Love in a Young Pioneer’s Tie

The cover of “A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie,” as designed by Adams Carvalho

Katerina Silvanova was born and raised in Kharkiv, but moved to Russia at the age of twenty-two. She majored in forestry engineering, but never finished her studies. She has worked in sales all her life. Elena Malisova is a Muscovite and married, and works in IT. The girls [sic] had never been associated with literature, but both have had a passion for writing since childhood. One day, chatting on the internet after a hard day’s work, the friends agreed that they had to do something together. So, the idea of the novel A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie was born.

Musician Yuri Konev arrives at the abandoned Swallow Young Pioneer Camp in the Kharkiv region to encounter the ghosts of his past. Something happened there that turned his life upside down, changing it forever. There he met the camp counselor Volodya, who became more than a friend to the teenager.

Walking through streets of the camp, overgrown with grass, Yura recalls how rapidly and stormily his relationship with Volodya developed, how they had been afraid of what was happening between them. And yet, they had gravitated to each other. The trip to the camp is a new revelation for Yura. He was sure he had buried the past there, that its rebellious echo would never again disturb him . And yet, Konev will have to come face to face again with what already turned his life around once. Apparently, not all the ghosts of the past are willing to hide in memory’s back alleys forever.

Why should you read A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie?

  1. It’s a new extraordinary look at the late Soviet period of history.
  2. It’s a novel about sincere first feelings, cloaked in mystery and shame, condemnation and doubts.
  3. It’s an absolute bestseller, one of the year’s most anticipated and controversial books.

Book Description
Yura returns to the Young Pioneer camp of his youth after twenty years. In the ruins of the past, he hopes to find a path back to the present, to the person he once loved. This story is about the fact that not everything in the USSR was smooth, straight-laced, and impersonal, that there were experiences, passions, drives, and feelings that did not fit into the moral framework leading to the “bright future,” and that this future was not so bright.

Source: LitRes. Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Translated by the Russian Reader


Leto v pionerskom galstuke (LVPG) [A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie] is a novel co-written by Elena Malisova and Katerina Silvanova. The book deals with the relationship between two young men, the Young Pioneer [sic] Yura and Volodya, who meet at Young Pioneer camp in the summer of 1986.

[…]

Twenty years later, the musician Yuri Konev returns to the place where the Swallow Young Pioneer Camp was once located, recalling the summer of 1986, which spent there, and his love for the MGIMO student and camp counselor Vladimir Davydov. Yura and Volodya were jointly involved in staging a play, and a strong friendship arose between them, which gradually developed into teenage love. Throughout the book, Volodya refuses to accept his homosexual orientation, periodically insisting on ending the relationship and explaining that he is trying to “steer Yura off the right path” and that he is homophobic himself. At the end of the their stay at the camp, the young men bury a kind of time capsule under a willow tree, agreeing to dig it up in ten years. After parting, Yura and Volodya continue to communicate by correspondence for some time, but after a while they lose touch with each other. In 2006, after finding the time capsule, Yura learns in a letter that Volodya sends him that he had failed to “overcome” his orientation and still loves Yura.

The novel, which was originally posted on the website Ficbook.net, was published by Popcorn Books in 2021. By the end of May 2022, the book had sold more than 200,000 copies, not counting electronic sales. The novel took second place in the list of the most popular books among Russians in the first half of 2022, compiled by the Russian Book Union, and sales of the book amounted to about 50 million rubles. August 2022 saw the release of a sequel, What the Swallow Won’t Say, which takes place twenty years after the events described in A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie.

[…]

Critic Galina Yuzefovich gave a generally positive review of the novel, noting that “life in the Soviet Union differed little from life today, and emotions, relationships, and the desire to love and be loved do not depend on ideology.” Book blogger Anthony Yulai (Anton Ulyanov) rated the novel positively on the whole, noting that the authors keep the reader “in a state of emotional shock due to the alternation of sweet moments with sad ones and an abrupt change in the tone of the narrative towards the novel’s end.”

Zakhar Prilepin harshly condemned the book and its publishers on his Telegram channel: “Popcorn Books (which inevitably suggests “porn books”) is are celebrating their triumph and counting their profits. They will regard this post as good fortune, too. That’s what they were counting on. I won’t hide it: I’d burn down your whole office while you’re sleeping at home!” A video featuring a negative review of the book was released by Nikita Mikhalkov. He read aloud an excerpt from the novel and deems its publication a “violation of the Constitution.” He also noted that the abbreviation “LVPG,” as the novel is known among fans, is very similar to “LGBT.”

