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Ukraine’s LGBTQ+ Face More Danger Once They’re Safe from Bombs

by | Mar 17, 2022

The situation in Ukraine is stark, and it has garnered worldwide press coverage because of Putin’s hostility. Many people are trying to help Ukraine’s citizens, and it leaves many wondering, why now? It may sound a bit cold, but in some parts of Russia, the LGBTQ+ community has been suffering for a while. In Chechnya, our people have been killed, but it didn’t make global headlines. In Poland, there have been laws outlawing literature pertaining to our community. Most recently, Texas passed a law where students’ teachers are forced to out them to their parents, and in the same state, conversion therapy is still legal.

Now, it is right to shed light on what is happening in Ukraine. We can all agree on this. However, the focus is still not on how it affects our community in Ukraine. So, as this is important, we want to share what is going on with our LGBTQ+ friends in Ukraine and how fleeing to another country may not completely remove them from danger as it will their heterosexual counterparts. 

A gay man in a gazebo surrounded by sunflowers.

We need to start with how LGBTQ+ people are treated in Ukraine. Gay people living in this country do not have the same rights afforded to those of us living in the western world. Although there is no censorship, they still cannot live a normal life. Adoption is illegal, and conversion therapy is not banned. Mostly, LGTQ+ people living in Ukraine can lead a fairly normal life but still face many legal hardships if they want to lead a life of similar quality to straight people. 

So, apart from war, what is going through a refugee’s mind as they cross the border into a neighboring country in Ukraine? Well, it depends on the country they are fleeing to. First and foremost, they are probably thinking about the atrocities towards our people living in Russia. The Russian government has not tried to hide its negativity towards our people. Putin actively discriminates against the LGBTQ+ community by passing “gay propaganda” laws prohibiting teachers from telling students about gay or trans people. Of course, Putin says this is in the children’s best interest, but that is just a load of BS given what is happening across Russia

Given the context, it’s fair to say that many LGBTQ+ Ukrainians are fleeing from war and the thought of persecution for being themselves. But how is this different from anyone else fleeing Russia? Surely, it’s the same, you may think. However, that is not the case. Many gay Ukrainians fear leaving their home country. In Ukraine, it is not uncommon for people to remain closeted because of social rejection by their families. Likewise, trans people and others in our community are downright scared to flee for refuge in another country. A big problem for these individuals is that their Ukrainian ID still identifies them as male, and they are barred from leaving the country.

When these people flee their country, they need to think about the reception they receive in a host country. On top of worrying about their lives in Ukraine, they now need to acclimatize to a new country and its attitude towards them. Many of the people fleeing will end up in Poland, where LGBTQ rights are slowly being taken away. Could you imagine being in this situation? You think you are safe but then hanging above your head is the sword of Damocles.

For many Ukrainians, “the difficulty is not just making it to the border checkpoints but to be able to get safe haven once they do cross the border to a neighboring country,” said Kimahli Powell, executive director of Rainbow Railroad.

Do you think we should shed more light on this issue? Relocation to a bordering country is not the same for all. How would you feel knowing you are in this situation? Let us know in the comments below.

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Sean Kivi

Sean Kivi

Author

Sean Kivi holds a master's degree from the University of Nottingham in translation studies from Spanish to English. He specializes in writing about gay culture and its influence on discourse. Sean speaks Spanish fluently and focuses on translating gay-themed literature to English and analyzing the discourse to understand how our culture is universal yet distinct in countries worldwide. He has translated for authors in Mexico and completed case studies related to machismo and its influences on gay culture in Latin America.
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