Here are two personal testimonies from gay Ukrainian men who know well the ardors of living gay in Ukraine. The first is from a well know TV entertainer and singer who quit the scene rather than be humiliated. The second is by an angry man who has felt confined and limited by his society in exercising his rights and freedom. Both reports are translations from Ukrainian or Russian so the English is awkward.
(1) Interview: Kostya Gnatenko and the Sin of Sodomy and Other Things
By Alex Varnickiy
May 27, 2011
From: Gay Ukraine International
Kostya Gnatenko (photo right) is a symbol for gay people, homosexuals, transvestites in Ukraine. His songs are performed by Iryna Bilyk, Danilko, Natalia Mogilev. He is the author of numerous poems, short stories and fairy tales as well as a showman, and, until recently, a leading television personality. However, he has paid a big price for coming out: his TV show was cancelled and many have turned against him; he has gone from idol to outcast.
Q: Kostya, on the occasion of International Day Against Homophobia, May 21, hosted the world’s “Rainbow flashmob”. You have joined?
A: I’m afraid of crowds, uncomfortable feeling. In addition, the flash mob against homophobia could cause a backlash. I was thinking to make flash mob “Children of dawn” in Andybar. Completely different in its orientation people will dance all night and then come out to meet the dawn on Khreshchatyk. Will take up his hands and raise them to the sun. And it would be cool.
Q: The world is struggling with homophobia and like Ukraine, uptight?
A: Everywhere we can not present ourselves. I recently participated in the program, Dmitry Nagiyev “All his.” Was the topic of adoption of children by same-sex couples. And I said in the capital, according to surveys, more than 70% of people consider gay and sick perverts. What kind of tolerance and tolerance can we say? Racism, fascism, anti-Semitism – terrible things, but it is inherent in the Ukrainian society. On the streets of the capital many offend blacks and even kill them. We have many such examples. It’s very scary.
A: I have broken off from the TV. There have been many proposals castings. But either of these projects do not run, or take other broadcasters. And then we with my friend Nastya Rybczynski decided that viewers need positive programs, where you will not only entertain, but also teach something. It seemed to us that you need to remind people of something honest and intelligent. That was our big mistake. We realized that nobody wants that. On TV there was no change in the present, artificial, false programs. Perhaps this was not our time.
Q: Do not you think to make a video project on the Internet?
A: I have an idea to make Andybar TV. Comes to us many wonderful people. They can do a little interview. These interviews are not just about clubbing, but also about the attitude of young people for life in general, to any event, phenomenon. This can be very interesting.
Q: That is, you go online?
A: People actually began to watch less TV. It is remarkable that there were social networks. That intelligent people can find each other. But at the same time, the Internet and got out a lot chernukha and porn. My country for twenty years. During this time, a generation that grew up on the GOP culture. When you read their comments on the Internet, you can see how they are cynical and superficial. I am a man of education and the other another worldview.
Q: What about one of your new songs, “I vzhe wrong,” you really have not changed?
A: This is not an autobiographical song. Do not think that what we sing, we write about myself. In April, the Crimea had a wedding of gay men. They topped the American church. For you, it is important to formalize relations with someone you love? If people on this are fine, if they are to feel confident of this, please. But, for me marriage on paper – just paper, but it means nothing.
Q: They say that in a glamorous coterie now fashionable bisexuality. Really, really, is the fashion for a particular sexual orientation?
A: I feel sorry for these people. They will live their misspent youth, and stupid. The world quietly going mad, because people are less ways to self-realization. Young people completing higher education and can not be used currently. The easiest – way out in some sexual perversions. We wish the young people that it does not dramatically threw in the “fashionable” – “is not fashionable.” Once upon a time is unfashionable to be fashionable. It is fashionable to be stylish.
