Russia designates “the international LGBT movement” as an extremist organisation

Russia has just made life even worse for LGBTQ+ community. The Russian Supreme Court has ruled to designate “the international LGBT movement” as an “extremist organisation”.

There is, of course, no such organisation at all. It doesn’t exist and never has. It is an entirely fictitious thing created in order to make it easier to limit the activity of any and all LGBTQ+ organisations or movements.

Or, at least, the organisation didn’t exist at the time that the Russian Ministry of Justice submitted its lawsuit. In response, some activists have registered an organisation called “International LGBT Movement” in order to request access to the proceedings as a relevant party. We are not aware whether they were successful.

This follows a wave of repressions that make it increasingly difficult to exist as a queer/LGBTQ+ person in Russia. In 2013 a “gay propaganda” law was passed, outlawing “the promotion of non-traditional sexual relationships” to minors. In 2022 they passed a law now extending the “propaganda” ban to all ages. In July this year Putin banned gender transitioning, which includes both legal gender marker change and medical transitioning procedures. People who have already changed their gender markers are now prohibited from adopting children.

As if all this wasn’t enough, the new ruling suggests that any public LGBTQ+ activism could now be branded as extremism and be prosecuted as such. This can potentially lead to lengthy prison sentences and inclusion on a list of extremists and terrorists. It is not possible to say at this stage whether simply not being in the closet would incur a risk, but it’s very possible. Even something like wearing a pride flag or saying that LGBTQ+ people should have the same human rights is potentially risky.

All this is happening as most EU countries have severely restricted the movement of people out of Russia. Finland has closed off its border with Russia entirely, Estonia is considering doing the same.

We at What The Trans?! think that it’s extremely important to have solidarity with LGBTQ+ people in Russia at this time, and we hope that they are granted the right to asylum in Europe and elsewhere. As ordinary citizens, we can help make that happen by, for example, writing to our MPs.

For more information, we recommend this explainer from Meduza. It also includes (towards the end) a list of steps you can take if you live in Russia in order to protect yourself before the ruling comes into force, which will be on January 10th, 2024.