N.A. Ostanina, chair of the State Duma Committee on Family, Women and Children, sent a request to Roskomnadzor to examine the contents of the book to determine whether a criminal case could be launched against it in the future. A similar request was sent by the news agency RIA Ivan-Chai, but received a negative response.

Source: Wikipedia. Translated by the Russian Reader


A map of the Zina Portnova Memorial Swallow Young Pioneer Camp in 1986, as featured in the novel’s front matter.

“Aren’t you exaggerating?”

Seeing Volodya’s slightly condescending smile, Yurka was embarrassed. He probably thought that Yurka remembered their dance too well and was still jealous, so he was ready to accuse Masha of anything. And if Volodya really thought so, then he was right. Yurka’s ardent desire to jump out of the bushes and catch the spy red-handed was caused precisely by jealousy. But Yurka also had arguments in defense of his theory.

“It’s not the first time she’s been out at night. Do you remember when Ira came to the theater and attacked me, asking me what I’d been doing with Masha and where I’d been walking? And it’s true, no matter where we are, she’s always there. Volodya, we have to tell them about her walks!”

“Deal with Irina first.”

Yurka did go find her almost immediately. All the same, his mood was spoiled, and Volodya was paranoid again, and he constantly froze, listening and looking around and not even letting him touch his hand. And the evening was already coming to an end.

After hastily saying goodbye to Volodya, Yurka returned to his unit and found the counselor. He expected her to frown and scream at him as soon as he walked in. He was already ready to babble excuses, but Ira stared at him in surprise.

“Actually, no, I wasn’t looking for you,” she said. Yurka had already put his hands up to stop his jaw from dropping, when Ira yelled.

“Where have you been, by the way?”

“With Volodya.”

“Did you even notice what time it is?! Yura, who are they playing lights out for?! If you’re going to be late, you have to warn me!”

Yurka fell asleep, struggling with mixed feelings full of anxiety. Volodya was constantly surrounded by girls, but it seemed to Yurka that Masha popped up too often. It must be jealousy after all. And to top it all off, he apparently had been infected with Volodya’s paranoia.

Source: Elena Malisova and Katerina Silvanova, A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie (Popcorn Books, 2021), p. 155, as chosen by the True Random Number Generator. Translated by the Russian Reader


In an industrial block in northeastern Moscow on a recent Friday night, organizers of an L.G.B.T.Q.-friendly art festival were assiduously checking IDs. No one under 18 allowed. They were trying to comply with a 2013 Russian law that bans exposing minors to anything that could be considered “gay propaganda.”

The organizers had good reason to be wary: Life has been challenging for gay Russians since the law passed, as the government has treated gay life as a Western import that is harmful to traditional Russian values and society.

Now Russia’s Parliament is set to pass a legislative package that would ban all “gay propaganda,” signaling an even more difficult period ahead for a stigmatized segment of society.

The laws would prohibit representation of L.G.B.T.Q. relationships in any media — streaming services, social platforms, books, music, posters, billboards and films — and, activists fear, in any public space as well. That’s a daunting prospect for queer people searching for community, validation or an audience.

“I’m afraid for my future, because with these kinds of developments, it won’t be as bright as I would like it to be,” said a drag artist who uses the stage name Taylor. Taylor’s performance on Friday before a small but enthusiastic crowd tackled themes of domestic violence, mental health and AIDS.

The proposed laws are part of an intensifying effort by President Vladimir V. Putin to cast Russia as fighting a civilizational struggle against the West, which he accuses of trying to export corrosive values.

The Kremlin is coupling the crackdown on L.G.B.T.Q. expression with its rationale for the war in Ukraine, insisting that Russia is fighting not just Ukraine but all of NATO, a Western alliance that represents a threat to the motherland.

[…]

Source: Valerie Hopkins and Valeriya Safronova, “‘I’m Afraid for My Future’: Proposed Laws Threaten Gay Life in Russia,” New York Times, 4 November 2022

Maxim Drozhzhin: An LGBT Refugee from Russia

Maxim Drozhzhin. Courtesy of RFE/RL

Student expelled from St. Petersburg State University ensemble due to orientation has left Russia 
Sever.Realii (Radio Svoboda)
December 17, 2021

Maxim Drozhzhin, a St. Petersburg State University student who was earlier expelled from the university folklore ensemble due to [his sexual] orientation, has left Russia, he has informed Sever.Realii. According to him, he left Russia because he was “tired of being afraid.”

