Showing posts with label Gay Russian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Russian. Show all posts

October 1, 2015

Gays in Russia are Invisible in the Shadows


When photographer Tatiana Vinogradova set out to document the intolerance toward homosexuality in Russia, her first challenge was finding people willing to be captured on camera.

"Reality has driven the gay community underground," Vinogradova said. "In Russia, only 1% of the gay population dares to live openly. That is why the general mood in my work is dark and melancholic.

"The visual concept mirrors the idea that being gay in Russia is not a rainbow-colored life. In our country, rainbows have some very somber shades."

The numbers present a stark reality. Vinogradova read a 2013 survey by the Levada Center that said 74% of Russians did not think homosexuality should be accepted by society. Additionally, it said 16% of Russians thought gay people should be isolated from society, 22% thought they should be forced to undergo treatment and 5% thought they should be "liquidated."

Unable to stay indifferent about this intolerance, Vinogradova wanted to use her camera as a way to promote human rights and advocate for social change. She reached out to LGBT organizations and social networking sites looking for subjects.

Many of the responses were rejections, claiming that they saw the importance of her project but weren't ready to come out through a photograph.

Not everyone had the same reaction, however, and Vinogradova was able to begin her project. Using natural light, she was able to reflect their inner isolation and loneliness.

Before taking their photographs, Vinogradova would have conversations with her subjects and a personal story emerged for each one: "About rejection by their parents and intolerance from society, about coming out and accepting themselves as gay, about loneliness and fears, about their dreams and love," she said.

The photos in her project, "Melancholy Days," were captured over a two-year span, full of men who were tired of hiding their true selves.

Vinogradova still doesn't understand why they are so ostracized by society. But she does believe that portraits have power.

"I chose to take poetic, intimate portraits depicting an internal beauty of the characters," she said. "And I want people to take just a few minutes to recognize each other's beauty instead of attacking each other for their differences."

Vinogradova started photography three years ago. It gives her creative fulfillment while also immortalizing moments and emotions that she wants to share with others.

Currently, Vinogradova is working on more portrait series.

"For me, portraiture is the hardest and the same time, most mysterious genre," she said. "It invites the viewer to study another person with an immediacy that could never be experienced in real life without embarrassment. Also, it describes how venturous and curious you are. You're face to face with somebody and there is no escaping."

Tatiana Vinogradova is a photographer based in Russia. You can follow her on Facebook.

June 16, 2015

Putin is Surrounded by the GAY


Philipp Kirkorov
 Pop king Philipp Kirkorov at the Elena Souproun fashion in
 Moscow in 2013. Photograph: Pascal Le Segretain

“Moscow is like a small European city in the mid-90s,” says Anton Krasovsky. “Everybody knows everybody. Everybody knows who’s gay, even if nobody’s out.”
Well, not nobody. In 2013, when the Duma was debating a new law outlawing “gay propaganda”, Krasovsky was a beloved Russian TV personality, working for a news channel he’d co-founded called Kontr TV. At the end of a wide-ranging discussion on the proposed legislation, Krasovsky said, on air: “I’m gay. And I’m just as much a human being as President Putin, or Prime Minister Medvedev, or the members of the Duma.” Less than a week later, Krasovsky was no longer working for Kontr TV, the clip was removed from the archives and his face had been scrubbed from the website.
And yet ask him and his friends what it’s like to be gay in Moscow and they shrug. “Moscow attracts gay men from all the villages, so there are more gay people in Moscow than anywhere else in Russia. And they all just want what everyone else wants: somebody to love.”

Journalists Anton Krasovsky and Tatyana Felgengauer at the Edward Snowden Internet Media Awards in 2014 in Moscow.

 Journalists Anton Krasovsky and Tatyana Felgengauer at the Edward Snowden Internet Media Awards in 2014 in Moscow. Photograph: TASS/Barcroft Media

