Kok.team is a portal for Kazakhstan’s LGBT community that began in March 2017. The activists who set it up understood two things. First, that the country hadn’t had a media resource to speak to LGBT men and women about issues that affected them; and that to influence social opinion in a country like Kazakhstan, with its enormous spaces and dispersed population was not possible without a strong media presence. Second, the editors realised to their shame that in 25 years, LGBT activists hadn’t written a single line in the Kazakh language. And that meant that in the 25 years that the country had been independent, queer people who only spoke Kazakh hadn’t had the ability to receive information about themselves, their rights, health issues and so on.
Kok.team functions pretty much like any other media outlet. Our routine work involves writing texts, editing materials, looking for new authors, translating into Kazakh and English, running social media accounts. We’re trying to bring together LGBT people.
Inasmuch as we don’t do continual rights work and don’t work “in the field”, we’re not forced into conflict with bureaucrats, law enforcement, psychologists and psychiatrists and all those other people which NGOs usually encounter. We’re a media outlet so we work with concepts and ideas. And in this the greatest problem, which is certainly a local one, is the total ignorance of LGBT people regarding serious material. Social media pages dedicated to gossip and pornography get thousands of views and likes from the Kazakh LGBT community. But articles on political or even social issues don’t touch readers in the same way. The main reason for this is that LGBT people in Kazakhstan don’t recognise that they are connected to one another by shared problems, they don’t see themselves as a political entity that could express a point of view, let alone act.
We’re kept going by messages from readers who tell us that thanks to the site, they don’t feel alone. And of course we’re motivated by the gradual growth in our readership — that shows us we’re on the right path and we should keep going. If every LGBT person in Kazakhstan came across our site just once, then we’d know that we’d done the minimum, acting as a bridge, a link in a chain through which people of the rainbow could find answers to their questions, likeminded people, friends. And the grand aim is to be a part of the process whereby disparate, apolitical LGBT people become a genuine LGBT community. This profile has been anonymised