Stas Naumenko

In 1997, I saw my first Ukrainian gay magazine, on sale in the kiosk. I rang up the editorial office, and began writing for them. I was born in Kiev, but for a long time I lived in a small city, where I hardly came across gays. Although I realised early that I was different, I did not want to associate myself with the gay community. It was the magazine One of Us that helped to break this barrier between me and the community. In 2002, friends and I created Gay Alliance, which in 2009 grew into Gay Alliance Ukraine . The organisation provides informative and educational activities aimed at both the LGBT community itself and the general public: publications, training, conferences, communication. For a long time I’ve also worked in HIV prevention.

Of course, there are many problems. If we talk about the publishing or journalistic side of the work, the first issue would be the deficit of Russian- and Ukrainian-language information about homosexuality. This sounds strange at the end of the second decade of the 21st century, but it is true. Another problem in Ukraine is the radicalisation of public sentiments because of Russian aggression. In these conditions, the importance of patriotic and right-wing political forces is increasing, and in local conditions this doesn’t sit well with the protection of the LGBT rights. Right-wing forces have set themselves the goal of limiting the so-called “propaganda of homosexuality”, which they interpret very widely. A ban on such “propaganda” has been attempted several times at the legislative level. Unfortunately, HIV prevention for gays in Ukraine is still not as effective as we would like.

I find inspiration in people close to me, in my hobbies. And my work as an editor is an unconditional source of inspiration. Our organisation published a book two years ago about the history of the LGBT movement in Ukraine, where specific figures and events were celebrated. I remember the people who inspired me to participate in the gay movement and journalism; I try to continue the work begun by Alexander Fesenko in 1996.

Our goal is an educated community that is interested in the surrounding world, not obsessed with its immediate needs, and ready to make small sacrifices in the name of a bigger cause. I’m more of a storyteller than a propagandist, so it’s easier for me to answer questions than to agitate or make demands. I can admire, for example, Harvey Milk, but I’m closer to Alfred Kinsey — if that’s not too self-assured a thing to say…