Moscow is, indeed, gayer than you might think. There might not be many dedicated gay clubs – the five-floor behemoth of Central Station being a notable exception – but many bars and restaurants have gay nights, from Cafe Mart to Mono to the famous Sunday discos at Propaganda. When it comes to clubbing, at least, the biggest concern for gay men in Moscow isn’t prejudice but what Russians call “face control”, which the Daily Beast describes as “knowing the right people – or having the right look”. There’s a gay magazine, Kvir (say it out loud) with listings and frothy lifestyle features: more Out than Advocate. With all the media furore over rising anti-LGBT activity in Russia in recent years, it can be a surprise to see how pink the capital feels in some places. 
“As if I’m so old to know about that!” bristles Tim, 22, a model agent having a drink at Sanctions Bar, when asked if gay life has got harder in Moscow over the last five years. “But no, it is getting better here. Of course I am out because I work in fashion – most people in my office are gay – but I have to hide it from other people. But there are more gay nights and I think things are improving.” 
Sanctions Bar itself – a semi-ironic anti-western theme bar decorated with oil drums, dollar bill toilet paper and a menu featuring Barack Obama’s face crossed out – has just recently started dabbling in attracting a gay clientele. Tim is wearing a blue ribbon on his wrist. “A white ribbon means single, red means in a relationship and blue means flirting. They made us choose one. I didn’t really want to.”
There might not be much in the way of Russian public media celebrating gay life, but Tim watches the E network and the Kardashians and considers New York his spiritual home. “Still, my dream is to be able to walk down the street holding my partner’s hand. I don’t think that will ever happen in Moscow.”
Andrey, 27, an engineer, is one of those “gay men from the villages”. Born in Grozny and raised in a village near Moscow, he moved to the capital at 21, drawn by the Eurovision song contest that Russia hosted in 2009. “Of course I was immediately very excited in Moscow,” he said over a coffee on a sunny June afternoon in the rear courtyard of Cafe Mart, next to Moscow’s Museum of Modern Art. “In Grozny I had to keep it a secret from my parents and my friends. But of course I needed to meet men, to have boyfriends and to have sex.” Andrey used apps, but on moving to Moscow found he didn’t need to be quite so discreet any more – although he’s still in the closet at work. “It makes me uncomfortable when men talk about women. A colleague asked me which of the girls at the office I’d like to hook up with. I said I don’t date in the workplace.” 
Apps have made being gay in Moscow a lot easier. Grindr is ever popular – a hacked location file revealed several users within the walls of the Kremlin itself – but Hornet is increasingly used because of the fact you can have public images as well as private ones, revealed only on request. Reports of anti-LGBT activists setting up fake accounts to lure and then abuse gay men (sometimes recording it on video) have made Andrey and his friends more cautious. “I don’t invite men on apps to my house. We meet up, have a conversation, go for a walk.” He doesn’t reveal his sexuality in public. “With apps, you often find friends on there who you didn’t know were gay. Then you can reveal yourself to them. In public, it’s dangerous if you’re not sure. Some men are gay but deny it.” He starts listing some famous public figures. 

There are fewer events catering for lesbians in Moscow, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Among the most popular are women-only parties named after the US television series The L Word, run by 29-year-old Karina Krasavina.
The  L Word takes place every two weeks at a club in the city centre, and will be celebrating its sixth birthday this weekend. Krasavina said she has never had any trouble from the authorities. Her business partner, 24-year-old Nastya Laut, laughed off any safety concerns.
“There are so many gay women in Moscow – we’re everywhere these days,” she said. “It’s become normal. Sure, there are people who don’t understand or who are negative, but most are fine with it. My family are fine with it and my friends are fine with it and I never feel that I’m in danger. We just have a good time.”
But LGBT activist and journalist Elena Kostyuchenko said not all homosexual women are able to be so open. She said that even the venues catering for gay women often choose not to advertise their orientation. 
“Many of the LGBT clubs look like a normal restaurants during they day - people come to have business lunches or whatever. Then only at night do they become an LGBT club. So even the venues have a double life,” she said.  
Indeed, Moscow’s gay people seem more stoic than angry. They’ve even appropriated their own abuse: if something silly or stupid or weird happens in Europe, it’s derided as “Gayropa”. What concerns many homosexual Muscovites most, it seems, is less fear for their safety or inability to meet other gay men and women, than legal legitimacy – the ability to share property with a partner, or pass on inheritances without interference from grasping relatives, or raise kids.
Krasovsky wants kids; his partner, who is younger, does not. Does he worry that Muscovites wouldn’t be supportive if they say two men raising a child? 
“Yes, of course. But there are ways. It can be done. It’s just dangerous.”

