Russia gay dating app homophobia
Evgeny Pisemskiy is director of Phoenix Plus, an HIV charity that is the only Russian organisation to focus on the needs of men who have sex with men. Maya Demidova is a transgender woman who works for the organisation as a coordinator for the Moscow region.
And Yury Maximov is our interpreter. Sometimes these are looks of disapproval, sometimes even disgust. A sense of threat hangs in the air.
Demidova tells me that once she was beaten up on a rush-hour train by a man who had spotted that she was trans. Pisemskiy tells me there are several of these around the city. We arrive at the centre, which is in effect one room in an unmarked residential block in an inconspicuous suburb.
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I am told its existence is a secret known only by those who need it. One of these is Alexander Zhelezkin, a year-old social worker from a small village in the Urals. He has been openly gay since the age of I ask what reactions he had when he came out. Although Zhelezkin says he is often verbally insulted because of his sexuality, he has not encountered any violence but this might be because he does not use hook-up apps such as Grindr. Several of his friends who do have not been so lucky.
I know one rich guy who went to a hook-up in an apartment and there was a mob of 10 people with dogs who started being violent with him. He had to give them 50, roubles to get out. I remark on how calm he is as he recounts such horrors. He explains that there is very little information about PEP in Russia and limited access.
A travel guide to Russia if you’re LGBTQI | Guide
Perhaps the most effective weapon is the anti-retroviral treatment given to those diagnosed as positive; in most cases, this diminishes their viral load to undetectable levels, which means it is impossible for them to pass on the virus. But for this to happen, first they have to get tested.
He tells me that gay men in Russia are reluctant to be tested, not only because of the ignorance about HIV but also because of the huge stigma around the virus. Coupled with the culture of homophobia, this acts as a powerful deterrent.
If he admits to having contracted it through sex with a man, his case is registered under what is known as a Code — information that is accessible by the police and the ministry of internal affairs. If we compare these figures with others recorded around the world, the suggestion is that gay men are not being honest about their sexuality.
Alexander explains that this only helps perpetuate the problem; if the government can say so few people with HIV are men who have sex with men, they can get away with doing nothing to help them.
In the meantime, gay men with HIV continue to go undiagnosed and untreated. I am told stories of people falling ill in a way that no longer happens in the west. That evening, the activists take me out on to the gay scene. I am nervous as everyone has told me there is no such thing as a safe space for gay people in Russia. I have heard stories about people being attacked or robbed as they leave gay venues, and have even heard about grenades being thrown through the window of a club in St Petersburg.
But as so few of those affected are willing to go to the police there are no official statistics to reflect the problem. Demidova tells me that she was raped by a stranger she met in a club, who she believes spiked her drink. I ask if she reported the incident to the police and she scoffs: Once I was arrested and spent a few hours in a police station and I heard so many insulting things about transgender people. The police hate people like me.
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Inside they look like any other European gay venues, but the difference is they are hidden away like a dirty secret. Their exteriors are not draped with rainbow flags and to enter you have to pass through heavy, unmarked doors and an airport-style security check. It is hard to relax. I have no idea how much danger I am in but I do not stay late. The next day I interview Pisemskiy. At the other extreme are disturbing claims that in the Southern Russian republic of Chechnya, gay men are being detained, tortured and even killed in concentration camps in an effort to force them out.
The law applies to LGBTQI tourists who can be fined, arrested and detained, or expelled if the law is deemed to be breached. Tourists have been jailed under the law.
Homophobia and violent attacks have become more prevalent due to the anti-gay propaganda legislation. Be careful when using gay dating apps in Russia. There have been cases of anti-gay Russian vigilante groups luring users out to be attacked or in some cases killed. The law may not be on your side if you are attacked. Elsewhere, gay scenes tend to be underground. You just need to know where to go. While not necessarily dedicated gay venues, some bars and restaurants have gay nights and events.
How homophobia feeds Russia’s HIV epidemic
A word of warning: Also, be aware of possible police harassment around gay clubs and cruising areas in Moscow. Ultimately, while visiting Russia sounds like a scary prospect for LGBTQI travellers, there are plenty of opportunities for a great experience. More on the Guide The battle for gay rights in Australia began long before marriage equality A brief look back at the fight for the right to be.