One of Russia’s largest LGBTQ celebrations, QueerFest, launches today in St Petersburg.
The event, a 5-day celebration of the Queer community, is now in its 6th year despite growing opposition towards Russia’s LGBTQ community.
QueerFest organizers hope the event will promote tolerance and acceptance of Russia’s LGBTQ community by celebrating their shared culture in a way that is inclusive of all people.
Since Putin’s return to the role of President in 2012 Russia’s LGBTQ community have been increasingly targeted by anti-gay laws and attitudes that have made events like QueerFest difficult to organize. Russia’s infamous ‘homosexual propaganda ban’ meant that groups like QueerFest were outlawed from working with minors, meaning the event had to change to an 18+ gathering.
Many LGBTQ groups have also been victim of the ‘foreign agents’ law that have restricted their work in the area of human rights.
Talking to human rights organization Civil Rights Defenders one QueerFest organizer told the group that safety for Russia’s LGBTQ community was becoming a growing concern. “These kinds of free-zones and safe havens have dramatically shrunken in today’s Russia […] We expect to receive; bomb threats, visits from extreme right groups and orthodox activists, and harassments directed towards our organisation.”
But despite the threat posed by Russia’s largely homophobic culture QueerFest organizers are eager to continue their work in creating a safe and inclusive space for Russia’s LGBTQ community. The theme of this year’s QueerFest is ‘The Art of Being Yourself’.