Anna Anisimova: ‘Coming Out’ For Human Rights
Published: January 15, 2014 (Issue # 1793)
Coming out was a surprisingly easy process for Vykhod (Coming Out), St. Petersburg’s main gay rights organization. While other LGBT advocacy groups faced difficulties in registering as non-profits and suffered harassment, Vykhod managed to avoid most of the hurdles placed in front of other NGOs.
Although that part of the process was easy, for Anna Anisimova, and Vykhod, that straightforwardness has long since come to an end. A year and a half ago, St. Petersburg passed a law prohibiting “gay propaganda,” and a similar law was enacted at the federal level a few months ago, provoking international outrage. Anisimova has been with Vykhod since its foundation in 2008. In addition to working as the organization’s executive director, she also serves on its board of directors and coordinates the group’s activities, which range from public demonstrations to free, individual psychological counseling for members of the LGBT community across the country.
As Anisimova tells it, the passage of the recent law on “nontraditional sexual relations,” has made life more dangerous for members of the LGBT community in Russia, giving those, “who experience hatred, rage, or hostility toward LGBT people the feeling of legal justification.” Anisimova sat down recently with The St. Petersburg Times at Vykhod’s office in the city center to talk about what is one of Russia’s only bulwarks against hatred and ignorance.
Q: What was the idea behind founding Vykhod?
A: Vykhod was founded in 2008. The original members met at an event organized by the Russian Gay Network during a spring protest against homophobia. At the end of the rally, a few of us decided that protesting against homophobia in St. Petersburg once a year just wasn’t enough. We thought that it would be great to create an activist group that would hold events to spread awareness about issues concerning the LGBT community, particularly as it exists in St. Petersburg, and to fight against the current problems that the community faces, in particular those of discrimination and silence in the face of hate crimes.
Our first event was a Day of Silence, held in early May 2008. Around ten people helped organized it, and it was the first time that a Day of Silence was held in St. Petersburg. Afterwards, we decided that we would have to sit down and seriously get to work on creating a new organization. At the start of 2009, we registered Vykhod with the St. Petersburg city government.
Q: What motivates you?
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