“It was hard psychologically in Russia. Hurtful. You study for eight years, you try hard, you get an education, but then you can’t get a job anywhere. They check my social networks and it turns out that I don’t suit them because I’m gay. It’s crazy: you’re not even fit for an amateur group. I’ve also been accused of being an LGBT propagandist and a libertine. It all started at St. Petersburg State University: my department didn’t treat me very well. Everyone knew about the conflict with the ensemble,” Drozhzhin said.

The student added that there are “strong negative sentiments” in Russian society towards people or phenomena that are “disliked” by the authorities.

“Yesterday I called my mom for the first time and said that I had left. The first thing she asked me was, ‘I hope not to Ukraine?’ A lot of bad things are said about Ukraine, and people have a negative image [of it]. It’s the same thing with LGBT people. They can easily label me as a propagandist: they would start writing nasty things about me in the pro-government media, and people would treat me differently. Although I’m not even an LGBT activist—I don’t go on pickets, I don’t work in [LGBT] organizations, I just do creative work. I don’t hide my orientation. In Russia today, if you do not hide your orientation, you’re automatically an activist,” Drozhzhin said.

Maxim is currently living in a refugee center in a European country. (He did not specify where exactly.) According to the student, the conditions there are “very good,” even better than in the St. Petersburg State University dormitory where he had lived. He is the only Russian speaker in the center. He communicates with everyone in “broken” English.

“I don’t know how long I’ll be here. Whether I will be given [refugee] status or not is still unclear. They can say no, go back. But I don’t want to go back. It’s very hard for me in Russia,” Drozhzhin explains.

The student said that in Russia he had received threats from Timur Bulatov, the well-known homophobic activist.

“He wrote to me that they would not do anything physical to me, but they would punish me by law. After that, a certain Zhilina immediately filed a complaint against me with four different officials, and a probe into my posts on social networks was launched,” Maxim says.

He does not know the result of the police probe. Due to his departure he had “dropped out of life” and had not communicated with anyone about it.

In November, the police began probing Maxim Drozhzhin’s social media posts for “LGBT propaganda.” Drozhzhin, after consulting with a lawyer, refused to write an explanatory statement at the dormitory and asked the police to send a summons. Consequently, the student was summoned to the police department. There he learned that the complaint against him had been filed by Nadezhda Zhilina, head of the nonprofit We Are for Change. Zhilina explained to Sever.Realii that she had sent identically worded complaints to Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov, Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin, Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev, and St. Petersburg State University Rector Nikolai Kropochev. In the complaint, Zhilina, on behalf of the “parental, patriotic and Orthodox community,” requested a probe into Drozhzhin for “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations, dissemination of personal information, [and] extremist activities directed against the country’s constitutional system.” In addition, she asked officials for information about Drozhzhin’s sources of income and requested that he be declared an individual “foreign agent media outlet.”

Translated by the Russian Reader

Zoom vs. Zoom (Rospotrebnadzor vs. Side by Side)

Peter Gutnitsky
Facebook
November 16, 2020

In a nutshell.

Zoom Cafe has been shut down because the Side by Side LGBT Film Festival announced an online event on Zoom. And it is so easy to confuse us with an online platform.

Fake diners without [anti-covid] masks hired for 500 rubles, a deliberately false statement from the well-known [anti-gay] activist Timur Bulatov, ten police officers blocking the entrance, violations like “Where is the germicidal lamp? Here it is! And where does it say that it is a germicidal lamp?”, a plainclothes officer who refused to introduce himself, a printer that they brought with them to quickly print out the order and seal the front door. That’s all.

We look forward to the court hearing.

Screenshot of Zoom Cafe’s page on restoclub.ru

Rospotrebnadzor Closes Zoom Cafe After Receiving Complaint That Side by Side LGBT Festival Was Taking Place There. But It Was Taking Place on Zoom
Bumaga
November 16, 2020

Rospotrebnadzor has temporarily closed Zoom Cafe on Gorokhovaya Street in Petersburg due to non-compliance with social distance and other violations of the coronavirus regime, as reported by Fontanka.ru, citing the agency’s closure order.

