Russian Anti-Gay Law Forces Teens To Communicate "In Secret"
To a vast majority of Russians, "Deti-404" is an error message displayed on their computer screens when they attempt to navigate to a web page that doesn't exist. To LGBT activist Lena Klimova, however, and to the very small group of teens that she works to help, the name represents an incognito, underground group designed to help them navigate the difficulties of growing up gay in such a fiercely anti-gay climate.
Virtually anyone who has taken a glance at news headlines recently is at least somewhat familiar with the current human rights atrocities being committed by the Russian government and by Russian citizens. It should come as no surprise, then, that after Klimova wrote an article advocating on behalf of LGBT teens in Russia, she received a letter from a 15 year old in desperate need. The teen, identified as "Nadya" by the UK's The Guardian, was on the verge of suicide when she read Klimova's article. Luckily, that article provided Nadya with the courage she needed to keep on living. It didn't take long for Klimova to realize that there were likely many more out there just like Nadya who needed her help. Deti-404 followed shortly therafter...
"When she set up the group, Klimova surveyed 115 LGBT teenagers all over Russia, creating a closed forum for the teens to interact. Her survey showed that a number had thought of suicide. Fewer than half had come out to their parents. 'It is only on the internet that they can find somebody to speak to,' she said. 'The feeling that most of these children feel is constant fear'...When a teenager gets in touch, if necessary Klimova helps them speak to a sensitive psychologist. 'I tell practically all of them that they are needed, unique and invaluable. I am not pretending. It is true,' she said."
According to The Guardian, most of the teens who utilize "Deti-404" are from small towns, and come from families that frequently express vitriolic and violent hatred towards LGBT people. One group member, "Svetlana", describes, on the site, that her mother "calls homosexuals – and that means me too – mutants," and that her father has repeatedly expressed the desire to hunt gay people down with his gun.
While Russia's newly-adopted, anti-gay laws have sparked heated controversy across the world, situations don't at all seem to be improving for LGBT people living within Russia's borders. Just this weekend, one popular Russian TV official expressed his desire to burn and bury the hearts of gay people on national television. Klimova is not particularly convinced that a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi will prove effective at addressing these sorts of atrocities. Rather, she asks that "sportsmen...go to the opening ceremony with a rainbow flag in support of Russian LGBT. It would be very valuable."