Blog by Julia Gaes
28th September 2015, Moscow
Last night I took the night train back to Moscow. I did not sleep well because the situation was to new for me and I was thinking about the last week. About the people that I’ve met and the stories I heard from them. When I came to Moscow with the plans for my project I was afraid that the people are not interested in telling there story’s or that the intention of my work doesn’t make sense for them. But after some meeting I had the feeling that the people want to share it. That it’s important to gave them a place for their voice. After the day with Dima he writes me a message: “You are such a nice personality and you gave me so much good vibes”. This gives me the feeling that it’s right what I’m doing.
I’m happy that I could meet all this nice and different personalities and I hope that the future will change the life conditions for LGBT people in Russia. That they can live the life that they want.
Thanks to Maria, Slava, Ivan, Katha, Dima, Konstantin, Anastasia, Anastasia, Natascha, Katharina and Alexandra.
And the people who helped me: Coming Out, Andrey, Ksenia, Xenia, Anastasia, Lena and Tim.
24th September 2015, Nischni Nowgorod
Today I meet Anastasia again and her friend Alexandra. She’s heterosexual and also lived a year in Germany. We meet in a Café because both haven’t got enough space at there apartment. In Russian cities the most people live with roomates to share the rent. We look the movie about the 2 guys and 2 girls holding hands and kissing in Russia on youtube. They tell me that the movie with the two guys really shocked them. “How can people really hit them on the streets?” They didn’t heard about that bad experience from gay friends from them. The video about the lesbian couple shows much more positive reactions from the people on the streets. It shows again that holding hands for girls is accepted and a normal thing. When they started to kiss each other in the video some people gave bad comments but also a lot of positive. We discuss about the video and we all have the same opinion that this video is not really representative because most people, also straight couples wouldn’t kiss like this for minutes on a public space. I think people would also staring at them when a boy and a girl would kiss like this in public. “It is not polite” Anastasia said. Natascha tells me she haven’t made bad experience in her surrounding. Specially younger people stared to get more tolerant. The older ones most just didn’t know about it, or maybe don’t want to know. “This discussion about the rights and acceptance of LGBT started a few years ago. Before nobody talked about this theme, but there were also not bad news about it.” “I think the government makes good news for LGBT with this rules. Children in there puberty sometimes use it as a kind of rebellion. They hear about the ban and started to think about homosexuality. I can’t understand how the government could believe that LGBT is a problem in the society. I don’t hurt or damage people with my sexuality. Sometimes I Think they only rise this law to hide other problems in russia. And there are a lot, the rubel falls every day. 5 years ago the propaganda law about homosexuality put in to force Why it stared in that year both didn’t know. They just hope there country gets more tolerant.
22th September 2015, Nischni Nowgorod
Today I take the train to Nischni Nowgorod. It takes 3 hours. The town is much smaller than Moscow, but sill one of the biggest cities in Russia. Before I got in the train, I need to show my ticket and passport first. In the train she asked a few people to show the ticket again, I’m one of them. She wears a nice costume and sales tea to the passengers. I’m sitting in front of a women and she asked me in German from which city I come. “Bielefeld” I said and she told me that she lived a year in Munich and studied German in Russia. During the ride we talk about the difference of the cities from Germany and Russia and about the news over the refuges in Germany. She seems to be very friendly and an open person. Before we arrive at Nischni she asked me what kind of photos I take in Russia. I tell here about my project and here eyes get wide open. “In Nischni Nowgorod?!”I don’t thik that this exist there”, she said and started to talk with here friends in Russian. They started to laugh. “I think you need to go to Moscow or St. Petersburgh for this. “ I tell here that I still found some people in Nischni. “I didn’t know that” she said. We get closer to the end station and we change the theme. I think about the conversation and starting to wonder how a person who lived some time in a tolerant country can still have this intolerant mind.
One hour later I meet Anastasia. Over a friend from my University I got her contact. She is around my age and lived one year in Essen and just got back from Germany to Russia. She asked here friends if they like to be part of my project. Also some heterosexual people hered about it and wanted to tell me about there experience with the acceptance of LGBT in Russia.
We meet here friend Natascha and another Anastasia in a café. Anastasia is bisexual and lived one year in the USA. “Call me Stace” She said. Natascha just got married here man in Austria and stays here till she got all the papers for moving to here husband. We talk in German, English and Russian. They tell me that they think it might be easier to live in Russia as a lesbian woman than as a gay man. “If two girls are holding hands people don’t see if they are a couple or just friends. For gays it’s more difficult, because straight men don’t behave like this on the streets.” “I can’t imagine how it mind be to live as a gay man in Russia” Anastasia said to me.
I ask them about there family. Stace tell me that here family is okay with here sexual orientation. “When I was a teenager they thought I will get over it. But I think they accepted it.” In the US I haven’t make a lot of experience with it, because I was with a boy all the time.
Anastasia isn’t as lucky as Stace. “My mother didn’t know” She said. “I’ve never really started to tell here that I love girls. But I started to talk with here over homosexuality and she said that this people are sick. It isn’t normal. “ I can feel that this makes her sad but that she doesn’t judge her mother for this. “Maybe she would accept it after some time, but right now I don’t have the need to try tis again.”
Natascha tell me that she thinks now is really the time that her country gets more tolerant. But in her surrounding she hasn’t make bad experiences. They are all very tolerant. “You can love who you want”.
Later that they I meet Katharina. She tells me her family didn’t know about her sexuality and wouldn’t accept it. But she seemed to be tough with her situation and I’m thinking of how her future might be.
