On July 2, 2022, LGBT World Beside organized a picnic for Russian-speaking LGBT+ people residing in the Netherlands. We are happy that this event attracts many people and is becoming a tradition. Thanks to the friendly atmosphere, people with similar cultural backgrounds can relax, socialize and make new friends. The event seems especially valuable for those who have lived in the Netherlands for less than five years.
Thanks to our enthusiastic volunteers, this year we provided homemade lunch together with drinks, snacks and games. We are also grateful to Amnesty International Nederland and our (anonymous) donors for their financial support.
The picnic started after 14:00 and lasted until about 21:00, with almost a third of the participants being present all this time. Participants were from different Post-Soviet countries (Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, etc.). There were also a few Dutch people. People mostly socialized and danced. Some were playing badminton, volleyball and other ball games. The weather was mostly sunny and without rain. After the picnic, some participants went clubbing at the Amsterdam center.
LGBT World Besides aims to continue organizing picnics for Russian-speaking LGBT people at least once a year.
On October 8, Moscow police detained two members of the punk band Pussy Riot, Maria Alekhina and Nika Nikulshina, for a rally with rainbow flags they had participated in the day before.
Alekhina was detained at the entrance to the editorial office of the Dozhd TV channel, when she was going for an interview. Judging by the entry published by Dozhd, the police followed Alekhina to the second floor, she tried to hide from them in the office of the TV channel, but she was forcibly taken into a car.
Around the same time, Nika Nikulshina was detained in the Taganka area, and she was taken to the Meshchansky police station, said Pyotr Verzilov, a Pussy Riot member and publisher of Mediazona. He posted a short video in which the police are leading Nikulshina, and she asks why they are hurting her. Lawyers from OVD-Info left to help Nikulshina and Alekhina.
On the morning of October 7, on the 68th birthday of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pussy Riot members held a rally in support of LGBTQ +. They hung rainbow flags on the “main symbols of Russian statehood”: the buildings of the FSB in Lubyanka, the presidential administration on Staraya Square, the Supreme Court, the Ministry of Culture and the Basmanny police department. Pussy Riot members put forward a number of demands, in particular, called for legalizing same-sex partnerships and investigating the murders and kidnappings of gay men in Chechnya.
Among others, the action was attended by Maria Alekhina, Nika Nikulshina and Alexander Sofeev from Pussy Riot, as well as journalist Renat Davletgildeev and municipal deputy of the Basmanny district of Moscow, Lusya Stein.
At the FSB building, police arrested Radio Liberty journalist Artyom Radygin, who was filming the action. An administrative protocol was drawn up against him on participation in an uncoordinated public event. Several hours later, Radygin was released, but the police refused to give him the phone. Pussy Riot representatives said that Sota.Vision correspondent Denis Styazhkin was detained at the rally near the presidential administration, but Styazhkin himself claimed that this happened when he was covering the Left Bloc rally.
On the evening of October 7, police detained activists Vasily Andrianov and Elizaveta Diederich, who were hanging rainbow flags on government buildings in Moscow. Then they were released under the obligation to report to the police. They intend to draw up administrative protocols on participation in an unauthorized action. Also, the police came to the home of other protesters Alexander Sofeev, Veronika Nikulshina, Lyusa Stein, as well as mother Maria Alekhina.
State Duma Deputy Oksana Pushkina called it a “flagrant violation” of the rights of fathers and children.
Oksana Pushkina, deputy head of the State Duma Committee on Family, Women and Children, asked Russian Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov to check the information that the investigative committee allegedly plans to arrest a number of single homosexual men who became fathers with the help of surrogate mothers and in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures, and place their children in boarding schools.
The threat for such fathers arose because the law allows only married couples and single women to be donors during IVF, but not single men – although, according to the Constitution, women and men are equal in rights, Pushkina explained. She added that a bill was introduced to the State Duma Committee on Health Protection, designed to regulate IVF, but it “lies without movement.” “Which is not surprising, given the influence that the ROC has today,” said Pushkina.
In a conversation with RBC, Pushkina emphasized that she turned to the Prosecutor General in order to prevent the seizure of children. “The guys are not to blame for anything, in the current situation it is our duty to protect them from lawlessness and obscurantism,” the deputy said.
On the eve of the impending arrests of Russian citizens who are fathers of children from surrogate mothers, a TASS source in law enforcement agencies reported the day before. He explained that according to the law, these men could not be donors for IVF, “since they have a non-traditional sexual orientation.” The arrests are planned as part of the case of trafficking in children from surrogate mothers, in which several doctors who worked with surrogate mothers were arrested in the summer.
