Russia: life as a gay man & choosing to leave

From Russia with love

Dima2.JPGThe situation for the lesbian and gay community in Russia is frighteningly dangerous. Here, Dmitry Gulyaev, 29, tells us his perspective as a gay Russian who has left his country for a better life.

"As you might know, the Russian parliament has approved a very controversial law against gay propaganda. According to the new legislation, people in Russia are not allowed to talk about gay issues when underage people are present. You are not allowed to say anything good about being gay or that it is absolutely normal and nothing to be ashamed of.

People who support this new legislation are afraid that being positive about gay issues is promoting homosexuality. Thinking being positive about homosexuality can make poor, young, confused children change their minds and decide that they are homosexual, or, ‘abnormal’. The population of Russia is declining, and apparently childless gays are one of the main reasons. In addition, they are exploiting the stereotype that non-traditional sexual relationships go against everything that is quintessentially Russian, including culture, religion and values. The perception is it is alien, brought from outside, probably from the west, to invade and destroy Russia. Also there is a strong opinion that male homosexuality is the same as paedophilia. This mass paranoia has attracted widespread support among Russians who are tired of their harsh, poor lives. This paranoia acts as a distraction from Russia’s deeper issues.

I left Russia in 2011 for a fresh start in the UK with my long-term English partner, Paul. We lived in Moscow for over two years. Life was changing in the capital, attitudes becoming more liberal. Gays were more open. There was strong opposition against gay parades but we had quite a few gay clubs and gay-friendly places, with some moving away from being secretive, members-only and underground to being a prominent part of the nightlife, attracting acts such as t.A.T.u. and other Russian stars.

There is a huge LGBT community in Russia and a noticeable difference in the way people behave in Moscow to other places in Russia. I have lived in a small town too. People Dima4outside the capital hide in big closets. They are afraid that if they come out their friends and family will disown them and career progression will be impossible. However their greatest fear is that they will bring shame on themselves and their families. This is my biggest fear too.

My family still do not know about me. I was naively hoping that my parents would eventually find out as I have been living with Paul for almost five years. I was hoping I would be able to avoid the ‘awkward conversation’. It looks like this is now inevitable. If I had been ready to tell them a few years ago, it would have been considerably easier.

Anti-gay propaganda on state TV is aimed at the susceptible public, like my parents. My partner and I helped translate some of this propaganda into English to help the rest of the world see what the Russian media is broadcasting. One broadcast was really significant. A chat-show presenter, also the deputy CEO of a state-owned TV channel, was finishing his show with a very serious message: organs from gay people are not worthy for transplantations and should be burnt or buried. The audience exploded into applause.

My mother watches these programmes after work. Can you imagine my coming-out conversation with her straight after that? I am fed up of bending the truth, but this propaganda will make my parents feel extremely disappointed in me.

Here in the UK I have never had to witness awkward conversations, stares and aggression. Here I am not ‘gay’, I am just ‘me’. I do not need to be labelled just because my partner is the same sex. I love this country for this precious gift of openness.

I am overjoyed that the UK, along with the international gay community, is supporting Russian gay people. When they see that people from different countries are talking about them, making statements and taking action, they feel this support and it makes them feel braver and more significant.

Do not get me wrong – I love Russia. We have a long and interesting history, rich culture and traditions. However, the main thing for any country is the welfare of its citizens. I Dima5hope life for everyone in Russia will improve and those changes happen soon.

Any actions taken by the international gay community could be seen in Russia as ‘those meddling foreigners telling us what to do’. Solutions need to be found by Russians inside the country.

I do not think boycotting the 2014 Olympics is a good idea. The decision for the games to take place in Sochi was very controversial because of human rights issues and environmentally. Now preparations are almost complete, sportsmen have been preparing for most of their lives and people were forced out of their homes to build stadiums, and people want to boycott it?! This would mean punishing athletes for something they are not guilty of. The Olympic spirit is about bringing people together in peace and harmony.

The best approach competing sportsmen can take is to make subtle indications of support – wearing clothing with rainbow colours or messages, especially when they climb onto the podium. Paris is hosting a Gay Olympics in 2018. Invite gay people from Russia to other countries and give them some recognition. It will let the Russian gay community know that they have support from around the world.”


The full version of Dmitry's article is available in issue 4. Copies can be ordered from: XXX


This article was printed in issue 4 of We Are Family magazine, Winter 2013. Details may have changed - please do not rely on this information solely when making decisions - make your own checks and get legal advice.

1 Response

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