Russian Lesbians Rising
The Gully: When and why did you begin to work as an activist within Russia's LGBT movement?
Nastya: How does anyone become an activist? There's no definite answer. People come together because of coincidences, or because they're lonely. Some people want to feel useful to society. It's the activity itself that unites them, as well as their belief that they can change society.
A lot of people can't sleep at night because there are so many injustices in our society. Besides sexual orientation, gay people work on environmental and racial problems, and health issues.
What was your first project?
Our first project was Queer Russia (2000-2001), an Internet site for Russian gays and lesbians. Updated daily, it primarily contained news. It didn't last very long because there just wasn't enough content. But that was the first step towards Lesbiru.com, our Russian lesbian portal, founded in 2002, which serves not only lesbians in Russia, but also Russian immigrants living in the former Soviet Union and abroad. Lesbiru.com contains all our previous projects like VolgaVolga (volga.lesbiru.com), Vdovya Contora (vdova.lesbiru.com), a Russian fan club for K D Lang, and Queer Russia.
Lesbiru.com is a non-profit site that offers information for and about lesbians, trying to raise awareness and address basic problems that lesbians encounter from the workplace to the home. The site also offers Russian and international news, including information about events, people, the arts, and health.
How is the LGBT movement developing in Russia today? Have you noticed any changes so far?
What we are observing nowadays is not so much the development as the birth of a movement. The mindset of the Russian people is still determined by the stereotypes and fears of the Soviet period. Freedom seems precarious. Politicians are still constantly promoting initiatives to recriminalize homosexuality. There are no protections at all for LGBT people.
Our biggest accomplishment so far is that we've managed to provide basic information about homosexuality to a number of people. Although there's no advertising, Lesbiru.com is visited daily by 1500 to 2000 people.
We also organize off-line activities like sporting events, picnics, and weekly lesbian parties in clubs. All this helps people to feel less isolated. Live contact is very important in our country where there are no crisis centers for lesbians (not a single one!), and lesbians have nowhere to turn for support and understanding.
It's also progress that opinions of Lesbiru.com editors now carry some weight. We discuss and analyze i