He understands why more men aren’t out in Moscow, and while he hopes other public figures will join him, he understands the reasons they don’t. “It immediately puts you at the bottom of the food chain. You become like a migrant worker in your own country.” In general, Krasovsky wears his gay activism uncomfortably. “It’s not like in America: rah-rah, I’m so proud. In Moscow, we are more just trying to live our lives.” He self-mockingly shows me his Grindr profile: a string of messages from men, most asking: “Are you really Anton Krasovsky?”, but the occasional one saying: “It’s great to see you here.” 
He might be Moscow’s highest-profile openly gay man, but seems embarrassed about his decision to come out on air, and keeps deflecting my questions to his friends. Eventually, however, he almost shyly admits that he knows exactly why he did it. “It’s scary [to come out]. Even in England, sometimes it scary to do. But it is better to be afraid to die in a battle, but go into this fight [anyway], than all your life be stupidly afraid and sit in a bomb shelter.
“It’s like Pink Floyd’s The Wall … ‘new car, caviar.’ You might have that, but you still have to remember the truth. It’s pathetic, but the truth is still important.”
This story originally posted at The Guardian. The story written by  and in Moscow

May 26, 2015

Gays in Russia:> Victimization,Repression and with a Version of Pflag: Hope

LGBT in Russia
 The Vykhod activist group’s offices in St Petersburg, where parents’ club meets each month. Photograph: Aleksei Tikhonov/Meduza
The parents’ club has a few rules: you can only speak if you’re holding the navy dragon, a soft toy that has grown shabby in the club’s four-year existence; no interrupting is allowed; and phones must be switched off.
In an unassuming building in the centre of St Petersburg, families of Russian gay men and women gather each month, hoping for understanding and reconciliation. 
Although the group is ostensibly for parents, they are far outnumbered by sons and daughters who have faced the difficulties of coming out in a homophobic country. Not one father is present.
“Mum fell seriously ill recently and she allowed me to care for her,” says Sergei. “At least she didn’t yell at me, like before: ‘Stop that, [you] gay, get away from me, don’t touch my things!’”
Seventeen people sit in the circle listening to him, wearing badges with handwritten names. “Now that mum is no longer rejecting me, it means that she [has started to] care again,” Sergei continues. For now though, he doesn’t speak to his mother often. 
Nina, a club veteran, asks for the dragon. She believes that, whatever the circumstances, talking helps: “You have to explain to [your parents] that homosexuals are not the people they [are made out to be] on television. It will take them a long time to grasp what is going on. Everyone loves their kids, they will all understand.”
Others immediately pipe up, recounting stories of parents who drove their children out of the house and sent them to be “cured” of their sexuality. “Ok, not all, most,” Nina corrects herself. 
At these meetings, parents are encouraged to ask questions. A few people recommend films on LGBT themes, others yet to come out to their families ask the mothers in the group how best to go about it, and whether, in fact, it is worth it. 
Only towards the end of the meeting does the toy dragon arrive in the hands of Sasha, a new arrival in St Petersburg. 
“I lived for a long time in a small village. There, the word ‘gay’ is horrific, you can be grabbed on the street and killed for it,” he said. “All my relatives are old-fashioned types. I fear that if I tell my mum, she will blame herself. Did you go through this?”The group tells him that coming out in a small town is often more difficult.Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1993 after the fall of the Soviet Union, but rights groups say the situation for Russia’s gay population has become more dangerous. In 2014 Human Rights Watch released a report documenting a rise in homophobic rhetoric and violence in Russia. It blamed a law passed in 2013 banning the promotion of “non-traditional lifestyles” among minors.
It’s in this climate of fear that the mothers and their children meet. After two-and-a-half hours, they wrap up. One woman looks out of the window onto the street and says quietly: “I don’t want to go back out there.”

Elena: ‘It’s not a death sentence’

Elena became an activist out of the belief that the parents of LGBT children can find it helpful to talk to people who have been in the same boat. 
Five years ago her son Dmitry came back from Japan, where he had been living for the past decade. She sensed instantly that he was troubled, but put it down to the difficulties of adapting to life back in Russia.
When Dmitry began his coming out talk with the words “I want you to listen to me but this might frighten you”, she says the possibility that her son might be gay had never occurred to her.
“After our conversation, it was horrible,” recalls Elena. “It seemed that I was the only mother this had happened to. I tried not to show him how upset I was.”
“But I was brought to my senses and comforted by something Dmitry said: ‘Now I feel much happier than when I was pretending’.”
Dmitry took her to a meeting of the parents’ club a year after coming out. She expected her son to lead her into a basement where “gays live”, she says, and “when I saw that no one was dancing in tights, just decent people sitting around, I was quite surprised,” she adds. Elena quickly became a club activist and she now helps other parents to accept their LGBT children.
“They usually come to us with horror in their eyes. They look as if a tragedy has befallen their family. We ask them to relax and take a look at us: do we look downtrodden? Being a parent of an LGBT child – it’s not a death sentence, you can live with it quite happily.”
Acceptance can take months, if not years, she says. But if parents keep coming to the club, they always make progress. “You see mothers picking themselves up, smiling, being prepared to discuss the situation – that is already a good sign.” 
The mothers from the club believe that the problems with acceptance lie not with them, but with Russian society as a whole: if gay people are constantly being abused on television, why should someone suddenly believe a handful of people who take a different view?