The cafe was inspected by authorities following a complaint by anti-gay activist Timur Bulatov, cafe owner Pavel Shteynlukht told Bumaga. In his complaint, Bulatov wrote that Zoom Cafe was hosting the LGBT film festival, which minors could allegedly attend. (Bumaga has a copy of the complaint.)

Side by Side’s press service told Bumaga that they had discussed an information partnership with Zoom Cafe, but they had not been able to come to an agreement. The cafe was not a venue for the festival, which was moved online after its opening event was disrupted by police officers.

“Unfortunately, Zoom Cafe has suffered simply because the people who make complaints about us cannot tell the difference between discussions on the platform Zoom and the Zoom Cafe,” the festival’s press service said.

Earlier this month, Bumaga spoke with Side by Side founders Manny de Guerre and Gulya Sultanova, who talked about how the LGBT film festival came into being, how the law on so-called gay propaganda has affected it, and why the project had to be closed in Russia’s regions.

Translated by the Russian Reader

 

Before the opening of the 13th Side by Side LGBT Film Festival, Rospotrebnadzor officers accompanied by police came to the building where the event was to be held. They demanded that everyone leave the premises so they could “check for possible violations of the law.” The organizers claim that they had met all the sanitary and epidemiological requirements imposed by the authorities. A few days before the start of the festival, the police had already inspected the venue following a complaint by Russian MP Vitaly Milonov.

Source: Radio Svoboda, 12 November 2020

Popular Gay Blogger Attacked and Beaten in Moscow

gay blogger
Andrei Petrov. Photo courtesy of @andrewpetrov1 and Lenta.ru

Popular Gay Blogger Assaulted in Moscow
Lenta.ru
March 1, 2020

Andrei Petrov, an openly gay popular blogger, has been attacked and beaten in Moscow, according to Telegram channel 112.

At the time of the attack, the blogger was with another influencer, Dmitry Gorodetsky.

According to 112, Petrov has been diagnosed with a head injury. Petrov and Gorodetsky are both currently in hospital, where they are being examined by medics.

In February, a 21-year-old local resident, a stylist who goes by the pseudonym Gliese Nana, was beaten and stabbed three times in the neck in the Moscow suburb of Zheleznodorozhny because of his appearance. The young man wears earrings and has blue and purple hair.

In January, Petrov interviewed blogger Vova Goryainov, also known by the nickname Volodya XXL. Their conversation centered on the fact that, in a recent video, Goryainov had expressed a desire to shoot homosexuals.

Thanks to Misha Tumasov for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Andrei Petrov interviews blogger Volodya XXL on his YouTube program Pushka (Cannon). Posted on January 12, 2020, the program has been viewed over six and a half million times

Blogger Who Wanted to Shoot Gays Visits Gay and Explains What He Meant
Lenta.ru
January 13, 2020

The openly gay blogger Andrei Petrov has interviewed blogger Vova Goryainov aka Volodya XXL. Their conversation centered on a recent video in which Goryainov said he wanted to shoot homosexuals. The interview is available on YouTube.

Goryainov made the remark when asked by a subscriber about his attitude to gays.

“If I had the opportunity […] I would shoot all those stinking people. I don’t understand why they’re alive at all,” he said.

In his interview with Petrov, the blogger said that it was not the first time he had voiced such an opinion to his subscribers.

Volodya XXL explained that his negative attitude to homosexuals was due to his upbringing.

“I’m not a guy from the capital who is taught that gays are good. I’m a regular guy from Kursk,” he said, adding that he was raised by friends and the streets.

He also noted that if Petrov came to Kursk, he would not be able to go outside at all.

Goryainov stressed that he had not called for gays to be shot, but had only voiced his opinion. He admitted that it was unpleasant for him to sit next to Petrov, and expressed regret that Petrov had been born. Goryainov explained that, in his opinion, guys should be masculine.

The blogger linked the campaign of harassment [sic] against him to the desire of other influencers to attract attention.

“I think all of it was planned. They planned to hype themselves at my expense,” he said.

Goryainov has 300,000 subscribers on Instagram and 700,000 subscribers on TikTok. He also releases his own songs.

Translated by the Russian Reader

♦♦♦♦♦

Putin submits plans for constitutional ban on same-sex marriage
Draft amendment submitted among raft of conservative constitutional proposals
Andrew Roth
The Guardian
March 2, 2020

Vladimir Putin has submitted a draft amendment to Russia’s constitution that would enshrine marriage as between a man and a woman in a conservative update to the country’s founding document.

