St Petersburg QueerFest offers LGBTs a way to stay in Russia and make things better

The first QueerFest since Russia banned 'homosexual propaganda' will see over 1500 visitors attend the 10 day event to take a stand against gay hate

St Petersburg QueerFest offers LGBTs a way to stay in Russia and make things better
19 September 2013

Risking fines and arrests, the fifth annual international QueerFest launched in St Petersburg today.

Attracting nearly 2000 visitors every year, Russia’s ‘queer pride and culture festival’ comprises seminars, discussions, photo exhibits and concerts to make a statement against homophobia.

It will be the first festival to take place under the country’s law banning ‘homosexual propaganda’ where individuals and organizations can face fines and jail time for promoting LGBT rights.

This year’s 10-day QueerFest, from 19 to 28 September, will introduce visitors to LGBT police officers and parents of LGBT individuals from Sweden, hold debates about women’s role in Russia’s LGBT movement and premiere a concert with Swedish rock band Gravitonas.

‘Mister Putin, I will be straight forward with you: we will never back down. The struggle for the human right to love cannot be stopped,’ said Gravitonas lead singer Alexander Bard at Stockholm Pride this August.

Polina, an LGBT rights activist with QueerFest, spoke to Gay Star News about the possibility of facing persecution from the government or from the community for holding the event.

She told Gay Star News:  ‘In St Petersburg, the [‘homosexual propaganda’] law was already in effect last year March 2012, so we’re used to this, we always have to think of plan b, c, d.

‘It’s very possibe the venue where the festival is being held will cancel the contract at the last minute, it’s happened before. It won’t happen because they hate gay people, but because they’re afraid. They’re afriad of getting fined or the government coming for them.

‘The second concern is safety of participants. That is because the aggression of violence from nationalists has increased drastically in the past year. They do monitor our websites and come to our events.’

Polina advised participants to be careful, not travel alone, but also highlighted the need now more than ever for the Russian LGBT community to make themselves visible and respected.

‘Some hold to the opinion that the only path for Russian LGBT people today is out of the country. While that may be so for the specifically targeted groups and individuals, such as same-sex families and LGBT rights defenders under risk, there are LGBT people who intend to live in this country and try and improve their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

‘That is why it is all the more important now to continue organizing QueerFest, a space where LGBT community can share in a sense of pride, and the city can learn more about LGBT culture, lives, and rights,’ she added.

Since President Vladimir Putin signed the anti-gay law in June, a ripple-effect has torn through local and international communities:

HAVE YOUR SAY

MORE TOP STORIES

No thumbnail available

Cameron backs UK’s national Student Pride

All three main British party leaders sent messages of support as LGBT students gather in Brighton
No thumbnail available

Melbourne Lord Mayor agrees Australia is looking 'silly' for not going ahead with marriage equality

'I think we'll look back in ten years time and say "what was all that about",' says Liberal Party politician Robert Doyle
No thumbnail available

US Supreme Court to discuss gay marriage

Justices to consider whether to hear California's Proposition 8 and Defense of Marriage Act cases
No thumbnail available

HomoLAB 57

This week the team discuss hiking up mountains, urban Country fairs, and the Great British Bake off.
New Jersey jury: gay conversion therapy is a fraud

New Jersey jury: gay conversion therapy is a fraud

Jewish nonprofit that offers gay conversion therapy violated state’s consumer fraud act and must pay $72,400 in damages
No thumbnail available

Calcutta high court drops rape charge against intersex Indian athlete Pinki Pramanik

The Asian Games gold medalist was accused by her live-in partner of rape and impersonating a man in 2012
No thumbnail available

HIV vaccine breakthrough

Two South African women may have helped unlock the key to a vaccine against HIV, according to new research recently published
No thumbnail available

Why the whole trans debate is wrong

Your gender doesn’t mean you are Bruce Willis or Barbie, so why are trans people forced to defend their gender identity?
No thumbnail available

Review of blood donation discrimination does not go far enough

An Australian Red Cross review of blood donations rules does not go far enough to end discrimination against gay men, campaigners say
No thumbnail available