OutRight Action

Since the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine — and let’s not mince words, it’s a WAR of aggression and choice by Russia against a sovereign democratic neighbor that posed no threat to its national security — I have worried about gay Ukrainians.  Obviously, my concern extends to all Ukrainians affected by and displaced as a result of Russia’s barbarism, but there is good reason to be concerned for Ukraine’s LGBTQ population.

As I wrote about before, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, preached a sermon using LGBTQ people, specifically pride parades commemorating the Stonewall Riots of 1969, as justification for the invasion of Ukraine; now, one could reasonably argue pride parades are cause for protesting overpriced paper cups of beer and commercialization of a civil rights movement, but a bloody war where once beautiful cities have been reduced to charred and smoldering ruins with dead civilians' bodies left where they dropped in the streets is a bit over the top, even for a homophobic country like Putin’s Russia.  Messages such as the patriarch’s continue to fan the flames of anti-gay bigotry and hatred, not just about the LGBTQ community in Ukraine, but against a whole country that had been slowly inching toward greater acceptance of sexual minorities.

In Ukraine, LGBTQ advocates were doing the hard work of building trust with the Ukrainian population before the war.  Even Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine's president, tweeted in 2019 to an anti-LGBTQ heckler:  “Won't say anything bad about gay people to you, because we are living in a free society. Leave those people alone, for God's sake!”

But the situation on the ground has changed (a bit of an understatement) as that embattled country fights for its very survival.  Many Ukrainians have fled the bloodshed and violence by fleeing over the border into neighboring Poland, where laws framed as “anti-propaganda” efforts aimed at protecting children, not unlike those passed in 2013 in Russia or earlier this year in the US state of Florida, condemn LGBTQ people; Poland enforces “LGBTQ-free zones," which discriminate against having LGBTQ people in certain regions of that Catholic, anti-LGBTQ country.  So while I worry about every Ukrainian suffering in this moment, as a gay man I am particularly concerned about the plight of my gay Ukrainian brothers and sisters.  As LGBTQ people, we know all too well that we who are already marginalized face higher risks and cannot count automatically on access to humanitarian and/or social assistance.  I think it is incumbent on the worldwide LGBTQ community and our allies to come together and focus our efforts on assisting LGBTQ Ukrainians.  As we found in the early days of the AIDS crisis, we are often the only ones we’ve got!

OutRight Action International

OutRight Action, an international LGBTQ organization with headquarters in New York City, is accepting donations on behalf of local LGBTQ organizations prepared to ensure the safety of Ukraine’s LGBTQ refugees.  It should go without saying that I am concerned about the impact of war on all people.  But I know that prejudice and bigotry still exist, particularly when those flames are fanned by religious leaders and cynical, self-serving politicians.  And so I want to focus my efforts to help on those who have historically been overlooked or discriminated against.  To that end I have included a link to OutRight’s fundraiser to benefit the LGBTQ people of Ukraine in the righthand column on my website and at the top of my blog mailings.  We all have a part to play in confronting Russia’s aggression, in helping those less fortunate than ourselves, and in taking the side of the marginalized and all-too-often forgotten.  If we believe that people are people, then we must answer this call to ensure all people suffering from the results of Putin’s madness are helped.  Please give today.

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