Q: But in show business long ago replaced the stylish mannerisms …
A: Many people say that I am very mannered person. But my peculiar appearance but this is only the outer shell. In fact, I’m a different person. Quite hard, straight and sharp. I can honestly say that this is good. Of course, it is difficult. But at a meeting I can only hug and kiss people who are dear to me. Recently I met Natasha Mogilev, I was insanely nice to see her, of course. I kissed her and hugged. I know Natasha for many years. Mogilev very strong core. Very few artists have the level of the rod. A woman should be sweet, but be sure to pepper. Perhaps it has more pepper than sweet. But it takes its place and is different from the others.
Q: Your songs are performed by many Ukrainian singers, including Mogilev. For any of the artists you’re writing now?
A: The recently released single, «Lady Man» a transvestite diva Isadora Volcano. One of the songs «Lady Man» I will do myself, and probably will do for her clip. Most likely, it will be a provocative clip, forcing people to think about tolerance. If it does not interfere with your breathing, it has the right to be. And from the big show business, I left. And this is not to actually give concerts. Occasionally, some events and leading advocate in the gay clubs. These clubs bring the needy people. They need support, and I agree to go there for minimal fees.
Q: June 11 in Warsaw Gay Pride Parade. Are you going?
A: I think it will be a show not for the faint of heart. Poland is a country zealously Catholic. And the gay pride parade in Warsaw is a very risky venture. It’s like doing a gay parade in Kiev. I think about it. But I think it will not hold much beauty. We must spare myself (laughs).
Q: I have often noticed that gay men are not particularly fond of …
A: Gays do not like hidden homosexuals. Often we need to remember Freud’s grandfather shouting “stop thief” and they were thieves themselves. I would like the other men to behave more calmly because people suspect they may be enlightened …
Q: You said you believe in God …
A: This is a very delicate subject. With the clergy I have a problem serious enough. You know, when the show’s birthday cleric of high rank, which is celebrated in an expensive inn, where singing Mihaylov, and “good people” make him the hero of the day and give a Mercedes costing a hundred thousand, to me, as a layman, it becomes something unacceptable… I would have probably said a lot. Although the relationship with God, I certainly trust, but I do not believe that God can not put a claim. If you have created, then do something. It certainly sends signs, the signs are very cruel …
Q: And how about keeping the commandments?
A: Many people love to talk about the sin of sodomy, but they forget that the commandments of ten. I would like to appeal to all with the question – you keep the ten commandments? Why did you just jumped on for this sin? And the Ten Commandments were written for someone? For my cat Basia, or my dog Moti?
Q: When was the last time was a turning point in your life, after which you have changed the perception of reality?
A: I was long and seriously ill. The disease was a turning point. She spread her and changed a lot of accents. Perhaps the tests are given no chance. Maybe God sent me this test to me spiritually cleansed. I’ve gone through an internal catharsis. There has been some kind of enlightenment. It was a lot of chaff, which I took for grain. They dropped out, and become more healthy nuclei.
(2) Ukrainian Gay Life Nowadays–Not Like Western Europe
Discussing the Life of Gays in our Country
You should realize that it doesn’t look any similar to the gay life style in Western European countries. The way of life for people follows originally from the Soviet time and the traditions are changing very slowly. The majority of Ukrainians still have Communist brains and do not wish to accept any innovations. The Ukrainian society still is extremely conservative and homophobic. So don’t build any illusions about ten years of Ukrainian independence and proclaimed intentions of Ukraine to join the European Union.
Describing the Ukrainian gay issues we should emphasize that the Coming Out still is impossible and absolutely unrealistic here, homosexuality still is considered as shameful and undesirable attitude, so majority of Ukrainian gay men tries to withhold this aspect of their lives. Actually, it is traditional for all Ukrainians to keep their private life in secret. Since Soviet time our people associate private life with sexuality and feel big shame just thinking that their privacy could be exposed.
