There are many fronts in the universal struggle for gay rights and LGBT equality. Some of these fronts are violent, some are passive, some are out and proud and colorful while others are underground. All of them involve courage, stealth, strategic planning, public relations, political lobbying and greater or lesser amounts of money. In 2012 Ukraine the efforts for “Gay Life in Ukraine” are no less strained and courageous. Yet, despite Orthodox Catholic opposition, homophobic skinheads, political bigotry and a conservative society, the ‘International Forum of LGBT–Festival Kiev Pride2012’ (one of 19 LGBT groups that form the larger ‘Council of LGBT Organizations of Ukraine’)–tried to stage a Pride Parade and Festival in May 2012. It was cancelled by the authorities who feared violence. In was to be a test whether Ukraine was ready or not for the European Community with its tolerant human rights standards. It was not.
For LGBT citizens in the southern peninsula of Crimea everything changed in 2014 when Russia forced its way into the area and then imposed a referendum that was approved by most people (ethnic Russians) to become a province of Russia. This meant that the existing laws of Russia came into force including the highly discriminatory anti-gay propaganda law which forbids any public advocacy or portrayal of LGBT life or rights. The quiet tolerance of gay citizens became an intolerance and many gay Crimeans moved away to the Ukrainian mainland where they could at least breathe more freely without police intervention in their lives. A recent report in Time magazine described how the last gay venue–Qbar in Sebastopol–closed and the owners, a gay male couple and their son, moved to Kiev.
Compiled by Richard Ammon
Updated October 2014
Gay Pride Ukraine 2012 (KiivPrayd2012 )
(Translated from Russian) Ukrainian Gay Pride 2012 was to be a response to ‘homophobic hysteria’. “The idea of Gay Pride meets the traditions of the Ukrainian people, which is characterized by traits such as freedom, the desire to get rid of social injustice as well as the ability to demonstrate the strength of our character in the streets.”
The event was scheduled for 16-19 May 2012 but was cancelled by the authorities at the last minute. The following story was written before that date.
“Freedom is a treasure possessed by citizens of democratic countries. It lies in the opportunities for the full implementation of the individual guarantees of human dignity, respect for private and family life.” said the chairman of the organizing committee KiivPrayd2012, Taras Karasiychuk. “Our main goal is to bring together our notions of freedom and universality of human rights for all people without exception. We hold pride to once again stress that the LGBT should have the same rights and freedoms as the rest of the Ukrainians. “
“I can not easily understand the artificial injection of homophobic hysteria in Ukraine. Gays are people, not aliens, and homosexuality. It is primarily about love, not sex. Thus, one purpose of pride is to dispel the myths and legends of Pride, which Ukraine has not known because we have never been seen here. Representatives of the gay and lesbian community are very human person who prefer to demonstrate. ”
As previously reported, the chairman of the Kyiv City Administration expressed his willingness to agree to the Gay Pride: “We live in a democratic state. If we respect the livelihoods of the capital, then we will have no reason to prohibit such actions. ”
Three Ukrainian Gay Groups Form Union
(From Pink News UK: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2008/06/20/ukrainian-gay-groups-form-union/)
by Tony Grew, 20 June 2008
Three leading gay and lesbian organisations in the Ukraine have formed the Union of Gay Organisations of Ukraine (UGOU).
The groups hope to unite activists in three main areas: advocating rights and freedoms of gay people, mobilising the gay community and improving the effectiveness of HIV-infection prevention among homosexuals.
The Gay Alliance, Gay Alliance Cerkasy, and Nash Mir Gay & Lesbian Centre will now provide an even wider range of information, advocacy, social, and health protection services.
The Union also plans to support to young gay organisations and educate gay activists. UGOU is not a new legal entity but is founded on the basis of mutual agreement to cooperate. This will focus funds on programme activities and minimise administrative expenses. The Union will be open to other officially registered LGBT organisations.
MPs from the governing party have spoken out about “propaganda and expansion of homosexuality in the country form a threat to national security, contradict national interests and undermine the authority of rights and freedoms of human being and family.”
