St. Petersburg celebrates International day against homophobia and transphobia
Today, May 17, 2016, rainbow balloons were released into the air above St. Isaac’s Cathedral to celebrate the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia in St. Petersburg, Russia.
For the eighth year, “Coming Out” LGBT group organizes celebration of IDAHOT, and throughout these years, the situation with freedom of assembly and expression for LGBT people in St. Petersburg changed from dire, to improved, to bad again.
In 2014 and 2015, the IDAHOT rally took place under full police protection, with the number of participants growing from 20 in 2009 to 350 in 2015, making it the biggest LGBT rally in Russia. May 1 demonstration of recent years looked like a pride parade down the central Nevsky prospect, with the “Rainbow column” numbering hundreds of activists and allies.
This year, the situation sharply deteriorated. During May Day March, exclusively activists with rainbow insignia were detained for “drawing attention to... human rights for gender minorities with homosexual orientation…”, and for the first time, “Coming Out”’s petition to organize the rally on Marsovo Field (the “hyde park” of St. Petersburg) was denied. Among the reasons for denial, the “propaganda of homosexuality” law was cited.
Today, over 40 activists from different groups and organizations – “Coming Out”, Side by Side LGBT film festival, Russian LGBT Network, Alliance of Straights and LGBT for Equality, Positive Dialogue, feminist and trans* activists, and many others – came out to launch the traditional rainbow balloons in front of St. Isaac’sCathedral and the City General Assembly, where the infamous “propaganda law” was adopted.
This action was not officially authorized, nor openly announced, but it allowed us to show the LGBT communities that we are not silenced, as bystanders joined our action and the media picked up our rainbow colors. The International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia remains one of the most important days to tell our society that we exist, and despite the changing situation, LGBT communities of Russia will always find ways to be heard.