Russian Teen Fights Homophobia on Twitter

SOS Profile PicWith the Russian government passing its new laws on gay "propaganda", it has effectively created one of the most hostile climates on the planet for its LGBT citizens. LGBT Russians face discrimination, entrapment, and violence, and are unable to go to the authorities should they become the victim of a crime. This has caused many gay Russians and LGBT advocacy groups to go underground, often relying on the anonymity of the web to stay safe. One activist is choosing not to remain anonymous, though, and has taken to Twitter to advocate for his fellow LGBT Russians both nationally and globally. The account is @ru_lgbt_teen, and currently boasts almost 700 followers. The account's administrator recently say down for an interview with Vice Magazine.

"Generally speaking, you have a gay teen being seen as a 'disenfranchised deviant' in the eyes of society and the state. People are different, but the male members of society are trying to avoid having anything to do with gays, [because they don’t want anybody] to think that they are gay. In Russia, gays are not people."

Tweet photoIn terms of the actual content of the account, much of it is standard fare for any teenager on social media: personal life updates, snapshots of his daily activities, his periodic struggles with depression. His current home, however, as well as his willingness to display his homosexuality, makes it much more revolutionary. He also tweets updates on Russian news, as well as homoerotic historical depictions of men from Russia's artistic past. Thanks to the release of the Vice interview, many have also reached out and expressed their support for the Twitter account, which he occasionally retweets. 

Be ProudHe also told Vice how, while no one has felt safe approaching him in person, many gay Russians have reached out to him via social media:

"In real life, I do not know of any other LGBT teens. But on social networking sites, I talk with several kids from other cities. I would not say that their problems are drastically different from my problems. Not all of them know what it means to be an outcast at school, but they know firsthand what it means to be an outcast in society as a whole."

He also occasionally tweets the desire to leave Russia and seek asylum abroad:

"I would very much like to leave Russia. I would say that for me, it is a kind of an obsession at the moment. I can't be granted asylum, because I cannot prove school bullying, and I do not have the mental health or the mental capacity to protest to help the gays. But that does not mean that I am not doing anything to leave Russia. In the fall I will start learning German, and I plan to study for a few years in Germany. For me, this is one of the most accessible options in terms of my financial situation."

You can read the full interview HERE, and follow the Twitter account HERE


  1. Gregory In Seattle says

    “… one of the most hostile climates on the planet for its LGBT citizens.”

    Umm…. Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen all have the death penalty for the “crime” of being gay. Some regions of Gambia, Nigeria and Somalia, too. The criminal penalties in Russia are quite small compared to countries such as Algeria, Botswana, Afghanistan, Singapore, the Gaza Strip and Belize. In Jamaica, homosexuality can result in a prison sentence of 10 years, and often does.

    Yes, things in Russia are bad. But they are nowhere near to being “one of the most hostile climates on the planet for its LGBT citizens.”

  2. Gregory In Seattle says

    @Kevin – In Russia, one cannot be arrested, imprisoned, publicly beaten and/or put to death simply for the “crime” of being gay. Of the 75 countries that criminalize homosexuality or “propaganda” in some way, the penalties in Russia rank down towards the bottom.

    Do try to educate yourself on the matter, please.

  3. Vint says

    @Gregory: one might be more sympathetic to your defense of Russian homophobia if not for having actually seen videos of the beatings posted publicly, and read of the deaths that resulted.

  4. Eugene says

    The beatings are definitely against the law in Russia. So, while horrifying, they definitely don’t make Russia comparable to countries where homosexuality is against the law. Or would you use anti-gay hate crimes in the US as proof that the US is comparable to countries like Uganda and Jamaica?

  5. says

    @ Gregory….watch….

    Of all the countries you mentioned, Russia is the only industrialized nation. Russia is considered a Second World country (planned economy) U.S., UK, Can, Aus, etc. are First World countries (market economy). Others you mentioned are Third World countries and considered “least developed” and in most of those Third World countries, civil rights is not part of their agenda. Hell, Africa still has slaves doing their diamond mining.

  6. andrew says

    @GREGORUY IN SEATTLE: You are absolutely right in your analysis of worldwide homophobia. Unfortunately many of my brothers on the left are unwilling to admit that. They rightly condemn the evils in White Nations and usually fall mute in the face of Third World Nation’s atrocities. We, on the left, wind up having as little credibility as the racists on the right. Unless a problem is recognized, it will not be ended.

  7. Gregory In Seattle says

    @CB – And all that somehow makes a Russian law against “propaganda” — one that is relatively mild — much more serious than laws requiring that gay people be hanged or beheaded, or which send them to serve hard labor for ten years on conviction of existing?

    And please note that “first world” and “second world” and “third world” are deprecated terms, and have been for decades. Russia is just as much a market economy as the United States. More so, in fact: in Russia, politicians are bought and sold on the open market while in the US, politicians are still largely restricted to a members-only black market.

  8. Gregory In Seattle says

    Keep in mind that we are talking about LAW, not marauding gangs of thugs. If you wish to address violent bigotry, then turn off your computers, get out of your chairs and take to your town’s main street: it is statistically certain that there has been an anti-gay hate crime within the last 30 days within 10 miles of your home.

  9. says

    @ Gregory….
    That is not what I am saying or trying to say. Russia so much wants to remain a world leader, yet their policies are returning back to the days of the Cold War. Russia doesn’t have the support of its ‘controlled’ countries like it once did when it was the repressive Soviet Union. It is almost in conjunction with the way the Republican Party is trying to regress the U.S. to the 1950s. If you have noticed that Republican’s are pro-Putin’s gay repression. We continue to have problems in our own country with homophobia, but we do have laws that help to protect us, not suppress us.

    Instead of moving forward with human rights and freedom’s, that have been so long in coming, Russia has begun a reversion. The other countries you mentioned have never been ‘civil rights nations’. They shouldn’t be ignored, however, they have to be handled with ‘kid gloves’. They are deeply embedded in theocracy, and we all know that the root to all evil, including hate, bigotry, homophobia, intolerance, war, is religion. There are wars, right now, going on in many of those regions. You will not get those countries to change while they are fighting amongst themselves. All we can do is offer asylum at this point. With Russia, whose recent strength of homophobia is being fueled by the Russian Orthodox Church, has the best chance of reversing their anti-gay stance through pressure and elections. As long as any country let’s a church run their government, human rights will suffer.

  10. Rich says

    The problem with anti-gay laws, regardless of severity, is that they license vigilante homophobic violence and restrict access of LGBT citizens to police protection.

    While the evidence of anti-gay violence in Russia is largely anecdotal, it does appear that Russian homophobes are getting a lot of bang for their political ruble.

    Three-fourths of my ancestry is Russian. I will admit that this makes my level of concern about Russian homophobia greater than it is for similar and worse behavior by other countries. If that strikes you as racist, so be it; I’ll plead guilty only to egoism.

  11. JMC says

    Eugene, it doesn’t really matter if the beatings and killings of gay people in Russia are illegal if the authorities don’t investigate the crimes and charge those responsible.. and they don’t. It’s exactly what everyone in Russia who has authority wants to happen.

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