The measure was reportedly part of a 24-page document submitted by the president that would also name Russia as the successor to the Soviet Union; explicitly mention Russians’ “faith in God”; and ensure the “defence of historical truth” regarding the Soviet role in the second world war.

The amendments would also proscribe the cession of Russian territory to foreign powers, deepening the conflict over the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea.

The draft submissions have not yet been made public but were described to journalists in a series of briefings by high-ranking members of the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament.

“For me, the most important proposal would fix the status of marriage as a union between a man and a woman,” Pyotr Tolstoy, a vice-speaker in the Duma, told reporters on Monday in remarks carried by Russian state news agencies. “And I am happy that this amendment has appeared under the signature of the head of state.”

Russia is planning to amend its constitution for the first time since 1993. The move, announced by Putin in January, was initially seen as a way for him to hold on to power after 2024, when as things stand he will no longer be able to serve as president because of term limits. After a parliamentary vote, Russia will hold a nationwide referendum in mid-April, when the conservative amendments may help boost turnout.

Putin’s direct support for the amendments makes it likely they will go through. He has taken an increasingly conservative turn in his fourth term as president, and has enjoyed support from both patriotic groups and the Russian Orthodox church.

But plans for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage have come together quickly, appearing to crystallise during a speech to politicians last month. “As far as ‘Parent No 1’ and ‘Parent No 2’ goes, I’ve already spoken publicly about this and I’ll repeat it again: as long as I’m president this will not happen. There will be Dad and Mum,” Putin said, according to Reuters.

“He Fell on the Knife”: Moscow Jury Acquits Man Who Confessed to Involuntary Manslaughter of Gay

Moscow Jury Acquits Man Who Confessed to Involuntary Manslaughter of Gay Man
Takie Dela
February 7, 2020

A jury at Moscow’s Basmanny District Court acquitted a man accused of murdering homosexual Roman Yedalov, reports the LGBT group Stimul, whose lawyers represented the interests of the victim’s friend and mother in court. The website xgay.ru reports that the assailant’s name is Anton Berezhnoy.

The defendant admitted his guilt in part. He claimed, however, that he had not caused the death deliberately but accidentally: the victim had allegedly “[fallen] on the knife.” On February 6, when asked the question of whether Berezhnoy had caused Yedalov’s death or not, the jury said he had not, thus obviating the following question as to his guilt.

A final verdict will be handed down by the presiding judge in a few days but, according to law, the verdict cannot be a guilty one for the defendant. Stimul’s lawyers have already said they would appeal the court’s decision.

“The evidence and testimony presented in the trial convinced me that the altercation was provoked by the defendant,” said Anton Lapov, a lawyer for the injured party. “I’m convinced that it was this bloody outcome that the defendant envisaged. One person had their life taken, while another person was robbed of their health.”

The murder occurred in the early hours of June 29, 2019, at Kursk Railway Station in Moscow. Berezhnoy assaulted gay couple Roman Yedalov and Yevgeny Yefimov, who were returning to their home in the Moscow Region, and struck them with a knife.

The murder was captured on CCTV. Courtesy of Takie Dela

Yefimov’s wounds were not life-threatening and he survived, but Yedalov died on the spot. According to Yefimov, Berezhnoy shouted insults relating to their sexual orientation during the attack. Yefimov suspects that Berezhnoy followed them from a night club.

The Russian Investigative Committee launched a criminal investigation into the murder. Yefimov and the dead man’s mother were named as the injured party, while Berezhnoy was remanded in custody. During the trial, the prosecutor argued that the available evidence proved the defendant’s guilt. Yedalov’s mother told the court that she was proud of her son for defending his friend by stepping between him and the assailant.

In November 2019, Maxim Pankratov, the star of a video on the YouTube channel Real Talk in which children asked him questions about homosexuality, reported that he had been threatened. People on the street recognized him and shouted “Faggot! Pervert” as he walked past. Another group of strangers attempted to attack him at night, but he managed to escape. Pankratov underscored the fact that he had not talked with the children about sex and had not committed violent acts against them.

After the video starring Pankratov was posted, the Moscow police charged the channel’s creators with “promoting homosexualism [sic] among minors,” while the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case into sexual violence against minors. Investigators claimed that the conversations with children were designed to arouse them sexually and induce them to have sexual relations. The video was deleted after the scandal erupted.

