The Russian LGBT Network has been working since 2006. That’s a long time for a human rights organisation — and especially an LGBT organisation — in Russia. I believe that I always wanted to do something that I understand as important for myself and for society. In my view, every person is responsible for the world around them, so I am just happy that I can devote so much time to something I believe in.
The Network is an interregional human rights organisation that works to promote human rights regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity in Russia. A lot of our work is devoted to community building and supporting the movement in provincial regions. We have a psychological hot line and online chat, which was developed mostly for minors who prefer texting instead of calling. There is also an emergency support program. We also put many efforts into advocacy on both national and international levels and discrimination monitoring. At this point we have helped to evacuate 106 people from Chechnya during the ongoing violence there — most of whom have already left Russia.
The challenges in Russia for any LGBT organisation or initiative group are numerous. There is discriminative legislation, the so-called “propaganda law”, the “law on foreign agents”, the “law on undesirable organisations” and many others. There is a state-sponsored homophobia and almost entirely state-controlled federal mass media. There is increasing violence against LGBT people. All these things makes our work very difficult. In addition, Russia is a big country, and the situation with LGBT rights differs a lot from region to region. There are big cities like St Petersburg and Moscow where the situation is somewhat better, and there are places where LGBT people are not regarded as human beings. The most drastic example is of course Chechnya, where people are still being kidnapped, tortured and killed without any attention from the federal authorities who bear the full responsibility for what is going on there.
I am lucky to be surrounded by people who think alike, who are contributing to equality and who believe that it is possible to change the world. Each year we organise a forum for LGBT activists from all across Russia and each year I see new faces — how could that not be inspiring? And yet, though it might seem pessimistic, but I don’t think that I can win this game. Even in the countries that “look good” from a human rights perspective, there are so many things to be fixed. Justice and equality take time, so I believe that for me the process is the most important thing. The realisation of the fact that I am going in the right direction and doing my best is a big deal for me.
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