Being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) is becoming more and more difficult in Russia, where sexual minorities are facing legal and social discrimination, harassment, and even violent hate crime attacks from religious and neo-nazi groups. In June 2013, Russia’s homophobia moved from the streets into the country’s legislation as the State Duma unanimously adopted an anti-gay law banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations”.
Because of this severe stigma, and continuing violent assaults on individuals and organizations, the LGBT community in Russia is often very suspicious and cautious about letting strangers in. Because of this, my collaboration with the leading LGBT NGO, Coming Out, has been essential. Not only did they help me to understand the many aspects of Russian homophobia, but every time something new happened they would let me know, and I could easily fly to Saint Petersburg and photograph the latest development—like the portrait of Dmitry Chizhevskiy, who’s left eye was destroyed after he was the victim of a hate-crime.
Kirill Fedorov, 21, is bleeding from his face after national-conservative extremists surrounded, beat and kicked him and his friends while they were attending a Gay Pride rally in St. Petersburg. The group of friends try to stick together and seek cover behind the police as stones and eggs are thrown at them. The rally was declared illegal under the law banning “gay propaganda” and Kirill Fedorov and the other LGBT-activists were arrested and later taken to court.
Yaroslav Yevtushenko (left) embraces his boyfriend Dmitry Chunosov at St. Petersburg’s registry office where the couple attempts to officially register their marriage as an act of protest. Since same sex marriages are not recognised in Russia their submission was promptly rejected by the authorities.
If not arrested by the police, LGBT-activists usually leave rallies together in busses to avoid being followed and attacked. As the bus waits in traffic, national-conservative extremists surround and attack the bus and try to smash the windows with rocks.
Dmitry Chizhevskiy, 27, had his left eye permanently destroyed by homophobes on 3 November 2013 when three armed men entered into a private meeting of homosexuals in St. Petersburg. They beat people with baseball bats and Dmitry Chizhevskiy was shot at point-blank range in his left eye with an air gun. The perpetrators have still not been found.
Ekaterina Alekseeva, 21, appears in court after being arrested at a Gay Pride Rally on 29 June 2013. The rally was declared illegal under the law banning “propaganda for non-traditional sexual relations” and Ekaterina Alekseeva is now facing the consequences. The so-called “gay-propaganda” law was introduced locally in St. Petersburg in 2012. The day before this picture was taken, President Putin signed it into law nationwide.
Jonathan Jacques Louis, 21, and Alexander Semyonov, 25.
Maxim Martsinkevich (wearing a black T-shirt) is a self-declared militant homophobe and the host of a popular online video-show where gays are tricked into fake dates but instead of a romantic encounter, a band of armed national-conservative extremists are waiting to take them away. The victims are sexually humiliated and tortured, while everything is filmed and posted online. A defining part of each video is when the victims’ heads are partially shaved and the international LGBT-symbol – the rainbow colours – is painted on their heads. According to the group who made the video, more than 70 have been made so far – with more to come. The logo in the corner bears the title “NETTING THE FAGGOTS!”
Activists gather to remember those who have died of HIV/ AIDS on International HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, 18 May 2014.
From a safe distance, three members of the special OMOH (pronounced OMON) police force watch an LGBT-rally in St. Petersburg. Despite the law banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships”, popularly known as the law against “homosexual propaganda”, this rally was allowed to go ahead. Unlike at similar events, only few homophobes showed up to protest against the rally. The organisers of the rally had allegedly agreed with the police in advance that they would avoid certain signs and slogans.
The intimate night club Central Station is one of the few havens for LGBT-people in St. Petersburg. 27-year-old Ruslan, a ballet dancer at The Academy of Russian Ballet, was married to a woman for five years but came out after they divorced. Comments