Translated by the Russian Reader

The Injustice Ministry

rainbowWhile rainbows do occasionally appear in the skies above Russia, the Putin regime has pursued a consistent course of official homophobia and avoidance of the country’s out-of-control HIV epidemic. Photo by the Russian Reader

Russian Justice Ministry Proposes Tightening Oversight of Foreign HIV Prevention Programs
Mediazona
September 3, 2018

The Justice Ministry has drafted a law bill that would introduce a new procedure for running foreign programs in Russia for preventing the spread of HIV. The text of the draft law has been published for public discussion.

The ministry proposes introducing a mandatory notification procedure for all noncommercial organizations planning to combat HIV in Russia, but which receive foreign funding, whether from other countries, international organizations, foreign nationals, stateless persons, their representatives, and Russia legal entities and individuals receiving money and other property from these sources.

After receipt of such a notification, the Justice Ministry will have a month to review it. It will then either have to issue permission to operate in Russia or a substantiated rejection. If a noncommercial organization continues to work on preventing HIV after receiving a rejection notice, it will be abolished.

As the BBC has noted, four foundations preventing the spread of HIV in Russia have been registered as “foreign agents” by the Justice Ministry.

Approximately a million Russians are infected with HIV. In July, RBC reported a spike of infections in Moscow. The Russian Health Ministry responded to the report by claiming the situation was stable. It urged journalists to focus only on official statistics.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Fighting the “Faggot Kids” in Russia

LGBT Teens Called “Faggot Kids” at Meeting with Russian Children’s Ombudsman
Ruposters.ru
November 2, 2016

Russian Children’s Rights Ombudsman Anna Kuznetsova

During a meeting in Tula featuring children’s ombudsman Anna Kuznetsova, homosexual teens were called “faggot kids,”  reports Kommersant newspaper

Denis Davydov,  director of the Safe Internet League, made the statement. Speaking at the meeting, he talked about the harassment organized against psychologist Lydia Matveeva. Her expert opinion had contributed to banning the [online] community Deti-404 (Children 404), which had helped gay children.

“Maybe you remember the website where underaged faggot kids held up signs and promoted this lifestyle?” said Davydov.

The remark provoked laughter in the auditorium. Davydov continued his speech, emphasizing that sects, “psychocults,” promotion of dangerous behavior and alternative realities, computer games, and “aggressive information” posed the main risks on the Internet to children.

Kuznetsova suggested tightening Article 110 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (“Incitement to Suicide”) by adding a paragraph to the article that would outlaw “inclining minors to suicide” by virtual means.

In turn, Nikolai Abramov, deputy head of Roskomnadzor‘s Tula office, proposed leaving Russia with three to five access points to the world Internet and filtering all data through these points.

On September 9, President Vladimir Putin dismissed Pavel Astakhov from the post of presidential envoy for children’s rights and named Anna Kuznetsova to the post.

Translated by a Sack of Potatoes. Thanks to Comrade Sergey S.  for the heads-up

Elena Kostyuchenko: Homophobia Is the Cause

"Islamo-, homo-, xenophobia kill. #Orlando." Spontaneous memorial outside the US Consulate in St. Petersburg, June 13, 2016. Photo by Vadim F. Lurie
“Islamo-, homo-, xeno- phobia kill. #Orlando.” Spontaneous memorial to the victims of the Orlando shooting outside the US Consulate in St. Petersburg, Russia, June 13, 2016. Photo by Vadim F. Lurie

Elena Kostyuchenko
Facebook
June 13, 2016

I have received lots of comments assessing my worth as a woman and a daughter, and a lot of the usual fare, such as “I wish you were dead” and “You’re not human beings.” But there is one more thing I would like to discuss.

When you write that “terrorists only need an excuse,” “the sexual orientation of the victims doesn’t matter,” and “I am mourning too, so how am I different from you?” you are closing your eyes to the cause of the murders.

Homophobia is the cause.

I don’t like the word. It is abstract, but it does a fair job of explaining how, in the last two years, nineteen of my acquaintances have been assaulted, two have been raped, and two have been murdered, and how over twenty people I know have been forced to leave the country. These have been people from my circle of friends, which is not so huge. Laws have been passed against us. We are unequal and officially deemed unequal according to Article 6.21 of the Russian Administrative Offenses Code. We do not have the right to marry and have joint custody of children. We do not have the right to visit each other in prison or hospitals. For the past three years, in the Russian hinterlands, there have been neo-Nazi groups operating who prey exclusively on LGBT. Television has vigorously inflamed the atmosphere of hatred and fear. There was a break, which lasted a year, for the Ukrainian war, but now we are the number one public enemies. Just watch the news.