In this sense the straight Ukrainian men have also many limits in their life. Such traditional society as Ukrainian one prohibits any tolerance of human sexuality. For instance Ukraine has the dragon’s anti-pornographic law in domestic Penal Code. According it any person could be imprisoned for 10 (ten) years for spreading of pornographic materials. And in this country keeping the copy of Playgirl magazine could easily mean “spreading of pornography” already. Any kind of sexual services (including escort) are illegal and you should know it before you arrive Ukraine. Making love with more than one partner at the same time could also lead you to jail according Ukrainian Penal Code. That’s why even the straight Ukrainians having positive attitude of society in general must act very cautious with their sexuality.
Public Gay: TV Star Konstantin Hnatenko
But gay men and Lesbian women feel they have to take additional measures for disguising their true sexual identities and preferences – in order not bring out in the open personality aspects that a usual person would never think of concealing in the first place. Living openly gay could bring the person to serious troubles anytime. The only openly gay men you could see in the streets of big Ukrainian cities are very feminine and look mostly like transgenders: the reason is they have nothing to lose, because even if they try to keep their homosexuality undercover, it will be obvious anyway by the way they act.
Perhaps it could be found in Ukrainian artistic circles only – among fashion designers, top-models, pop-stars, etc. that some of gay people can afford to come out: the only famous gay person in Ukraine is the former TV-star Konstantin Hnatenko (photo left) also well-known as poet and singer. Though, understandably, rumors and even quite trustworthy information about the homosexual orientation of several domestic stars circulate aplenty – still not a single politician nor businessman has so far dared to come out.
Very special situation with gay issues has been performed by Ukrainian television. The American movies with gay incidental characters are often to watch on private TV channels like 1+1, InterChanel, ICTV, etc. Since these movies are made in the USA, Ukrainians are willy-nilly presented with heroes, attitudes and situations that are alien to them. On the one hand, viewers of such films get used to the fact that a gay man or a Lesbian may be depicted as an ordinary, undistinguished actor on the screen. On the other hand, an unusual abundance of such on-screen characters leads a spectator to believe that this phenomenon is foreign and could not exist here, in our country.
Cruising Areas Called “Pleshka”
Like everywhere in the world gay men prefer to search for sexual partners in special cruising areas that were traditionally gay-meeting points even in Soviet period of Ukrainian history. Such places are usually located in and near the public toilets in parks or at railway stations. The gay meeting points are traditionally called “pleshka” (translated from Russian: small bald patch) in this country and they are main gay-scene objects here.
Regardless of contradictory views of such places in the gay environment, pleshkas are marked by lots of intense activity. Here you can meet people who are into socializing and seeking fast sex. Visitors of pleshkas represent all strata of the population, however, only a minority of gay population (about 2-3 per cents) attends pleshkas at all.
Among other places the gay men use for socializing and fast sex should be mentioned irregular gay discotheque. in big cities, private parties, some public bath houses and similar facilities – from the outset of the summer season, illegal nudist beaches in Kiev, Kharkov, Odessa, and Simeis (Crimea) attract “elderly” visitors. The majority of Ukrainian newspapers avoid publishing any gay personals.
Relatively visible gay activity can be noticed in big Ukrainian cities only. The incontestable gay ‘capital’ of Ukraine is the city of Kharkov with two gay discotheque. and well-developed gay infrastructure. The Western part of the country is under the strong influence of Catholic church and is definitely less gay-friendly. And you should not forget about the fact that gay men living in the countryside (small towns, villages) can have sex usually with accidental straight partners. That’s why rural guys do their best to move to the cities like Kharkov or Kiev, where they can meet like-minded persons at least. For them any other possibility of having an life worthy of a human being doesn’t exist.
Summing up the facts mentioned above we should make several conclusions about the gay life in the Ukraine nowadays:
-gay people have to stay in underground facing homophobia occurring everywhere;
-the developed visible gay-scene in Ukraine doesn’t exist;
-there are neither acknowledged gay leaders nor working gay organizations in Ukraine;
-declared gay groups do not reflect real situation with gay issues in this country,
-moreover 99.9 per cent of Ukrainian gay people do not even suspect gay existence
-contacting Ukrainian gay men is better in rural area in every respect;
-openly gay behavior can still be dangerous and cause serious trouble.