The Ukranian parliament’s Committee on the Issues of Freedom of Speech has attacked the “increasing propaganda” about gay and lesbian issues. “Such a situation obliges organs of state power to adopt determined and urgent steps for stopping popularisation of homosexualism, lesbianism, other sexual perversions, which do not correspond to moral principles of the society,” the committee reported.
Since 1991 Ukraine, formerly part of the Soviet Union, has had an equal age of consent and homosexuality was decriminalised at that time. However, there are no specific protections for LGBT minorities, and the country is generally dominated by the Orthodox church and is deeply socially conservative. Only 15% of the population are supportive of the existence of gay couples.
LGBT History, Up and Down
Since 1991, the Ukrainian LGBT community has become more visible in the urban cities and there are LGBT nightclubs, publications and human rights organizations. However, most other Ukrainian citizens affiliate with one of the Christian sects that view homosexuality and cross-dressing as signs of immorality. As a result, there is little social support for LGBT people to be honest about their sexual or gender identity and a fairly high degree of verbal and physical harassment exists. Although Ukraine has had an openly gay Minister of Internal Affairs in Serhiy Holovaty, coming out for public figures has been rare. This may be partly explained as a remnant of Ukraine’s Soviet era in which relations other than heterosexual relations were labeled as abnormal.
On 12 December 1991 Ukraine became the first post-Soviet country recognized by the UN to decriminalize homosexuality. Adult sex-change operations have been legal since 1996. Beyond that, the political establishment tends to ignore LGBT issues or uses the public prejudices to generate political support.
Yet, there are some signs of change. There is an energetic LGBT scene in places such as Kiev and Odessa since 2007. While they have been subject to protesters calling for government censorship, LGBT-themed television shows and films are becoming more commonplace.
In a 2007 country-wide survey by the Institute of Sociology, 16.7% disagreed strongly and 17.6% disagreed with the following statement: Gay men and lesbians should be free to live their own life as they wish. 30.2% agreed strongly and agreed with the statement. That was the lowest rating of agreed strongly and agreed with the statement of 24 countries investigated.
In a December 2007 survey by Angus Reid Global Monitor, 81.3% of Ukrainians polled said that homosexual relations were “never acceptable”, 13% answered “sometimes acceptable” and 5.7% “acceptable”. Of all the behaviors listed, homosexuality was viewed as the third worst after shoplifting and drunk driving. Notably, more people view this as less acceptable than adultery (61.5% never, 29.3% sometimes), traffic rule violation (70.2% never, 25.6% sometimes), pollution (73.3% never, 22.4% sometimes), tax evasion (48.5% never, 37.5% sometimes), deception for the sake of profit (48.3% never, 41.6% sometimes), as well as a list of other things including abortion, premarital sex, complaining to authorities about a friend who has stolen something, etc.
In another Angus Reid Global Monitor survey, this one in June 2007, on a long list of possible social reforms in the country, gay marriage only received 4.7% of the vote, the lowest by far (the next lowest being light drugs, at 7.1%). This is the lowest percentage of any country in a recent poll asking about support for same-sex marriage (understanding, however, that in general, more conservative countries won’t even have the issue on the political spectrum and thus are less likely to be polled on the issue).
Political parties and groups
None of the major or minor political parties have formally come out in favor of LGBT rights. Most of what has been said by politicians in regards to LGBT rights has been overtly prejudicial and hostile.
In 1998, the first of several LGBT rights groups was created. Our World is a LGBT community center and human rights advocacy organization. In 2008, Ukrainian LGBT rights organizations came together to create a coalition, Union of Gay Organizations of Ukraine. While these groups have been allowed to exist, they have faced public harassment and government bans when they have attempted to express their views publicly.
In 1999, the former president of Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk, stated that there are more important issues than LGBT rights to discuss in parliament and that homosexuality is caused by a mental illness or the corrupting influence of foreign films.
In September 2003, the first, albeit small, public pride parade was held in Kiev.
In 2006 various government agencies sent formal replies to a LGBT rights group petition on behalf of LGBT rights that acknowledged the human rights requirements for membership in the European Union, but otherwise expressed opposition to same-sex marriages.