I am glad you can live without noticing this, that it doesn’t concern you. I would also be glad not to know all the particulars, for example, how a bullet from a trauma pistol penetrates the eye, and the sound it makes, or what it is like to file a complaint against a guy your father brought over to “fix” you, or how to dial 911, because someone is trying to open your door, but the cops refuse to show up. And you sit there till morning with a little knife in your hand listening to someone trying to pick your lock. And then, in the morning, when the fuss has died down, you close the door, leave the house, and never go back there again. These are the things people close to me have gone through. Maybe your colleagues and friends have gone through some of these things. I am even certain they have.

I know how long a broken nose takes to heal (I can even compare, because noses get broken often), what it is like to get hit by a stone, a bottle, and a chunk of pavement, what it is like when your girlfriend is found strangled in a car, what it is like when the doctors say you can expect to go deaf, because the auditory nerves die off after a blow to the temple (I can tell you about that in detail: I went through it myself), what it is like when you are doused with urine and videotaped, what it is like when you are called into the director’s office and fired, forced to switch schools, universities, the place you work. I even know what it is like when your classmates rape you behind a garage. I know what it is like when a cop spits in your face while his buddies are suffocating your friend, and you cannot do a thing, because your arms are pinned behind your back, and all this is accompanied by jubilant cries of “faggots!” I know what it is like to dream of buying a plot of land, surrounding it with a fence three meters high, and raising your children in this cage, because it is the only way you can guarantee their safety.

Any conversation on the topic ends with the advice to “not stick your neck out.” When mass murders occur, the same attitude leads to comments that “it doesn’t matter what your orientation is.”

No, you really don’t know how my mom felt when she heard about the shooting at the gay club, or what I feel when I realize I have no way of reassuring her. “Everything will be okay.” Are you kidding?

The orientation of the people who were killed matters.

If it doesn’t matter to you, then you could give a fuck about the cause of the murders and why these murders happen again and again and again.

Elena Kostyuchenko is a journalist with Novaya Gazeta newspaper and a Russian LGBT rights activist. Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade AS for the heads-up

Is There Life on Mars?

OSIRIS_Mars_true_colorOne of the joys of the web is being able to catch glimpses of life on different planets.

Gieselman dumped the girlie name bestowed at birth, asked friends and teachers to use Rocko, the tough-sounding nickname friends had come up with, and told people to use “they” instead of “he” or “she.” “They” has become an increasingly popular substitute for “he” or “she” in the transgender community, and the University of Vermont, a public institution of some 12,700 students, has agreed to use it.

While colleges across the country have been grappling with concerns related to students transitioning from one gender to another, Vermont is at the forefront in recognizing the next step in identity politics: the validation of a third gender.

The university allows students like Gieselman to select their own identity — a new first name, regardless of whether they’ve legally changed it, as well as a chosen pronoun — and records these details in the campuswide information system so that professors have the correct terminology at their fingertips.

—Ulie Scelfo, “University Recognizes a Third Gender: Neutral,” The New York Times, February 3, 2015

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Russia Blacklists LGBT Teen Online Support Group
The Moscow Times
February 2, 2015

A Russian web site that served as a support group for LGBT teenagers has been blacklisted by the authorities and will likely be blocked within the country, news reports said Monday.

The site’s name Deti-404 (Children-404), after the online HTTP error message for “page not found,” may prove portentous if Russia’s Internet watchdog Roskomnadzor considers the site to be in violation of a federal law that regulates online content.

Russian news site Ura.ru reported on Monday, citing Roskomnadzor, that the Deti-404 web site will be blocked because it disseminated information on committing suicide.

Deti-404.com and as its eponymous groups on social networks Facebook and VKontakte were still accessible in Moscow at press time Monday evening.

Ura.ru published a post contained on Deti-404’s Facebook page showing a young woman’s scratched-up arm with the numbers “404” writing in black ink. The caption reads: “I want to die, to disappear, so that I simply never existed.”

Deti-404’s founder, Yelena Klimova, said last week that she was fined 50,000 rubles ($780) for violating Russia’s controversial law against the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors.” The site’s blacklisting may be linked to that case.

Roskomnadzor opened a case against Klimova last November after it claimed to have received some 150 complaints from “citizens and organizations” about Deti-404’s pages on social media networks.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia