In St. Petersburg, a man beat up girls on the subway because they “look like LGBT”. He was traveling with his wife and child, and with the words “Fucking LGBT, my child should not see this,” he attacked the girl and began to beat her - as a result, she received bruises on her shoulder. Another girl has a dislocated shoulder and a jaw injury. The attacker was detained and placed in a temporary detention facility.
After the start of the war, there was a surge of public homophobia in Russian society, according to 83% of LGBT+ respondents surveyed by the Vykhod group and the Sphere Foundation. As the coordinator of the Vykhod group, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Insider, this is due to the fact that propaganda is positioning the war with Ukraine, including as a war with NATO and European values:
“In 2014, there was also a surge in public homophobia. There were statements like “Gay Maidan” or “Geyropa”, and in this sense, the surge of homophobia in the public rhetoric of power figures is repeated. Putin says that we are at war with gender freedoms, with rotten Europe. This war is positioned not just as a war with Ukraine, but also a war with NATO, with European values, with gender freedoms and so on. This is what the Russian authorities are fighting against, and also against LGBT rights, LGBT people, and so on.”
82% of those surveyed said that the war had affected them personally. Another 78% said they felt more vulnerable with the start of the war. And another 83% noted that they see an increase in homophobic sentiments around. Only 39% said they noticed an increase in homophobic attitudes among loved ones.
“The growth of homophobia and transphobia occurs precisely in the public field, in the statements of deputies. People see it, it worries them very much, makes them nervous and they feel bad. At the same time, it is important for them that among close people these changes are not so explosive, ”said The Insider’s interlocutor.
“We asked those who are ready to explain in more detail what they mean. In their responses, they mentioned the “LGBT Propaganda” law, government statements, statements in publications and shows. When it came to the growth of homophobia among loved ones, the respondents noted several points. For example, they said that those who were already homophobic and transphobic began to speak out more on this topic. That is, society has not become homophobic, but already homophobic and transphobic people have begun to put forward such statements more boldly. Many emphasized that this is not about friends, but about the older generation that watches TV, that is, about the target audience of propaganda.”
According to the coordinator of the "Exit", despite the growth of homophobic sentiments, they have not yet observed a surge in violence:
“The rise of homophobia and transphobia has not yet found an outlet in violence. We can talk about the growth of state violence against LGBT people, i.e. propaganda, but if we are talking about the grassroots level, the public, then so far we do not record the transformation of this discourse into violence. We have limits on how much we can compare this year's data with previous data. We have data on St. Petersburg and there is definitely no increase in violence there. There are also comments from experts from different regions who are former or current employees of LGBT organizations, psychologists and lawyers who have helped or are helping LGBT people in the regions. They talk about the fact that LGBT people still face violence, but at the same level as before.
We have documented an increase in violence since we passed the law on "LGBT propaganda" for the first time at the federal level, in 2013. There are studies of polls and statements in courts, where people explain: “I beat him because he was gay. We can do it, there is a law against gays.” It is unclear whether the new version of this law will affect the same way. Not the fact that people felt the difference and something has changed. On the other hand, if this all continues the same way, all this inflaming rhetoric, it may well be that there will be more violence. We will continue our research, and we will conduct it at the end of 2023 and we will be able to confirm or refute this quantitatively.”
At the same time, as Sasha Belik, head of the Sphere project’s advocacy program, noted in an interview with The Insider, this survey shows the results for the last year, and, most likely, according to data for 2023, researchers will be able to record an increase in violence, because the law on “propaganda” was adopted just at the end of 2022 and "became a watershed in the legalization of violence against LGBT people":
“We expect the increase in violence to be at the same level as in 2013, or even more, because now there is a propaganda veil from the TV that is being actively promoted. This is one of the few ideological components that can be called the goal of the struggle of Russian troops in Ukraine. We think that this can happen even in large volumes.
In addition, in general, the level of violence in our society is starting to increase due to the fact that people are returning from the war with PTSD and they are committing violent crimes, but this is all mainly in the frontline regions. There is also an increase in the number of weapons, because people can simply leave the unit with a machine gun and then look for them for a long time. This is an alarming figure and it says that we have a high level of violence in general.”
The survey also showed that the war led to a deterioration in the financial situation of LGBT+ people. This was reported by 69% of respondents. Among the reasons for the deterioration of the financial situation, the respondents named the loss of work in international companies, the restriction of career prospects, rising prices and lower incomes.
Because of the sanctions, LGBT+ people have had difficulty getting the medicine they need. Almost a third of the respondents (32%) spoke about this. Difficulties have emerged with access not only to hormone therapy, but also to antiretroviral therapy (HIV therapy), antidepressants, as well as asthma and mastopathy drugs.
Many LGBT+ representatives have decided to leave Russia because of the war. About 16% of study participants reported their departure. 60% of them left the country in September 2022 or later. The majority (23%) is located in the EU countries, 16% - in Georgia, 11% - in Turkey. 2% of the respondents reported that they had returned to Russia.
The Insider did a detailed analysis of the "LGBT propaganda" law, which can be read here .