KyivPride: time to tell our story to the world

 

Op-ed

Article by: Olena Semenova, KyivPride Organizing Committee

We started KyivPride, first in Ukrainian history, only two years ago, but it seems like we already had a decade of fighting for the political pride movement in Ukraine.

We created a small group of activists and started KyivPride in 2012 as an answer to the efforts of pro-Russian deputies in the Ukrainian Parliament to push a bunch of so called “gay propaganda” laws. These laws were copying analogues that were adopted in the Russian Parliament and provided such punishment as several years imprisonment or fines of about $1.000 just for mentioning homosexuality in public or in the media. We wanted to march on the streets of Kyiv and to express our political opinion. LGBT people are human and citizens too. We pay our taxes and follow the laws, so why we should be rejected in our right to have equal rights with all Ukrainians?

But that year we had no chance. The public March of Equality was attacked by radical hooligans, the police openly said they will do nothing to prevent the violence, and never let us even reach the approved place of March. Several activists were beaten up so badly that they required hospital treatment.

In 2013 we received huge political support from Europe, Canada, and USA. The authorities were forced to support our right for peaceful gathering, and the March of Equality successfully took place in Kyiv. Important guests from European Union joined the March including the Lord Mayor of Munich, Germany, representatives from many embassies and European institutions in Ukraine, as well as human rights defenders. The Kyiv City authorities were not excited with the idea of having such an event, but made every effort to protect the participants. Surrounded by 2.000 police in riot gear, just 100 brave participants walked 500 metres for equal rights for all people in Ukraine. Outside the police line, thousands of opponents raged in anger and blocked the road protesting against the “gay plague”.

Finally this year, after Maidan and the Revolution, we were so much sure that we will have successful Pride March. The “gay propaganda” laws sunk with Yanukowitch, but still there is no legislative protection for us against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBT people are still getting beaten and bullied; workplace discrimination is wide spread; we have no family rights at all. But the Mayor of Kyiv Vitaliy Klitchko said to us very clearly, “that it is no time for celebration with gay parade on Kyiv city streets”, showing full misunderstanding of the issue of human rights for LGBT people in Ukraine. We are not celebrating; we have nothing to celebrate still. We want to be politically visible. We want to be heard.

That is why our story needs to be told. And now we have a chance to create a real documentary about our pride.

In 2014 a group of KyivPride founders was invited to the city of Toronto to participate in the World Pride March. The first ever appearance of a Ukrainian delegation at Pride in Canada inspired the Canadian documentary filmmaker, photographer, and trans* activist, Michelle Emson to create the original film “The Pride of Ukraine – Inspire a World of Change”. While documenting the World Pride week events in Toronto she was impressed by the historic parallels between the two cities. Almost 30 years ago, Pride in Toronto started from a demonstration of just 100 people, whilst just 2 years ago the first ever KyivPride began with a violent homophobic attack.

After World Pride, Michelle Emson approached KyivPride activists with the idea of a documentary that will tell the world the history of KyivPride and our efforts to make Ukrainian government listen to LGBT community. Together with Ukrainian activists she created the “KyivPride Canada” group and we started the “Pride of Ukraine” documentary.

This film will open up the story of the first Ukrainian pride from 2012 through to 2015. It will tell about the commitment and support that LGBT Kyiv got from European and Canadian communities. It will show Ukrainian activists courage. Today we, KyivPride Canada, have over 30 hours of footage made and gathered for the “Pride of Ukraine”. We plan to present it first in Ukraine, because our country needs to know too. We will reach communities and politicians in Canada and Europe to raise more attention for our fight. Today, when our country is involved in the war conflict, LGBT rights in Ukraine are at risk. The separatists already declared homosexuality out of law in the regions they control. The Ukrainian government again is not ready to sign the full version of the Agreement with the EU, which includes the anti-discrimination clauses for LGBT people. Our fight goes on, as we are Ukrainians too and we deserve to have equal rights with all citizens of our state.

We plan to release the “Pride of Ukraine” documentary in March 2015, and the postproduction process is already started. For that we need people’s involvement. We encourage you to support our crowd funding campaign here https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/pride-of-ukraine and spread information about it.

Let`s change history together. Please make your input in advocating human rights for Ukrainian LGBT. KyivPride Canada is on the web at www.kyivpride.ca on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kyivpridecanada and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/KyivPrideCanada.

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