Lawyer Igor Trunov confirmed to TASS information about the planned arrests. According to him, the Investigative Committee withdrew the documents because of the companies involved in the case in the field of reproductive technologies. Later, single fathers were summoned for interrogations and warned about the transfer of children to boarding schools during the investigation. Trunov knows about 10 fathers to whom the Investigative Committee plans to bring charges of buying children; the children themselves, according to him, want to recognize the victims. The lawyer stressed that he considers the intentions of the investigation to be illegal.
Ural Pride Week, a festival in support of the LGBT community, takes place all week in Yekaterinburg. A week before its start, the organizers received an application to the prosecutor’s office, the presidential administration and the FSB, and on the first day of the festival, uniformed people calling themselves Cossacks came out to the city center to “disperse gays”. At the same time, the Skrepa festival of traditional family values opened in Yekaterinburg.
The first event of the festival – a tour of the queer places of the Ural capital on Monday, September 7 – did not take place, the organizers claim that the guide was ill. At the same time, on the same evening, patrols calling themselves Cossacks came out to the city center to “chase gays”. Regional media reported at least two cases in which uniformed men stopped young men on the street, claiming their appearance.
Student Alexander Zinoviev wrote about the meeting with the “Cossacks” in his VKontakte account.
“So, I walk along the Iset and through the music I hear a formidable:“ Hey, you! ”I turned around and saw two“ Cossacks ”in front of me. Everything is in the best traditions of modern“ Cossacks ”- whip, Kubanka, camouflage-birch and a lot of different crosses, medals and badges, obviously bought on Aliexpress or taken from a veteran grandfather, “Zinoviev said. According to him, the patrol told him that it “controls the propaganda of gayness among the people” and tried to detain him, but the young man disappeared into the passage and left on the bus that approached.
The Orenburg Cossack army did not recognize it as its own and condemned the “Cossacks” patrolling the streets. The chief of staff of the Isetskaya Line of the Orenburg Cossack Army, Artem Bolotov, told znak.com: “Personally, my colleagues and I have not been involved in such nonsense.” According to the federal law on voluntary people’s squads, the Cossacks can only accompany police officers of the patrol and guard service, but not act independently, and even more so, not stop citizens. “
The BBC Russian Service spoke with the organizers of both events.
Alla Chikinda, organizer of Ural Pride Week: “It is difficult to name one moment when the idea of the event arose. In St. Petersburg, since 2009, Queerfest and the International Film Festival” Side by Side “, Open art in Moscow have been taking place, the Resource Center has been participating in Yekaterinburg city events for a prides in Europe and realized that we could do something like that, a big festival in Yekaterinburg on our own. ”Resource Center does not interact with the Russian authorities in any way.
In Yekaterinburg, the LGBT community differs from the community in other Russian cities in that it takes part in common civic initiatives: the topic of freedom in general is important to it. In other regions, [LGBT people] tend to keep apart, but for us it is important to be a part of society. Yes, we have special values, but we also share the values that unite all people.
Now such a public outcry has arisen, various groups have become more active. Those have become more active, who read: “Oh, now the men in shorts will go.” The city was roughly divided into those who are against, and those who are for – not for LGBT, but for freedom.
People started to support us. When they saw that these “Cossacks” – and in fact, those who are not – walk, that there are people who start to offend us, write threats, statements against us, they understand that this is not normal, that this is happening in our city, our country. They are against outdated ideas, conservative and “staple”. What is happening now in the city is unprecedented, in my opinion. And if you look at the comments on social networks and the media, everyone is surprised at what is happening. “
Andrey Kormukhin, creator of the Forty Fortieth movement and organizer of the Skrepa festival of family values:
We wanted to spend “Skrepa” for seven years, wanted to break through this wall, and submitted an official notification to the Moscow mayor’s office and other institutions. Although “Forty Forty” held offsite events in Krasnoyarsk, St. Petersburg, and Transnistrian Tiraspol, the festival of traditional family values is being held in Russia for the first time in Yekaterinburg, and for the first time it is called “Skrepa”. The city administration supported him.
We are not engaged in any counter-programming, I first heard about this, as you say, Ural week [pride]. Where are the millions of Russian families and where is that very small, very small part of people. I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t even want to discuss it.
It seems to you that the word “scrapa” means something of a service, it is your perception. And “scrapa” is a family. Like a brace holds the logs together. The family holds together generations, childbirth. The family is the world, maybe this is your service perception of the world.
In Yekaterinburg “Forty forties” was held already last year “Sorochinskie tea drinking”. When there was a conflict over the construction of the temple. But people did not understand that there would be a square, and a temple, and also teenagers would ride skateboards here.
