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CREES Noon Lecture. Being Queer in Russia: A Conversation about Challenges Facing Russia’s LGBTQ+ Movement

Alla Chikinda, Ezra Erikson, Anastasiia Fedorova, Lyosha Gorshkov
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
12:00-1:20 PM
Off Campus Location
This CREES Noon Lecture is brought to you by U-M undergraduates Rachael Merritt and Kyle Arnashus, Russian Language and Culture Majors. The students organized this panel in culmination of their project "Bridging the Gap between LGBTQ+ Communities in Russia and the United States," under the auspices of the CREES-Ford School initiative "Developing Future Leaders in U.S.-Russia Relations."

From the introduction of the 2013 Gay Propaganda Law, the attempted “Trans Ban” laws to the Family Code in 2020, to continuous waves of torture and murder of gay men in Chechnya, members of Russia’s LGBTQ+ community have found themselves in increasingly precarious positions in the struggle for the full realization of their human rights. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that the international Russian LGBTQ+ community come together to form a unified front to fight against increasing oppression. However, the Russian LGBTQ+ community struggles with disconnectedness, both in terms of a unifying Russian LGBTQ+ identity and contradictory visions for the future of Russian LGBTQ+ movement. This panel seeks to address these schisms within the community and foster greater understanding for the identities and perspectives of Russia’s LGBTQ+ diaspora and domestic communities.

All too often in Russian queer diaspora communities individuals feel that they need to forfeit their Russian identity in order to conform to western standards of queer identities. They can feel a loss of their roots, culture, and family. This panel will discuss queer identity formation as it relates to re-connection with a Russian identity, the different obstacles of trauma and persecution that stand in the way of this reunification, and the tremendous impact sustained support through shared conceptions of identity could have for the longevity and strength of the Russian LGBTQ+ movement. Also to be discussed is the media portrayal of the LGBTQ+ movement in the West and in Russia. These depictions are subjected to external or group specific pressures and have contributed to contradictory opinions on methods of social activism throughout the LGBTQ+ community. This fragmentation leaves the LGBTQ+ community vulnerable to oppression and popular criticism.

Collaboration and connectedness between Russian diaspora populations, regional communities, and organizations in Moscow and Petersburg creates an opportunity for effective social organization within the Russian LGBTQ+ movement. The members of the panel bring vastly different personal experiences of identity formation and Russian LGBTQ+ activism, which will serve to begin a dialogue around the deeply entrenched differences in LGBTQ+ identity and movements between their respective groups. These testimonies and the subsequent discussion will hopefully serve as a bridge to find common ground and move the Russian LGBTQ+ movement forward in a more unified and effective way.

Speakers:

Alla Chikinda is the regional representative and communications manager for the LGBTQ+ Resource Center based in Yekaterinburg, Russia. The Resource Center provides a safe space for LGBTQ+ individuals to congregate and form community. The organization also hosts informational meetings and takes part in organizing pride activities, and implements social and legal programs and services aimed at overcoming discrimination of the LGBTQ+ community. Joining the Resource Center in 2016, Alla was first responsible for the center’s social media and external communications. Her work led to an increase in the number of followers and mentions in local media outlets. Since 2018, Alla has been concentrating her work with media outlets and stakeholders in the region, and, as a result, the LGBTQ+ agenda is much more visible in Yekaterinburg, on the national, and sometimes international, level. It is considered among the most prominent and efficient LGBTQ+ organizations in Russia. Over the past two years, the center has found a lot of allies and partners among local NGOs, cultural organisations and businesses. Alla believes that a representation of Russian LGBTQ+ identities outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg are essential to form a more comprehensive and inclusive community. It is also Alla’s belief that the integration of the Resource Center into the surrounding community and cooperation with law enforcement is integral to its success.

Ezra Erikson is the digital director at RUSA LGBT, and he has also used his expertise in social media marketing to lead initiatives that advocate for LGBTQ+ rights both in Russia and across the globe. Notably, Ezra has contributed to the development of the Illuminator Project, an initiative designed to raise awareness of gender identity and sexual orientation among Russian-speaking parents. A target of state persecution, Ezra was arrested in June 2016 in Moscow, accused of “gay propaganda,” when he and his partner were paying tribute to the victims of the mass shooting at the Pulse club in Orlando. Ezra moved to the United States in 2017 after his coming out resulted in death threats from relatives.

Anastasiia Fedorova is a writer and curator based in London. She is a regular contributor to "Dazed," "i-D," "GARAGE," "Kaleidoscope Magazine," "032c," "SHOWstudio," and "The Guardian" among other titles. She works as a Strategy and Partnership Manager at "The Calvert Journal," a London-based publication for culture, innovation, photography, and travel in the New East. Anastasiia contributes to LGBTQ+ content curation at "The Calvert Journal," and has covered an impressive number of stories on queer culture in the New East, particularly in Russia. These stories include analysis of Russia’s LGBTQ+ underground movement, queer social media influencers and activists, Russian drag and trans legacies, as well as queer icons of cinema and Russian history. Anastasiia is also a founder of Russian Queer Revolution, a platform for LGBTQ+ creatives from Russia, which she started in 2020. Anastasiia has lived in London for the past nine years, and is a member of the Russian queer community.

Lyosha Gorshkov is a co-president at RUSA LGBT, an organization based in New York City, that operates as a support network for Russian-speaking LGBTQ+ individuals. RUSA LGBT provides informational support to asylum seekers, and organizes social events to increase acceptance of LGBTQ+ people within the Russian speaking public. Lyosha founded Brighton Beach Pride (the first ever Russian-speaking pride) in 2017 that aims at creating a dialogue with Russian diaspora community leaders who hold more conservative views. Lyosha has a background in academia as a former Political Science Professor at Perm State University in Russia. In 2014, as a result of his vocal advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights in Russia and his openly gay status, Lyosha received threats from security services and Neo-Nazi groups and was forced to seek asylum in the United States. In addition to his work at RUSA LGBT, Lyosha currently works as the assistant director of PRIDE and Women’s Centers at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania.

Registration is required for this Zoom webinar at https://myumi.ch/3qyqm.

If there is anything we can do to make this event accessible to you, please contact us at crees@umich.edu. Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.
Building: Off Campus Location
Location: Virtual
Website:
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Activism, Human Rights, International, Lgbtq+, Russia
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, International Institute, Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia

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