A lesbian couple has described the terrifying, everyday realities that come with being queer parents in Russia.
While homosexuality is not illegal in Russia, the country faced fierce international backlash when it introduced its reviled “gay propaganda” law in 2013. The legislation prohibits the “promotion” of queer lifestyles.
Russian society is largely unaccepting of same-sex relationships, and queer parents often face discrimination and abuse.
Lesbian couple Yana and Yaroslava opened up about their experience of raising a child together in an interview with Meduza.
The couple – whose surnames were withheld to protect their identities – opened up about the precautions they must take when going out in public with their son.
Yaroslava insisted that Russian society would become more accepting of LGBT+ people’s identities if they could see that she and Yana are no different from straight couples.
However, the country’s gay propaganda law means they must exercise caution in the way they present themselves in public.
“When we have our kid with us, we scan the area for crazies, we don’t walk around at night or late in the evening, and we stay out of strange neighbourhoods,” Yaroslava told Meduza.
“Because if we run into trouble when our kid’s not with us, we can actively respond. But when you’re with your kid, you try to filter your speech, your reactions, and try to avoid possible conflicts.”
Lesbian couple hope Russia becomes more tolerant in the future
Yaroslava went on to note that it’s easier for female same-sex couples to fly under the radar, adding that people “rarely” approach them in the street.
“We’re usually with our child – the three of us go everywhere together. When there’s a kid with us, we become less ‘visible.’ People have this stereotype that if there’s a child with them, [two women are] probably not a couple.”
When they go out by themselves, Yaroslava and Yana often hold hands and try to be “moderately open” about their relationship.
Occasionally, people will approach them and ask questions about their relationship – “usually in a positive way”, according to Yana.
“They see we have a non-standard family, and they ask, ‘How does so-and-so work? What is so-and-so?’” Yana said.
She noted that some couples find such questions “offensive”, but she thinks it “isn’t a bad thing”.
“They listen to the answers and realise that, other than our composition, we’re not really different from the average family,” Yana said.
“You can see the thought process beginning. How it stops seeming so strange. They start thinking, ‘Wow, what an ordinary family.’”