GUEST POST: On #SpiritDay, remember bullied Russian LGBT youth

The following is a portion of a report prepared by Maria Kozlovskaya of the Russian LGBT Network in response to the United Nations report on the Rights of the Child. As we gear up for Spirit Day, we remember that LGBT bullying exists all over the world. GLAAD has been working with Russian LGBT advocates to counter the anti-LGBT laws and actions. This section of the report demonstrates how anti-LGBT laws increase bullying of LGBT students.

Recently, the first reading of a proposed bill was passed by the State Duma of the Russian Federation, and, if adopted, will place a national ban on actions considered to be ‘propaganda of homosexualism among minors.’ [NOTE: Since this report was written, this law has passed and is currently in effect in Russia] In effect, these laws deprive persons under 18 of access to reliable and correct information regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, violating the right of access to information guaranteed by the Convention [on the Rights of the Child].

Because any reference to homosexuality might be qualified as a violation of these laws, non-governmental organizations working for the protection of the rights of LGBT people must mark their informational materials and publications with the ‘18+’ sign and must exclude minors from their target audiences and beneficiaries.

Moreover, the laws banning so-called ‘homosexual propaganda’ negatively affect the policies of state schools. In 2013, the Russian LGBT Network received a request for legal assistance from two young men who reported cases of bullying against homosexual students in state schools. The young men, aged 16 and 17, were subjected to bullying and verbal abuse by their classmates at school no. 1849 in Moscow (right after the federal law on ‘homosexual propaganda’ was passed in the first reading) and in lyceum no. 22 in Sochi, Krasnodar region (after the law on ‘propaganda’ was adopted in the region). School administrations did not take any measures to protect these young men. In the Moscow case, school teachers have been openly accusing the young men of ‘propagating homosexualism,’ consequently encouraging an atmosphere of bullying and abuse. The teachers were also accused of lowering the students’ grades after the school administration made conclusions about the young man’s sexual orientation based on his social network profile. According to the young man, teachers openly state in the classroom that they are against same-sex marriage and homosexuals.

In another case, two young women (aged 14 and 17) from Novosibirsk committed suicide by jumping off the balcony of the 14th floor of an apartment building on 2 February 2013 (by that time the law on propaganda had already been adopted in the Novosibirsk region and passed in the first reading by the State Duma). According to young women’s friends, they belonged to the LGBT community.

The Russian Federation justifies such laws as necessary for the protection of children and claims they are in compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. However the government neglects the existence of people under 18 years old who identify as LGBT. Thus, legislators reinforce and perhaps even encourage the atmosphere of bullying and intolerance. Given that there are no official, governmental programs aimed at promoting the acceptance of sexual and gender minorities, laws on the so-called ‘propaganda of homosexualism’ restrict access to the only remaining source of support on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity – namely, non-governmental organizations that now face fines for such activities. School psychologists and those who provide counseling at support centers for adolescents openly admit that, due to the risks of administrative penalties, they are afraid to provide counseling on LGBT issues and to LGBT adolescents.

Founded in 2010, Spirit Day is an international, united stand against bullying and show of support for LGBT teens and young adults everywhere. Participants can get into the spirit by:

  • Turning your Facebook, Twitter and other profile photos purple at and spreading the word by using hashtag #SpiritDay
  • Wearing purple on October 17 and encouraging classmates or coworkers to do the same
  • Uploading photos of you wearing purple to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr using hashtag #SpiritDay
  • Downloading the Spirit Day App
  • Educating your friends and family about bullying and the LGBT community
  • Getting your school, GSA, organization, etc. to become a Spirit Day partner