнение людей поляризуется. 

В 2005 году 17% полностью соглашались, что представители ЛГБТ должны иметь такие же права, как и другие граждане, 16% полностью не соглашались с этим утверждением. В 2019 году процент вырос до 20% (полностью согласен) и 25% (полностью не согласен).

Владимир Путин одновременно и разгоняет гомофобию, и хочет оседлать её волну. Это чувствуют и пропагандисты. Когда Маргарита Симоньян называет Максима Галкина геем, скрывающим свою ориентацию, она пытается уколоть артиста. 

Для российского телевидения образца 2022 года это совершенно естественная ситуация, — годы гомофобизации не прошли даром. Гомофобия в качестве государственной политики идеально подходит в период системного кризиса для мобилизации масс в анти-западном духе. И поскольку в наши дни режиму не до смеха, гомофобии в политике будет ещё больше. Появление новых дискриминирующих законов — вопрос времени.

Дмитрий Камышин

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Categories
Gay Life and Links

‘We are a community of immigrants’ – Russian-speaking LGBTQ+ group wants to help refugees in NYC


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A Russian-speaking LGBTQ+ group is looking to provide resources and support for refugees and asylum seekers in New York City.

Violette Matevosian is the development coordinator for RUSA LGBTQ. Matevosian left Russia in 2020 and sought asylum in the U.S. and founded the inclusive network in New York.

“We are a community of immigrants. We are a community of refugees and asylum seekers, and we have to support the other people like the Ukrainians because they are the most vulnerable right now,” says Matevosian.

RUSA organizes events and concerts to raise awareness for the Russian-speaking LGBTQ+ community like the Pride Parade in Brighton Beach in May.

They also offer free legal support and housing to help those seeking refuge.