Tuesday, September 02, 2014


Gay Rights Activists In New York March For Equality In Russia

A group of about 70 Russian-speaking Americans took to the streets on June 24 during New York's Gay Pride Parade.
A group of about 70 Russian-speaking Americans took to the streets on June 24 during New York's Gay Pride Parade.
Immigrants from across the former Soviet Union took to the streets on June 24 during New York City’s Gay Pride Parade to raise awareness of rights violations that homosexuals face in Russia.

Nina Long, 33, a Belarusian immigrant who helped organize the march, said she personally knew immigrants hailing from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Latvia among the 70 marchers -- and that even more countries of the former Soviet Union were represented.

RUSA LGBT, a New York support group for gays of Russian descent and their families, organized the march.

Yelena Goltsman, 49, who founded the organization in 2008, said it is evolving into a gay-rights group that promotes equality in both Russian-speaking countries and New York.

As the parade began, Goltsman gathered the group around her and shouted, "Let’s show them the Russians are coming! They’re here!" One in the crowd then called out: "And they’re queer!"

Some of those marching were scantily clad or dressed in drag. One man appeared in an outfit mimicking famous Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, who was bisexual.

The marchers were light-hearted, dancing to loud Russian music, blowing bubbles, and doing the limbo under a pink feather boa.

But their message was serious. They waved flags and held signs that read, "In Moscow gay parade banned for the next 100 years," "17 got arrested for carrying rainbow flags in Russia," "Human rights violated in Russia," and "No government has the right to tell citizens whom to love!"

PHOTO GALLERY: Russian-speaking gay-rights activists take to the streets of New York
  • As the parade began, organizer Yelena Goltsman gathered the group and shouted, "Let's show 'em the Russian are coming! They're here!"
  • Someone in the crowd then called out, "And they're queer!"
  • A similar gay-pride parade was banned in Moscow in May after the mayor said it could spark civil unrest.
  • Since 2006, the annual gay-pride rallies in Moscow have been marred by arrests and violent clashes with police and antigay onlookers.
  • Marchers in New York tied white ribbons on each other's wrists, echoing ongoing Russian protests against government repression.
  • One of the participants does the limbo beneath a pink boa.

Many of the marchers also wore white ribbons tied around their wrists, echoing massive antigovernment protests in Russia that began last December.

Long said the group was marching specifically to raise awareness of several laws passed recently in Russia.

These include a law approved in St. Petersburg in February that bans "gay propaganda." The first Russian arrested under this law was Nikolai Alekseyev, Russia's leading gay-rights campaigner, who was fined the equivalent of $170 in May for holding a sign reading, "Homosexuality is not a perversion, field hockey and ice ballet are."

'Going Backwards' On Human Rights

Another decision they were protesting is a Moscow ban on gay-pride parades for the next 100 years, instituted earlier in June.

"It seems that Russia is going backwards on the human rights scale," Long said. "We just think that the first step is to educate people, and then hopefully that is going to lead us somewhere."

Goltsman said this march was the first political activity that RUSA LGBT has participated in. She founded the group to help Russian-speaking gays and their families who were suffering from homophobia in their community.

Goltsman herself was married to a man for 18 years and had two children before finding the courage to come out to her family that she was homosexual.

She and her husband separated and she has since remarried a woman. Her daughter marched in the parade with her on June 24. She said her son would have been there if he had been in the city.

"[Coming out] is a very hard thing to do without support, without knowing that there are other people that will support you throughout your journey," Goltsman said.

"The Russian community here is still very homophobic, here in the United States, so people who need support. They come to us and we provide the support to them."

According to Goltsman, when they started planning the march they expected about 10 people to show up. She and Long were shocked and thrilled at the crowd of 70 that turned out.

"This is a big statement of identity -- not only political protest but also their own personal identity," she said of those who chose to march.

-- Courtney Brooks
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Comment Sorting
by: Jorjo from: NYC
June 26, 2012 01:52
Most of the Russian gay people living in New York avoid association with RUSA LGBT for obvious reasons - it's 'take-no-prisoners' politicised attitude toward the gay issues in Russia. There were no more than 20-30 people marching under the banner of RUSA LGBT in the June 24 NYC Pride Parade. To associate RUSA LGBT with the overall gay situation in Russian is ridiculous and grossly inaccurate.
In Response

by: Dr. Jillian T. Weiss from: NYC
June 26, 2012 13:28
I counted more than the 70 people noted in the article, closer to 120 or so. But courage is courage whether there are 20 or 1000. RUSA LGBT may not, at this time, be a major force in the overall gay situation in Russia, but then again, the United States LGBT movement started very small and took a long time to build. One must start somewhere.
In Response

by: Yuriy from: New York City
June 26, 2012 17:28
Jorjo, you have it wrong. Russia politicizes this issue by passing laws against its own constitution. Why do you belittle this group of people in New York for calling attention to Russian hypocrisy and restriction of basic rights to speech and assembly? And please, learn how to count before you post ridiculously inaccurate things.

by: Vlada Von Shats from: NYC
June 26, 2012 02:27
Thank You everyone for your support. we must speak for our LGBTQ community in Russia and Ukraine that has been silenced. This is a shame , its taking our fight for Human Rights backwards. As a heterosexual gay rights activist, and a mother of three children, I am embarrassed for the way Russian Government is creating hate. We are fighting bullying, educating young minds for a safer tomorrow in the US , but how do we explain this action to our kids? The Russian LGBTQ community in NYC has created the RED PARTY to show support to their Russian brothers and sisters. Thank you everyone that is involved. Love, Peace, Vlada Von Shats

by: Aram from: Russia/U.S.
July 14, 2012 17:02
Hi all, I just wanted to say that, I have no problems with the gay or lesbian cmmunity I have clients to my company that are gay, and several people that I am associated with. Maybe its the fact that these people are very well if with money and positions, but I heard from them many of times that they are kid of whatever about the gay parades and the whole movement thing, beacuse of the kids. So I can see why the goverment said no and I agree with them. The kids what some one is doing in there personal time is no ones problem! But when you start flooding the streets and exposing kids to this, that is wrong. I amvery for equal rights such as gay marrige but please keep it out of our schools and and away from.our kids. So what is being done in Russia is fine.

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