This weekend the 5th international queer pride and culture festival “Queer Fest 2013” has come to a close after an exhilarating nine-day run of discussions and debates, photo exhibitions and concerts. It became the first festival after the ban on “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” was adopted in Russia, and the first after LGBT organizations became target of the “foreign agents” law.
Despite the increased pressures on LGBT from all directions, great difficulty with finding venues for events, and the attempts of the St. Petersburg “propaganda” law author, Vitaly Milonov, to foil the event, the festival was a success – according to the organizers, more so than in the previous years. Each event venue was full, with total number of visitors – over 1500, and over 700 watching the events online. A team of 50 volunteers made the festival possible.
This year's participants came from different cities and countries, with different political views and life experience. Audiences met with proud parents of LGBT from Sweden, discussed women's place in the Russian LGBT movement, the history of pride events and the forms they can take in different countries, and much more. Visitors to events enjoyed a large historical exhibition of the life of LGBT in Russia, told through fragments of printed editions, personal diaries and visual imagery of the 20th century. Swedish music band GRAVITONAS, with its lead singer Alexander Bard, rocked at one of the two concerts, sending a message of love and support to the Russian LGBT community:
Video by Sergei Efimov
Of the particularly successful events was the meeting with the Russian and Swedish LGBT police officers. It came as a big surprise to see 4 Russian police men and women openly talk about homophobia in the police force, risking their careers. “No one explained to us the “propaganda” law,” answered Anna, who holds a high position in the police department, to a burning question from the audience. “To charge you, you don't have to commit anything. Constitutional Court interprets propaganda as statement of social equivalence of “traditional” and “non-traditional” relations. That means “sit and be quiet.” If you say you went to the movies with Peter, you are sharing information. If you say you went to the movies with Maria – that's propaganda.”
“This year's Queer Fest is especially dear to the hearts of the organizers and the LGBT community of St. Petersburg,” says Polina Andrianova, LGBT rights activist of Coming Out, “the atmosphere of a true pride celebration reigned at each event. We have a lot of work ahead of us, and it's empowering to feel that we can celebrate our rights, pride, and culture under such hostile conditions.”