I see the happy faces of people – this is the main goal of the festival. The main unit of society is the family. KPI [festival] – increase in weddings, families, birth rates in the region…. Happiness is measured by traditional values, when a person has a loved one, they have loved children, and they need the right guidelines and the right values. “
An all-too-familiar sound rings out from my phone. “Someone just tapped you!” I swipe to open the notification. 57 people recently viewed my profile. A message comes in offering me “chems,” – a solicitation of drugs which I politely ignore. The grid that makes up Grindr’s interface – a mixture of shirtless torsos, faces, and blank squares – is stale, and I want to see new people. I hit the explore feature and put myself on the other side of Amsterdam. “New message received.” 4 kilometers away – might as well be across the world. “Location received.” 72 meters away – much better. Upon a short transaction of photos, I am on my bike and on my way. I text my friend and fellow Grindr user as a security measure, “Hey – I’m going to hookup with this guy. If I don’t text you in a few hours, call me.”
For some, this is a common procedure in this digitally-mediated world of love and sex. Grindr, the world’s largest gay-dating app (Fitzsimmons, 2019), presents a number of benefits to gay communities around the globe. For example, Grindr’s interface provides sexual health information and testing resources. Shield identifies Grindr as a “socio-sexual network” that facilitates erotic, platonic, and practical connections among gay men (2018, 151). Considering its size and ubiquity, it is vital that attention is paid to understanding the ways in which these apps can harm the populations they are supposed to serve. The threats that gay people face online are numerous – risk of unwanted outing, catfishing, and the proliferation of offline practices such as drug trades, misogyny, and racism (Conner, 2018). However, the ‘hunting’ of gay people via gay-dating apps remains a serious concern for many people around the world (Human Rights Watch, 2019). Specifically, this paper seeks to explore how state actors are enacting violence against gay people through gay-dating apps.
In recent years, the rise of geo-location based gay-dating apps has presented a unique opportunity for anyone to infiltrate a gay population. The dangers of random Grindr hookups are just that – the person on the other end of the screen is a complete mystery. Albury and Byron discuss Grindr as a “technology of risk” that forces users to negotiate between intimacy and visibility due to its discreet, anonymous nature (2016, 2). Both state and non-state actors have taken full advantage of this (Brandom, 2018; Human Rights Watch, 2019; Jaque & González, 2016; Francey, 2012). While journalists have identified this phenomenon in a number of countries around the world, I am choosing to focus my work on Egypt and Chechnya due to the amount of information available from both journalists and NGOs, as well as their unique geopolitical circumstances involving gay rights and internet surveillance. My results chapter features data from interviews with Chechen refugees, shifting the focus solely to Chechnya.
In Egypt, the use of digital technology to track gay people has been occurring since 2003, when an Israeli tourist was imprisoned for more than three weeks (GayMiddleEastNews.com, 2003). This practice has only intensified, with gay-dating apps being used to entrap users, placing them in situations that are physically harmful and putting them in risk of deportation (Brandom, 2018). In Chechnya, the government has been carrying out ‘gay purges’ over the last few years, with gay-dating apps and mobile phones being employed as a tactic for tracking down the discreet gay population and torturing them – causing many to flee the country (Human Rights Watch, 2019).
To fully understand this phenomenon, I draw on three perspectives to guide my research: queer theory, privacy, and infrastructure studies. At the foundation of these perspectives – and of this paper – is the relationship between the nation-state, digital technologies, citizenship, and the self. Queer theory provides a critical lens in which to examine the sexual politics and cultures, as well as a functional perspective on the relationship between queerness and the nation-state. Literature about privacy provides ways of thinking about security in the digital age, a topic that is central to this phenomenon and to the practice of queerness online, in general. Additionally, applying the framework of infrastructure studies allows for a deeper understanding of the invisible aspects of this phenomenon. Lastly, my framework rests upon the ever-evolving idea of state sovereignty in the age of the internet. While these perspectives provide a useful framework, my analysis will show the need for understanding this problem through a combination of these perspectives, in addition to affordance analysis and ethnographic work. By situating the phenomenon – state violence facilitated through gay-dating apps – within these broader perspectives and pairing this with interface and interview data, my analysis highlights the importance of the human experience.
Broadly, I argue that to exist as queer on a dating app is to be in a constant state of production. Not only are profiles on these sites a production of the self (Mowlabocus, 2010), but we engage in the co-production of language, culture, and resistance on these platforms (Jaspal, 2017). The wide range of actors – from the neoliberal-ideal gay male to the trans woman, from the drug dealer to the undercover cop – heightens the stakes of this production, and further reinstates the highly produced nature of Grindr. In other words, the various self-production happening on and facilitated by gay-dating apps is at the very core of this issue. In what follows, I will deconstruct gay-dating apps as sites of production, focusing on how this production facilitates state violence against the gay population in Chechnya.