“I left Russia on February 27, due to the start of a full-scale war with Ukraine. I was planning to emigrate before, but I had to leave immediately. I had not been to Georgia before, I arrived for the first time on March 29”, – tells us 34-year-old Dania Nazarova, who currently lives in Georgia,. She is a quality assurance engineer by profession.
Life in Georgia
According to her, she has not faced any major issues in Georgia yet, except social isolation and getting used to new living conditions, which are a part of emigration.
Dania says that soon after the war started many queer people have left the country just like her. She still does not have enough time and resources for regular communication with strangers in Georgia, therefore she does not know many queers here.
“I hardly know the queer community here, but I managed to connect with a few people and it was a very nice experience. I am also subscribed to local queer organizations and try to stay up to date. Unfortunately, I could not attend the Tbilisi Pride events in the summer.”
She does not have any plans for the future. She feels free here and is very grateful for this. She also understands well that Georgian citizens feel threatened by Russians and Russia’s aggressive politics.
“Georgia is the most beautiful country I have ever seen. I believe that the territories occupied by Russia should be returned to Georgia immediately,”- she says.
Family and coming out
When it comes to coming out with herself, Dania tells us that she has never had any kind of turning point.
“It’s always been normal for me that people can love each other regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity,”- she says.
For Denmark, it is very sad and sometimes difficult to hear the stories of people who thought they were sick or that they had to change and become “normal”. This was not the case for her.
Her family knows about her orientation, she never hid her relationships, and as soon as she started a somewhat serious relationship with a girl, she told everyone. She claims, that her family has never been aggressively homophobic.
“I’ve never heard from them that gays should be burned or put in prison, but they wanted me to have a “normal” family,”- she says.
She mainly communicates with his mother, who perceived the relationship between Dania and her lover as a phase that would end for a long time. She thought that they were just “friends”, but Dania never accepted the situation and always pointed out that they were a couple.
“She used to tell me that me and my partner had a fake family, that it was time to think about getting a “real” one, get married and have children. It has been years so I no longer feel burdened by this topic. As for my father and brother, they have never satiated their opinion on this matter,”- says Dania when talking to Queer.
Being queer in Russia
“It was extremely difficult for me to live in the Russian reality. You always feel the pressure and you know it will get worse,” Dania tells us about life in Russia.
She laments that everything activists have done in the last 10 years has failed to stop Putin’s fascist regime, and every year more and more brutal laws are implemented.
“Queer people are under constant pressure and discrimination, thus it is very hard to keep what is yours or even keep going. Years ago I was diagnosed with anxiety depressive disorder. Many queer people I know are in similar situation.”
Dania is not sure that she can call herself an activist, but she always lives openly and periodically participates in projects that aim to increase the visibility of queer people.
Dania says Russia’s laws make activism dangerous.
“The law regarding propaganda is repressive and the state uses it as a tool to increase pressure on activists.”
Dania tells us that in the Summer of 2022 a lot of famous people came out in Russia. Among them was a tennis player Daria Kaasatkina, who now resides in Spain. Her agent, Sophia Tartakova, who was a TV presenter was fired for openly supporting her.
In addition, Dania says that Nadezhda Karpova also spoke about the orientation, and became the first Russian football player to come out.
Dania tells us that in addition to homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, and sexism are widespread in Russia, including among non-heterosexual people, and this had additional negative affect on the queer community. When asked about the attitude of the Russian people towards LGBTQI people, she uses statistics and says that according to the annual discrimination survey, the level of human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity has increased from 16.6% in 2014 to 78.4% by 2020.
“As a rule discrimination manifests in working spaces. In 2020, 15% of respondents reported being the victim of abuse, humiliation, appearance regulation by employees, harassment, threats, refusal to hire LGBTQ people, wrongful dismissal, forced resignation, or other incidents involving sexual orientation or gender identity, whether accidental or intentional. caused by exposure”.
Dania sais that women and queer people earl less money then men worldwide. So she, of course, felt discriminated against.
“There are places where women are still forced to wear makeup and skirts at work. I no longer have to face these issues while working remotely”- She says.
It is hard for her to answer the question regarding safely walking in the streets, but she says that not many people feel safe in Russia and that trans people are the most vulnerable. She said that she had never encountered homophobia herself.
“In April 2017, thanks to a series of publications by the Russian LGBT Network and the independent media, Novaya Gazeta, it became known that the authorities and law enforcement officers of the Chechen Republic harassed, illegally imprisoned and tortured LGBT people, and some were killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In March 2021, St. Petersburg police arrived at one of the events, where at least 10 teenagers between the ages of 12 and 18 were arrested. They asked the children and their parents for explanations regarding their participation in the LGBTQI event.”
Dania says there are also known cases of forced psychiatric treatment and long-term domestic violence against queer people.
“LGBTQI people are victims of sexual violence and blackmail by their male relatives and family members.”
They also tell us about recent arrests and fines related to the use of LGBTQ symbols in Russia. for example:
The activist says that in the summer of 2022, the Russian State Council will submit several more draft laws on “rejection of family values” and “propagation of non-traditional sexual relations”. The authors of the document claim that the rejection of the family as a social value, the so-called Promotion of a childless lifestyle and “promotion of non-traditional sexual relations” are no less dangerous for the development of Russian society as “propagation of non-traditional relations among minors”, which is already prohibited by law.
Dania tells us that after the start of the war in Ukraine, LGBTQI activists in Russia close their offices for security reasons, leave the country, but do not stop their activities.
Attitude towards Russian occupation
According to Dania, she communicates mainly with activists and leftists, and everyone in this circle has an unequivocal opinion that Russia should immediately return the occupied territories, as well as listen to the indigenous people of Siberia and other regions and, if necessary, give them the right to a legal referendum on secession from Russia.
“Many more people in Russia do not support the government’s actions than the television shows”.
Dania Nazarova notes that since February 24, 2022, many people have been arrested in Russia for their anti-war stance, cases have been opened against them, and some have been prosecuted.
“People never stop protesting, but Putin’s dictatorship still holds strong.”
Despite everything, the activist is still optimistic and notes that progress cannot be stopped. According to Dania, there are many more open and courageous queers among young people. She sees the future in them.