Russia’s law banning ‘homosexual propaganda’ is making life impossible for the country’s LGBT educators.
Two Russian teachers, one gay and the other bisexual, have shared their stories about the vicious attacks suffered at their schools and in the streets after their sexual orientation was exposed.
24-year-old Olga Bakhaeva who worked in Magnitogorsk and 38-year-old Alexander Yermoshkin who worked in Khabarovsk shared their tormenting stories on Russia’s ‘only public media’ Colta.ru.
Alexander Yermoshkin, who had been teaching for 18 years, was fired from his school shortly after Vladimir Putin passed a national law banning the promotion of ‘homosexual propaganda’.
‘As for now… the most terrible thing is that I have actually been banned from my profession. That’s like forcing an artist to stop painting.’
The geography teacher says he started working in LGBT activism four years ago, organizing flash mobs called Rainbow over the River Amur and organizing A Week Against Homophobia, but never hid nor displayed the fact he was gay.
He was forthcoming about this involvement in LGBT rights after a new head teacher Natalya Sergeyevna was appointed to his school.
‘I went to her and said that I was intending to organize that event and that if she considered it incompatible with working in a school I would resign.’
Yermoshkin was told his private life and his employment were two separate things.
After the country’s law banning ‘homosexual propaganda’ passed, Yermoshkin says LGBT-related events he organized were attacked by neo-Nazis and Baptist Christians.
On 26 August he alleges he was attacked on his way home. he says one of the men had a camera, they tore off his glasses and made threatening gestures.
‘They weren’t drunk – these people are in training for a healthy lifestyle. I remember their names,’ Yermoshkin revealed.
The neo-Nazi and Christian Baptist groups reportedly joined forces in submitting a petition to have Yermoshkin fired. The groups collected a total of 678 signatures and delivered them to the regional Ministry of Education.
The head-teacher was given the ultimatum to fire Yermoshkin or risk her own employment, so she fired him.
‘You must realise that I can’t write a letter of resignation,’ said Yermoshkin.
‘I simply can’t make my hand do that. I have already signed up for an appointment with the Director of Education. If necessary I shall go to court.’
I simply don’t see myself working anywhere except in a school. Not being able to give more time to children makes me feel like a traitor.’
Olga Bakhaeva experienced a similar ordeal after Russia’s anti-gay laws passed this year.
Bakhaeva was expelled from her job as a history teacher after she self-identified as LGBT on a social network website. She had made a comment about another LGBT professor who was being persecuted, and was subsequently targeted by online trolls and fake journalists who called the school where she worked.
The school’s administration gave her personal contact information to people who called the school claiming to be journalists, and when education officials were made aware of the situation, they spent two months calling the school demanding the teacher be fired for being lesbian.
In response to calls for prosecution, Bakhaeva said she was bisexual, had never discussed her sexual orientation at work and had never viewed the country’s LGBT movement as a crime.
‘You see, I cannot sit around idly and be fearful as a mouse,’ she said.
I wouldn’t be able to look at myself in the mirror without disgust if I caved in. I had stopped writing about LGBT issues on my page, I only wrote about politics. It turned out I wasn’t allowed to write about politics either. Kittens yes, politics no.’
Stories about Bakhaeva made it to local TV news, and the head teacher at her school received print outs of her social media activity.
Bakhaeva was then informed a prosecutor was looking to speak with her. The ‘parent’ of a student in Magnitogorsk sent a letter of complaint after the student claimed he visited Bakhaeva’s social network page by accident, was exposed to ‘homosexual propaganda,’ and started asking his parent about same-sex marriage.
She was subsequently fired and hasn’t been able to find work since.
‘I shall not work in a school again. The whole situation is extremely unpleasant, and I do not want any repetition of it. Oh well, I’ll do something else, I don’t know what, but life is long, let’s wait and see.’