In 2007, the leader of the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights called gay men “perverts” who must be stopped. Other MP’s have attempted to restrict the freedom of expression by labeling LGBT-themed publications as pornographic propaganda.
In May 2008 Ukrainian LGBT groups were prevented from marking the International Day Against Homophobia after a last-minute intervention by authorities who told organizers that due to the likelihood of friction the program of events would have to be cancelled. Roman Catholics, Christians of Evangelist belief, Seventh Day Adventists, Eparchy of Christianity (Chaldean), Baptists and the Union of Independent Orthodox churches have asked local authorities to forbid any action by representatives of sexual minorities.
Nevertheless, in 2012 there is permission to hold the Pride Parade and Festival as described above. Over time and with pressure from human rights advocates, including the United Nations Secretary General, societies groan and shift and change attitudes, as they have for thousands of years of human development. The slow move toward increased humanism is shaky but sure.
Recognition of same-sex relationships
The Ukraine constitution specifically defines marriage as a voluntary union between a man and a woman. The court has not ruled on whether or not this also bans legal recognition of civil unions.
Single persons who are citizens of Ukraine regardless of sexual orientation are allowed to adopt, but same-sex couples are explicitly banned from adoption. Additionally, the adopter must be at least 15 years older than the adopted child, or 18 years older if adopting an adult. The law also mentions that persons “whose interests conflict with the interests of the child” may not be adopters, but whether this provision has ever been applied against gay adopters is unknown.
Additional restrictions are placed on foreign adopters. Only couples married in a registered different-sex marriage are allowed to adopt children from Ukraine.
Discrimination and harassment protections
In Ukraine, there are no anti-discrimination laws covering sexual orientation or gender identity and the constitution bans legal recognition of same-sex marriages.
There is a national hate crimes law that could be interpreted as including sexual orientation and gender identity, but that has not been decided by the courts.
More recently, anti-gay interest groups and politicians have sought to ban or classify any television program or film with LGBT content as being pornographic and thus in violating of public morality laws unless it is publicly exhibited during a narrow time frame. A similar move was made against a LGBT web page. One of the major anti-gay interest groups in the nation is the Love Against Homosexuality, which has the public support of celebrities and members of parliament who believe that LGBT people are “sexual perverts”.
If Ukraine becomes a member of the European Union it will have to protect LGBT citizens from some forms of discrimination and harassment.Clearly there is work to be done by the government and civil leaders.
According to the Constitution, health care is the right of every citizen of Ukraine. One of the major health crises in the nation has been the high number of people infected with AIDS–HIV. While much of the prevention effort has been directed at drug addicts and prostitution, recent efforts have been made to develop special programs for the LGBT community.
Personal Gay Life in Ukraine
Two personal reports about being gay in the country.
Reflections on Gay Life in Ukraine
From: ReoCities.com http://www.reocities.com/westhollywood/4719/reviews.html
First published in the Kiev English language magazine ‘What’s On’; not dated, possibly early 2000’s. By Tim Barrett
What is it like to be a gay man from abroad living in Ukraine? We frequently see articles in the local and international press on the “national treasure” that is the superlative beauty of Ukrainian women. While true, they tell only half of the story. Ukrainian men deserve the same type of recognition.
Like many other paradoxes in Ukrainian life, being gay, both for foreigners and for Ukrainians themselves, is the proverbial “open secret”: widely known and tacitly acknowledged, but rarely discussed. In a society still obsessed with snooping and with collecting and disseminating personal information (whether or not it is ever put to use), it is nearly impossible for anyone to carry on a totally clandestine gay life. Sooner or later, whatever you are doing, wherever you are going, and whomever you are dating will become known to your Ukrainian friends, neighbours and work colleagues (not to mention the omniscient security services).
You will be judged by your performance, your character, and your sensitivity to the local culture, not by your sexual orientation. Indeed, an openly gay expat who is capable, dedicated, respectful and straightforward in dealing with his Ukrainian counterparts will thrive and even prosper here (as many have), outlasting any straight cowboy whose modus operandi is bullying and belittling Ukrainians at work and then sweet-talking them at happy hour.