Marina: ‘The shock lasted 10 days’

“After the coming out blows your mind, the world as it was crumbles away, together with your plans for your child’s future,” says Marina Melnik, the founder of parents’ club: her son Roman told her he was gay six years ago. Every parent in that position goes through five stages of acceptance, she explains. In her case “the shock lasted 10 days. Then came denial. That’s when you try to change their mind and prove that it’s all in their head.”
She says it was painful process: “I blamed myself for a long time. Did I not love him enough or did I love him too much? When he was a kid, maybe I bought him the wrong toy, an animal, not a car.”
Six months after her son’s admission, Marina became an activist. She founded the club with other mothers she met at an LGBT film festival, Side by Side. Four people came to the first meeting, she remembers, and none of them knew how to deal with their feelings of guilt.
“After talking to other mothers, it finally came to me,” Marina says. That’s when she went through the last stage, acceptance, followed by her own coming out of sorts: “I was scared to tell the people around me [that my son was gay],” she remembers. “It was like that for almost a year.”
LGBT in Russia
 Parents’ club activists Elena Musolina and Marina Melnik hold a sign reading: “Parental love does not depend on a child’s orientation!!!” Photograph: Sergei Chernov/Meduza

Igor: ‘No one talked about gay people’

Igor finally managed to bring his mother to the club two years after coming out. Until then, talking to her about anything LGBT-related was difficult, he says.
“No one talked about ‘gay people’ in our family. Mum used the word ‘blues’ (Russian slang for homosexual) and dad, ‘fags’,” Igor recalls. He describes his parents as people with differing views: his dad is an orthodox patriot whose favourite political writer is Gregory Klimov, author of the aphorism: “If all is not right between the legs, all is not right between the ears.” His mother, on the other hand, isuninterested in politics and “more liberal, in a cultural sense”, he says. 
“When I was little, I asked my mum what sexual orientation was. ‘Who’s blue and who’s not’, she replied.” At 11, he picked up from family conversations that “gays were perverts who practise anal sex.”
In September 2007, Igor left his native village in the Pskov region to go and study in St Petersburg and in October, he returned to visit his parents. “You’re nervous about something, have you fallen in love?” his mother asked him. “Yes” Igor answered, truthfully. “With a man or a woman?” she probed. With a man, as it turned out. Both of them cried but they soon calmed down and a week later, Igor went back to St Petersburg. It was not long before his father heard the news.
“Dad was breaking dishes, slamming doors,” Igor says. 
Igor told a priest in confession that he was in love with a young man and was advised to “cure the sickness in his soul” and repent: but Igor argued back. “Officially, he absolved me of my sins but we were both clearly dissatisfied with the outcome. It was after this I lost faith in the church. That was my last communion and confession and I am feeling all right,” he laughs.
Igor is convinced that if his mother watched less television, lived with him in St Petersburg and talked to other parents from the club, she would soon accept him fully. No precise statistics exist, but the club’s activists believe that for every LGBT person accepted by their family, another five are rejected.

Dmitry: ‘Sorry mum, but I’m still gay’ 

Dmitry is one of these five. He first came out when he was 18. Assuming that everything would go smoothly, he didn’t prepare for the conversation. At first, his mother reacted calmly but a few hours later, she started to cry. 
“She shouted about HIV and how I would never have children,” he remembers. From then on, Dmitry decided not to talk to his mother about his personal life. Gradually, she seemed to forget about her son’s sexuality and their relationship improved.
But Dmitry couldn’t rid himself of the feeling that his mother didn’t understand him. So three years later, he decided to try again. He prepared better this time, taking brochures from the LGBT group. But his opening gambit – “Sorry mum, but I’m still gay” – set off another argument.
Unsure of what to do next, he went to the parents’ club, where he was advised to show his mother the film Prayers for Bobby, about a gay man who kills himself because his religious parents refused to accept him. 
“I watched it myself first and cried, it was so painful,” Dmitry says. “Then I watched it with mum but I didn’t understand her reaction. The parents lost their son, she said, because they didn’t believe in God or pray enough.”
LGBT in Russia
 Opponents of gay rights protest on the Field of Mars in St Petersburg in 2013.
Photograph: Artem Sokolov/Trend/TASS
Religious icons soon started appearing in their flat, together with images of the Virgin Mary, Orthodox magazines and brochures about monasteries. They hadn’t spoken to each other for a long time, Dmitry says, and it was clear his mother had decided the Church was the only way to save him. 
“I arrived home one day and could already smell burning incense from the hallway,” he says. “What was the point, I asked her. In reply, she talked of evil influences, clouding of souls and false paths. Our flat started to resemble a church gift shop.” The arguments grew more frequent and after one such bust-up, his mother decided to move to a friend’s. 

