Matthew’s Place
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Matthew’s Place

What the Russian Invasion Means for Young, LGBTQ+ Ukrainians

By Christine Siamanta Kinori

It has been one week since Russia escalated its conflict with Ukraine by launching a large-scale military invasion. The ongoing attack has killed many and left even more people wounded. Many Ukrainians have been forced to uproot their lives and flee to neighboring countries. However, some LGBTQ+ people have chosen to stay and fight fearing what might happen should Russia occupy the country.

In an interview with CBS News, several queer people living in Kyiv said they will be staying to fight against the Russian invasion because they perceive it as a direct threat to their lives. Iulia, an 18-year-old law student aims to stay. “They won’t allow us to exist peacefully and to fight for our rights as we are able to do in Ukraine right now,” she said.

It is no secret that Russia has a harsh stance when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights. Ukraine doesn’t allow same-sex marriage, but there has been a lot of progress with LGBTQ+ laws compared to Russia. Queer Ukrainians have been able to hold successful Pride parade and rallies since 2003, while Russia banned Pride parades in their capital of Moscow for 100 years. Most of the Pride parades in other Russian cities have been unsuccessful or led to arrest of the participants.

Russia is considered one of the most dangerous countries to live in as a queer individual. In 2019, Human Rights Watch called for investigations on Russia’s new wave of anti-LGBTQ+ persecution in Chechnya. This was after LGBTQ+ individuals were captured illegally and tortured by police in Grozny. The situation for LGBTQ+ individuals in Russia compared to Ukraine is different, particularly because Russia is extremely homophobic and is not willing to change its laws to protect the queer community. In contrast, Ukraine is becoming more progressive with public opinion changing to support LGBTQ+ rights and there was hope for change. It is understandable why young, queer Ukrainians fear a far more dire situation should Russia take their country.

The queer community in Ukraine is coming together and rallying against the Russian invasion. While LGBTQ+ combat volunteers are fighting in the war, others are helping with supplies, blood donations, and phishing digital attacks on the internet . They are also putting up psychological support networks and setting up transport and accommodation networks to help those fleeing. Everyone is trying their best in whatever capacity to support their country and prevent Russia from taking over.

The LGBTQ+ community from all over the world have also been doing their part to help queer Ukrainian refugees by sending money for relocation, medical support and the various basic needs. It is a known fact that queer people are often marginalized, and it is even worse during a war. It is sad that this is what the situation has come to. As we wait with bated breaths hoping there will be a peaceful resolution, we should also do our best to support our brothers and sisters in Ukraine.

About the Author:

Christine Siamanta Kinori grew up in a little village in Kenya known as Loitoktok near the border of Kenya and Tanzania. All she wanted to do when she grew up was to explore the world. Her curiosity led her to join Nairobi University to pursue a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications. She later got a job with an amazing travel magazine Nomad Africa which gave her the opportunity to explore Africa. She also writes for numerous travel websites about Africa and tries to create a new narrative in the media about our aesthetic continent.

Christine claims to have somewhat unhealthy addiction to TV and reading, as it is a fun way to keep herself occupied during the long journeys for her travel writing. She is also a believer of letting people be their beautiful selves. To her, love is love and it is the greatest gift we have as humans.

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Matthew’s Place is by and for LGBTQ+ youth and a program of the Matthew Shepard Foundation l #EraseHate

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Matthew's Place

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MatthewsPlace.com is a program of the Matthew Shepard Foundation| Words by & for LGBTQ+ youth | #EraseHate | Want to submit? Email patrick@matthewshepard.org

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