How difficult it is to tell who is gay and who is not among Ukrainians. In other words, ‘gaydar’, simply does not work here. Signals are jammed by several forces, resulting in both ‘false positives’ (assuming someone is gay when he is not) and ‘false negatives’ (assuming someone is not gay when he is). The ‘false positives’ generally arise from the affection, also common in Mediterranean countries and in the Arab world, that young Ukrainian men show for each other.
It is not unusual to see two Ukrainian guys sitting very close to one another on an uncrowded park bench, talking softly and intimately. They will sleep in the same bed without hesitation or embarrassment if quarters are cramped, and they will often talk for hours on the telephone like mischievous schoolgirls. None of this behaviour necessarily implies homo-erotic attachment. Other false signals are noted among the Ukrainian “glitterati”: the leather pants, the gold jewellery, and the stylish purses carried by successful “biznesmeni” are more likely to indicate a propensity for macho behaviour than for man-to-man tenderness.
“He can’t be gay! He’s married with kids.” These are the “false negatives.” The oft-voiced protests, “He talks about women all the time and has a girlfriend,” which are sometimes wrong in the West, are even more often wrong in Ukraine. A great many married men have same-sex encounters on a regular basis, usually without but sometimes with the knowledge (and even approval) of their wives. Some, and by no means all, of these gay married men were likely forced into marriage or took the vows in order to ‘pass’ as heterosexual. Indeed, even today, a great many young gay Ukrainians do plan eventually to marry women and have children without giving up their homoerotic adventures.
Most of these men have no intention of telling their brides-to-be of their orientation. When I asked a young gay friend of mine why he wanted to get married, he responded, “to have someone to take care of me and be a good father to my children.” When asked if he planned to tell his future wife that he was gay and planned to continue having same-sex experiences, he answered, “Why should I tell her? It’s none of her business, as long as I bring home the money.”
Outside Kyiv, the gay scene is rather hard to find. In Kharkiv, Odessa and Simeiz (a resort town west of Yalta that overflows in August and early September with gay men from all over the CIS and Baltics), there are cafes said to be frequented by gays but will not be immediately obvious to any foreigner… Read the full version of this report.
A Straight (?) Man’s Version About Being Gay in Kyiv
By Ksenia Karpenko
I love men. And I love it even more when they love me. This is one, and maybe the only, thing I have in common with the men central to this feature. My first introduction into the world of homosexuality just happened to be this past New Year. A friend of mine with whom I’d been doing a little flirting in the weeks leading up to the blessed event, invited me to join him in a club where we would ring in the new year together.
When we stepped inside, I found myself somewhat overwhelmed with an inordinate amount of hot studs (which in Ukraine, is saying a lot) and felt immediately sorry that I indeed had company. My disappointment dissipated soon after however when I noticed that many of these Prince Charmings were already doing some flirting and kissing. That however wasn’t the thing that raised my eyebrows. What did was that all of the kissing and flirting being done with each other. I had been taken on a date to a gay club.
Once I realised it, I was actually okay with it and being in the company of such well-dressed, well-shaped men wasn’t so bad, and as silly as this sounds, I started thinking that maybe I ought to get a little bit deeper with this whole issue.
While the former Soviet Union used to love allotting stupid assertions to things that the State didn’t agree with, like the embarrassing philosophy about homosexuality being correlated with some sort of infection. Today, Ukraine has gay clubs, gay shops (or A shop to be more precise) as well as various gay forums and websites. And all of that taken into account, it’s still kind of difficult to consider that gay marriages might happen or that someday we may even have a gay president.
Are straight people really ready to accept into their lives those who are gay? Anatoliy says, “I don’t think ours is ready for the gay culture just yet, but we are capable of a subculture and I think people are okay with that. That said, I wouldn’t like the latter to turn into some ghetto or turf where only those who are in the circle are allowed to enter. I want it to infuse the Ukrainian culture a little bit, regardless of whether people like it or not.”