 Dmitry will not try his luck a third time. He tells his mother that he has a girlfriend, despite seeing his partner Grigory for over two years now. 
It takes a lot of energy to live a double life: when Dmitry’s mother calls him and asks him about his personal life, he answers truthfully – but substitutes the name Grigory with Irina. 
“Parents’ club don’t approve of stories like mine. They suggested I bring my mother along but I’m scared of what her reaction would be,” says Dmitry. “If she believes that religion helped me, so be it. The main thing is that mum is happy.”
A version of this article first appeared on Meduza. Translation by Cameron Johnston

May 13, 2015

Swedes to Russian Subs: This Way if You R Gay

Svenska Freds / YouTube
A Swedish peace group has devised a unique way of fending off unwanted naval intrusions after reports of Russian submarines entering the country's territorial waters last year — erecting a device that taps out in Morse code: “This way if you are gay.”
The broadcasting device, which has been lowered into the sea near Stockholm, is also covered by a flashing neon sign that shows a sailor gyrating back and forth in nothing but skimpy pants, according to a video published last week by The Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, the group behind the move .
“Welcome to Sweden, gay since 1944” reads the neon sign in English. Sweden decriminalized homosexuality 71 years ago, while Russia recently banned the promotion of “gay propaganda” to minors in what critics say represents a crackdown on LGBT rights.
The Swedish military was put on high alert last fall after reports of submarine sightings in its territorial waters amid rising tensions between Russia and the West over the crisis in Ukraine. Moscow has denied that the alleged vessels belonged to its navy.
Since then there have been calls to raise defense spending in Sweden, although the peace group in a video suggests that its “Singing Sailor” is a much more cost-effective way to fend off unwanted intrusions.
“Instead of angry threats, any visitors will now receive a warm welcome” to Sweden, the peace group said.
The project comes after neighboring Finland last month fired a depth charge in a warning to a suspected submarine in its waters near Helsinki.

Watch the video here:

April 7, 2015

Gay Russians are in London Learning Trenches Civil Rights Warfare

London stretches out below the window of the Stonewall meeting room on the 13th floor of a Waterloo tower block, and a group of 10 Russian human rights defenders admire the view. “London is the capital of Great Britain,” says Sergei Alekseenko, the director of the Maximum LGBT organisation, dusting off his high school English with a smile. He adds, in Russian: “It’s good to be here.”
The 10 activists are here to mine the experience of the UK’s largest LGBT rightsorganisation, which since it was founded in 1989 has seen the introduction of legislation allowing gay couples to adopt and the introduction of gay marriage, and to see if lessons learned in Britain can help combat an ever more repressive situation in their home country.

Russian activists take part in a workshop at Stonewall’s London offices

 Russian activists take part in a workshop at Stonewall’s London offices. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

The previous day was spent learning about media strategies, and being given tips by a former ITN news journalist on how to look, stand and sound when giving interviews to camera. By the end of the week, Stonewall’s Russian guests were learning what makes a good campaign ; the importance of using evidence, targets and goals; and ways of winning powerful allies. “It’s really a big opportunity for us to get knowledge that is difficult to get in Russia,” said Olesya Yakovenko of the Russian LGBT Network.
“It’s about giving them skills and confidence, something concrete. It’s about them hearing our experiences, including those things we got wrong,” says Caroline Ellis, a senior director at Stonewall. “We know that not everything will necessarily translate, so we’re here to learn too.”

