LGBTQ Ukrainians Help Defend Kyiv
LGBTQ Ukrainians face significant, potentially deadly, circumstances as their nation battles back against Russian invading forces. But a number of them aren’t backing down from the fight, even as reports of a supposed Russian “kill list” targeted them and other groups continue to flutter amid the fighting.
Russian forces continue to mobilize in an effort to take the Ukrainian capital city, Kyiv, as a major facet of its takeover attempt of the Eastern European nation. The Ukrainian army and citizen groups have been able to stave off any takeover of Kyiv so far, and a number of those aiding the fight are from a population that aren’t even guaranteed equal rights under Ukrainian law.
“I know a lot of LGBT people who go to our army now,” KyivPride coordinator Jul Sirous told The Daily Beast. “They try to fight and it’s also our main message that we try to be one united nation and we try to do everything to make sure that Russia will be defeated.”
LGBTQ Outlook In Ukraine
As Sirous describes, LGBTQ Ukrainians that are not seeking refuge in Western European are choosing to fight alongside a population whom they’ve been at odds with for years over guaranteeing equal civil rights protections. While non-discriminatory legislation protecting LGBTQ Ukrainians’ access to housing and employment was passed in 2015, same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples are still outlawed. The nation also still doesn’t recognize non-binary identities and continues to allow so-called “conversion therapy” to be performed within its borders.
Social acceptance of LGBTQ individuals is even worse. According to Reuters, a Rating survey released in August 2021 reported that 47% of Ukrainians held a negative view of LGBTQ people. That view has manifested itself in anti-LGBTQ counter-protesters during KyivPride’s annual Equality March and a general sentiment of intolerance across the country. But that cultural othering hasn’t stopped Ukraine’s LGBTQ population from battling for their nation’s survival.
“The main fear at this moment is that if [Russia] will be successful, that we lose everything we have,” Sirous said. “Unfortunately, if this city will be occupied like other cities, then there will be some persecution against LGBT people.”
Does The “Kill List” Exist?
Those fears are very real as Russian troops advance on Kyiv and other tactical locations along Eastern Ukraine. While LGBTQ advocates in Ukraine aren’t satisfied with the state of LGBTQ affairs in the nation, Russian attitudes toward LGBTQ populations are even worse. The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations’ report of the existence of a Russian “kill list” that targets Ukrainian LGBTQ figures, in addition to journalists, activists and other minorities, only heightened those fears.
“We also have intelligence to suggest that there will be an even greater form of brutality because this will not simply be some conventional war between two armies. It will be a war waged by Russia on the Ukrainian people to repress them, to crush them, to harm them,” said National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan during an appearance on NBC’s “Today” last month. “That is what we laid out in detail for the U.N. because we believe that the world must mobilize to counter this kind of Russian aggression.”
Some LGBTQ rights activists doubt the reality of the “kill list,” saying that such a list doesn’t “align with Russia’s approach to LGBT issues.” But former United Nations special rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression David Kaye doesn’t believe that intelligence agencies should let such misalignments with Russian president Vladimir Putin’s practices deter them from monitoring anything that meets the definition of a war crime.
“I think [the U.S.] and European allies should be signaling really clearly and publicly that they’re collecting intelligence and they’re continuing to collect intelligence related to all the kinds of activities that constitute war crimes that are being ordered and are being carried out,” Kaye told the Daily Beast. “Everybody who’s in the military chain of command in Russia, you need to know we are watching.”
LGBTQ Ukrainians: Previously on Towleroad
Photo courtesy of EsWerUA/Wikimedia Commons