21th September 2015, Moscow
Today I meet Katha again. Last time she wasn’t in the mood to take pictures. We meet at here place. Today nobody is at home. “So you can scream if you want” she said. She is confused like last time and feels uncomfortable while I take pictures from here. I tell here that she can be relaxaed and we are not in a hurry. “I’m never relaxed” she said “this is my normal being”. She asked me if she can smoke a cigarette first and we here some music.
17th September 2015, Moscow
Today I met Konstantin. He studies Science and he is a LGBT Activist here in Moscow. When I enter his room, this first thing I see are a lot of prizes. “Figure skating”,- he says and smiles. He tells me that he is a founder of an organization for gay sports in Russia. They do a lot kinds of sports and have representatives and members in every part of Russia. They also take part in competitions all over the world. “Everything started at a competition in Cologne”,- he tells me. And I feel surprised and kind of ashamed that I didn’t know anything about the Gay games. “They started in 1982 in the USA”,- he tells me, “and take place every 4 years”. His family accepts his homosexuality but is afraid of his future. Konstantin teaches students at the university. “When I loose my job, I will not find another school or university which will allow me to teach”,- he says. “they could see my pictures in the Internet”.
We talk about the gay propaganda law, and I ask weather they got problems with the government. He tells me that they haven’t got much problems because they got no members under 18 years old and so its okay. He shows me some pictures from there sports event. There are also straight girls taking part in there sports group. Its a sign that they make no difference between hetero and homosexual people.
16th September 2015, Moscow
Today I visit Dima. He is 19 years old and moved from a little village in Russia to Moscow. He read about my Project on “Coming out” and wanted to take part in it. He started to study Philosophy but broke up this year and is now thinking of what he wanted to do in the future.
His apartment is very small and he is sharing his room with a friend of him. We are drinking some tee and talking about our favorite series in TV. I realize that we have such a common taste of movies and music.
He tells me that the life in a bigger city like Moscow is now a bit easier than in his home village. He found some friends at University who are very open minded as well. What he doesn’t especially like is the long way from one point to another in the city. I said that I’m getting tired of it too.
15th September 2015, Moscow
Today I meet Ivan and Katha. They are both studied at University of Art and Design and work with Graphic Design. Katha lived 5 years in London. Ivan visited Berlin few times and is drawing illustrates for a german gay magazine.
We meet at Kathas place because Ivan is living outside the city in a little village. “Living there as a gay boy isn’t easy”,- he tells me. He often heard bad comments from people on the streets like: “go fuck yourself, you fucking gay!”. It shocked me how people can say this straight to him. They tell me that Moscow and St. Petersburg are places where it might be a bit easier and safer as a LGBT person in Russia. Because of more space and more anonymity.
“We have to be quiet because Kathas sister wanted to sleep in the room behind us”, -says Katha. When I started the interview about their live in Russia, Katha asked me weather we can go to the staircase. Outside she tells me that her family doesn’t know that she is gay. She seems to be confused and in a bad mood. Ivan tells me that her parents think they having a kind of a relationship. I can understand her behavior and I try to imagine how it might be moving from a tolerant city like London back to the life in Moscow.
14th September 2015, Moscow
Two days ago I arrived at Moscow. It feels like everything is bigger and louder than in Germany: houses, streets, metro. Today I meet the first people for my photography Project. I was trying to meet LGBT people in Russia to talk with. “Why?”,-they asked me. “Well”,- I said. People in Germany think, it´s impossible to live in a country like Russia as LGBT. I want to find out how the gay propaganda law is perceived through the daily life.
Over friends, who have connections in Russia, I found some LGBT people, who are willing to share with me their stories about the life in Russia. Also the Organisation “Coming Out” from St.Petersburg supported me by posting my request on their website.
Maria and Slava, who picked me up today, have found me on this website. They have been already thinking of taking part in a project like mines before, but they where afraid of getting homophobic reactions. I was really happy when they trusted me to photograph them. Maria and Slava live together in a little apartment. We were drinking coffee together and started chatting about different things. After some time we crossed the topic of getting children. Both girls would like to have a family in the future. They told me that it is allowed to adopt children as a single woman. But a lesbian couple can’t really live together with a child in Russia. There is a danger that an adoption agency and the government will find everything out and take children away. I was asking them weather it’s not better to move somewhere else. “Of course”,-they say. ” We’ve been discussing it many times. Maria is currently at a nurse school, in 5 years she will graduate. But I work with the Russian books and can´t speak other languages. I’m afraid if I go abroad i need to work as a cleaning lady”,-says Slava. She feels ashamed of her bad English. I don’t feel that it´s that bad.
“In public we are holding hands, and sometimes we kiss each other. But I’ve got always in my mind, that it is forbidden. We feel never safe, only in our own world – in this apartment”.
I feel sad when I hear that. I ask them about the consequences of showing their relation on public. The couple tells me that you probably you first get a small penalty but afterwards police will start checking more often. In fact the problem is that there is a very unclear law which forbids the homosexual propaganda. But nobody knows what propaganda actually is.
“We are not allowed to tell to a child, that being homosexual is something good”,- Slava said.
This rule was announced 5 years ago. Since that time a lot of people stopped accept homosexuals. Marias family and friends have accepted her sexual orientation. But at her work people only say “aha”, when she tells them, that she is living with a woman. Slava has worse experience. She can hear that people talk bad about her on the street. Her mother just freaked out when she told her that she is a lesbian.
“People only see my sexual orientation, not my personality”