I also got in touch with drag diva Monroe who is a Kyiv party animal and incidentally, quite often appears in our magazine. She too agreed that “modern Ukraine is not ready for the promotion of gay culture. Its people are too preoccupied with either struggling to survive or to nab that coveted seat an office, and even more don’t know or can’t determine how or what to think. The older generations were told constantly that being a homosexual was dirty and was something you just don’t talk about. So, something akin to entering the EU, we have yet only to dream about the legalisation of homosexual marriages happening here.”
As for the latter topic, Anatoliy Yerema considers that homosexual marriages are absolutely essential for gay men and women, “because Ukrainians, more than most, love being ‘at home’ and those with the power to make such decisions have no right to deny to others that feeling of being ‘at home’ simply because they do not agree with what two people do behind closed doors!”
My Gay Experience
Returning to my big night out in the club, I asked my date if he himself had ever considered having sex with another man. “Yes,” was the answer, “but only when I get drunk and pucker up.”
Scientists assert that sexual orientation is indeed formed in the womb and those people taxed with what can be a social burden tend to hide the fact. ‘Coming out’ can be extremely troubling for an individual, not made any easier because of the controversy and myths surrounding the topic, such as the ideas that ‘homosexuality is an infection’, ‘gays have sex with everybody’, or ‘homosexuals are perverted’.
It can be said, however, that people who find the same sex attractive also proliferate their own myths like how many consider themselves to be truly ‘blue-blooded queers’, as well as a staggering number of younger men (like my friend) who think that some ‘work on the side’ translates into having an older, richer boyfriend.
Because the world is changing – a world that Ukraine is most definitely a part of – more and more people are taking these issues at face value. That said, there is still an unwarranted amount of people who remain homophobic and are prejudiced against such people for the simple fact that they exist. The murder of Andriy Kandyba, a self-proclaimed lover of men has been one such incident. Hanging out in ‘Androgin’, one of Kyiv’s better known gay clubs, he met someone much bigger and tougher and was found dead the next morning.
Monroe claims to have known him and says “one night stands are very popular, especially with people like Andriy, who was visibly gay and very proud of the fact. He met someone at the entrance, he accepted a proposition to go home with him and he was killed in the name of nothing else but hate. And this isn’t the first. These types of killings are frequent. This one just happened to go public because his name had been linked to me.”
What needs to happen is the acclimatisation of this not-so-new society and the cessation of condemning those who just happen to be into something a little different than the rest of us. Homosexuality is not some sort of aberration and the sooner the government, as well as the film-making sector in a lot of countries gets that into their heads, the better. (Read the full version of this story.)
Ukrainian Church Welcomes LGBT People
Ukrainian Church Supports Gays
Press Service of Gay Forum – 08/01/2012
“We are ready to take unhindered into our community of gay, bisexual and transgender people, following the precepts of Christ, as well as any person who seeks the truth. God loves all his children.” This statement was made by Bishop Vladimir Pereyaslavl and Boguslavsky (Wilde) on the occasion of Christmas.
“Following the teachings of the Savior is the predominant condition of human presence in the bosom of the Church of Christ,” said Bishop Vladimir to the participants of the liturgical assembly held in Kiev in January 7, 2011 for Christmas. (From the press service of Ukrainian LGBT organization “Gay Forum Ukraine. “)
More Ukrainian Information
-Ukraine Gay Information Center: http://inoy.com.ua/
-All-Ukranian Union Council of LGBT Organizations:
“we’re talking about what others are silent about”
-LGBT Ukraine Forum: http://www.lgbtua.com/ (logo below right)
-Gay Organizations Ukraine: http://gay.org.ua/index.php
-Insight Ukraine: http://www.insight-ukraine.org.ua/
-Gay Ukraine magazine: ‘We Are One’ http://gayua.com/main.html
-Ukrainian gay organization: Nash Mir (One of Us) http://gayua.com/main.html
-The Transgender Situation in Ukraine–Survey: http://insight-ukraine.org.ua/media/TRP_report.pdf
Gay/Lesbian Hangouts Kiev
Androgin (Harmatna 26/2), 496-1983
Kiber (21 Prorizna), 278-0548
M-Club (10 Artema), 272-1581
Pomada (6 Zankovetska), 279-5552
Indigo (9-11 Dmytrivska), 8097-910-2848