The Russian takeover of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, has created a threat to Ukraine’s LGBTQ+ movement. For example, a pro-Russian puppet government would likely be less supportive of any LGBTQ+ agenda. In addition, gay marriage would also probably not be acknowledged. Also, in Russian-backed separatist areas, discrimination and hate crime incidents would increase, as they have before.
Gay rights activists who have worked tirelessly for years to gain equality have thus far responded to the invasion with an even fiercer commitment to their cause. In addition, they have been mobilizing their networks to give support.
The Russian and Ukraine conflict has forced LGBTQ+ people to make the same choices as the rest of their nation. For example, some people have fled the country as refugees or have gone to the West of Ukraine to find safety. Other people have stayed in the country to assist relatives or because they can’t escape from besieged towns or cities. In addition, different people have Ukraine’s defense forces.
What Kinds of Unique Problems Have LGBTQ+ People Encountered Since the Russian Takeover?
People who are LGBTQ+ in Ukraine have faced issues regarding their sexual orientation or gender identity. Since the invasion, Ukraine has banned men between 18 and 60 from leaving the country. That way, they can be conscripted for military service.
Those who are HIV-positive in Ukraine no longer have access to their medications. The same goes for people who are undergoing gender transition.
What Are Russian Views Regarding the LGBTQ+ Community?
Russian President Vladimir Putin has encouraged what he refers to as “traditional values.” In other words, he has denounced what he says is the West’s cultural decadence, aka, the legal rights and cultural acceptance of LGBTQ+ folks.
One way that Putin’s ideas could potentially impact Ukraine comes from Crimea. In 2014, this region was seized by Russia from Ukraine with portions of the eastern Donbas region. Since then, human rights groups have noted that both areas have seen increased attacks against LGBTQ+ people.
What Can the Public Do About This?
Some activists have noted that if there is a national attempt to resist the invasion, this could help support people who identify as LGBTQ+. In other words, since the entire Ukrainian population is susceptible to attacks from Russia, then straight Ukrainians will be able to see that gay people also have the same struggles, which can create a sense of unification.
So, What Would a Russian Takeover Mean?
There are tens of thousands of Russian troops in various Ukrainian cities. As a result, many LGBTQ+ people have concerns about what this will mean for them. According to the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, “LGBTQI+ persons” are on lists by Russian forces “to be killed or sent to camps following a military occupation.”
Essentially, LGBTQ+ lives are in great danger due to the Russian occupation. Putin uses LGBTQ+ rights as a “political wedge issue” to appease conservatives. Putin has demonized gay people for any of Russia’s issues, which has created more discrimination and violence.
Since the stakes of the war are at an ultimate high, many LGBTQ+ Ukrainians have been attempting to flee, while many have also stayed to fight.
All in all, life under Russian rule would have horrific consequences for LGBTQ+ folks. If Russia succeeds in conquering Ukraine, it will impact human rights overall. For instance, human rights will be less of a concern when neighborhoods are being bombed, people will not be able to buy food, or a disabled person won’t be able to get down from their top-floor apartment to get away from all the fighting.
Other Concerns for LGBTQ+ Folks in Ukraine
During this invasion, many queer Ukrainians are serving in the military. However, Ukrainian officials currently blocked many transgender people who were otherwise able to get a medical exemption from the order that statesmen 18-60 must stay in the country. This is occurring because the officials will see an “M” on their official documents, as reported by N.G.O.s assisting these individuals.
In addition, queer communities in nearby countries have come together to help Ukrainians attempting to flee the conflict. They have done so by raising money, setting up places to live, and trying to create solutions for people at the border. However, LGBTQ+ people’s rights continue to be at risk and could worsen if Russia expands its plans.
Lastly, LGBTQ+ activists are concerned not only for Ukrainian LGBTQ+ people but for queer folks living in Russia. In this situation, there is the expectation that Putin will initiate some martial law and that LGBTQ+ people will be hunted down along with other opponents of his regime.
As the Russian takeover forces continue to invade Ukraine, people within the LGBTQ+ community are sleeping in safe houses until they can escape their homeland.
Kyiv Pride and Gay Alliance Ukraine are working together to provide shelter for members of the LGBTQ+ community to have shelter and food.
To best support the queer community in Ukraine, we must continue to stand up against these injustices. It’s essential to keep going to rallies, speak out against the invasion, and donate money to causes helping out queer people in Ukraine.