By being in London, and agreeing to speak to the Guardian, the Russian activists know they are taking a significant risk, but they want their voices to be heard.
Having any kind of a voice is increasingly difficult, says Tatiana Vinnichenko, the chair of the Russian LGBT Network and director of the Arkhangelsk-based organisation Rakurs, which has been forced to register under Russia’s “foreign agents” law. 
“It used to be much easier,” she says, proudly wearing a new T-shirt with the slogan “Some girls marry girls. Get over it”. “In the past, people thought they could make things better, things could improve. Now people are tired of fighting and getting nowhere.”
The activists tell stories of their organisations being investigated, of constantly moving goalposts, of being watched. One organisation was deemed to be engaging in political activity for having LGBT books, and an activist who is also a teacher, is in under investigation to ensure she is not promoting homosexuality.

Protesters take part in a London rally against Russia's gay 'propaganda' law in 2103
 Protesters take part in a London rally against Russia’s gay ‘propaganda’ law in 2103. Photograph: Rex Features

Dissent has also become an expensive business, says Anna Annenkova, from the Side by Side international film festival, which was fined 400,000 roubles (£4,700) in June 2014 after being named as a “foreign agent”.
“The first impact is of course financial, it is a huge effort to pay these fines, but the second is cultural,” Annenkova says. “To people in Russia ‘foreign agent’ means a spy, someone who wants to destroy the country. It’s really negative publicity.”
The ability to demonstrate has also been heavily curtailed, she adds. In the past protesting could carry a 500 rouble fine, now anyone holding a placard can face a penalty of 30,000 roubles, a good month’s salary. 
The activists all fear the growing intolerance in Russian society, citing the case of Vladislav Tornovoi, a young gay man killed in a homophobic hate crime in Volgograd in May 2013. According to the investigation, he was raped with beer bottles and set on fire; a rock was brought down repeatedly on his head until he was dead.
Three men were later quietly tried and convicted with long jail sentences, but reaction to the murder from some was congratulatory.

From left to right, Anna Annenkova, Olesya Yakovenko, Tatiana Vinnichenko, Nika Yuryeva and Sergei Alekseenko.
 From left to right, Anna Annenkova, Olesya Yakovenko, Tatiana Vinnichenko, Nika Yuryeva and Sergei Alekseenko. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

Anton Krasovsky, the former editor-in-chief of pro-Kremlin cable channel Kontr TV until he came out as gay on air, after which he was fired and the channel closed, wrote in the Guardian that news reports of the murder were followed with comments such as: “Putin did warn us that if the homos raise their heads, the Russian people will take up arms. One head has rolled.”” He added: “How did it come about that today in Russia a good gay person is a dead gay person?” 
Homosexuality is not illegal in Russia. It was decriminalised in 1993 and removed from the list of mental illnesses in 1999. Since the passing of the homosexual “propaganda” law, however, there has been a hardening of public opinion. Polls suggest 68% of the public support the legislation.
A 2013 survey by the Pew Research Centre revealed that 74% of Russians believed homosexually should not be accepted, compared with 60% in 2002.

“Young people are the worst affected,” says Nika Yuryeva, of Coming Out LGBT group, which has been fighting attempts to classify it as a “foreign agent” since March 2013. “There is much more aggression among young people, much more hate crime. It’s noticeable to everyone that the last 18 months have got much worse.”
Activists fear further crackdowns may be in the pipeline. A draft law banning “undesirable foreign organisations”, which the Duma passed after a first reading in January, could ban any international organisation that “poses a threat to the defence capacity and security of the state or to public order, or to public health”. 
The human rights activists holed up at Stonewall fear the laws that legalised homosexuality in the 1990s could be under threat. The Kremlin increasingly portrays human rights as a western imposition, arguing that homophobic laws are a defence of local culture and values against western imperialism. “Propaganda works,” says Vinnichenko. “They only have to put out homophobic material and people themselves will beg Putin to change the law.”
Is there anything to be hopeful about? At the very least, a backs-to-the-wall mentality has brought activists together, says Vinnichenko. “Other NGOs have taken the LGBT movement onboard,” she says. “And if LGBT leaders in the past were in competition they now feel a certain responsibility, they know they have to work together.” 
Some people have left the movement, but new volunteers are highly motivated. Olesya Yakovenko, who joined the Russian LGBT Network after the new laws were passed, says: “Until then we read poems, it was very gentle, but as soon as the laws came into power, we had to rethink our strategy.”
After sharing stories of victimisation, fear and repression, the activists give a perhaps surprising response when asked about the future. Asked to raise their hands if they think things will get better for LGBT people in Russia in the next five years, three of them raise an arm. Among them is Sergei Alekseenko. “We have to have hope,” he says. “Otherwise how can you be an activist, if you have no optimism that things will get better?”

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