Within Russia, the administration of President Vladimir Putin has been very visible in showing disdain for members of the LGBT community, considering it to be a “non-traditional” sexual orientation.
Many laws in Russia prohibit the distribution of “homosexual propaganda” to minors. In fact, even acknowledging LGBT pride, rights, or lifestyles, can result in either imprisonment or fines up to $31,000.
Recently, the Russian publication Novaya Gazeta has reported the arrest of more than 100 men who are openly or perceived to be gay. These men were arrested for secretly organizing an LGBT pride parade. Detained in the Russian republic of Chechnya, it is believed that they are enduring various forms of torture that has resulted in at least three deaths.
Russian authorities have denied their involvement in the arrest, also going to the extent to deny the existence of LGBT people within Russia.
“If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them since their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.”
– Alvi Karimov, Spokesmen for Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov
In most recent events, it’s has been reported that Chechnya police have been instructing relatives of the LGBT community to “kill their own gay children or we’ll do it for you”, according to a horrific account told by a survivor.
These claims come with the belief that by being gay, one is “blacken[ing] our society, lifestyle, traditions, and customs.”
An insider’s perspective
1. Tell us about yourself, and your connection to Russia.
My name is Adam Zaydenband. I am bisexual.
I am 20 years old and first generation. I came out when I was about 14 or 15. I had struggled a lot with my gender identity and sexual orientation but I figured it out and, now, I’m out and proud.
I was born here, but all of my family, both immediate and extended, are from former Soviet Union, parts of Europe and Central Asia. I grew up with the culture, language, food, and my favorite, the music.
I have never been to Tajikistan, where most of my family is from, or Russia either. I don’t see myself going there now. I’d say my culture is the only real interaction. I’ve had family visit and come stay with us, but other than that I have no other interaction.
2. Do you pay attention to the social/political climate that exists between Russia and the United States?
How would you compare the overall atmosphere surrounding the LGBTQA+ community here in the United States compared to that of Russia?
We don’t talk about politics because they have all dealt with enough of it back in Russia so I’m not sure, not do I really care about their political views.
We, as gay people, get to choose the people we want to be around and we get to make our own families because many of us get kicked out, disowned, or cut off from our biological family.
I do care about the community, whether it’s here or another country. No matter what, we are one big family. And when you think about it, we are all related one way or another. I would love if we could stop hating and fighting with each other. If we don’t respect each other, how do we expect the world to treat us right now.
I read a lot about what progress or setbacks have happened to us. Some are happy, and others motivate me, not to hate, but to fight back and stand up for what is right for my community.
Many things that are happening to the LGBTQA+ community in Russia sickens me. It feels very similar to the Holocaust. First they capture and detain us, then they kill us.
I’m not sure how people get up the next morning knowing they killed someone.
An innocent group of people gets killed, while thousands of criminals, actual rapists and thieves and people who have committed real criminal acts run free.
I can’t believe that in this day and age, we are still killing people over something that is really not a big deal. In Russia, we have an expression that translated makes no sense but it actually makes a lot of sense once I tell you the meaning behind it. It translates to, “You make elephants out of flies”, but it really means, you are making an insignificant thing a dilemma to worry about.
And that’s exactly what all those -isms are. Taking what is so insignificant and making it a big deal when it really isn’t.
3. Recent reports are stating that government officials are even looking to erase the overall acknowledgment of the event/ LGBT individuals.
I think it’s hypocritical because there are always a few singers that portray certain kinds of behavior and dress in a certain way and we are fine with it. Now, we want to act like men who just happen to be attracted to other men have to be killed. I really don’t understand where this is coming from but from what I’ve heard, we are seen as a mental illness.