Queer Pride Festival opens in Russia amid anti-LGBT climate

The following account was sent by a Russian LGBT advocate and planner for the Queer Pride Festival. GLAAD is working with several Russian LGBT advocates to bring awareness to Russia's anti-LGBT actions. A so-called "anti-propaganda" law outlaws being out publically, holding hands, staging LGBT gatherings, saying positive things about LGBT people in public, or even being out. Another proposed law will forcibly remove children from parents who are perceived to be LGBT. Additionally, gangs have been kidnapping and torturing LGBT people and posting videos on the internet. To date, these crimes have not been investigated or prosecuted. It is under these conditions that makes events like the Queer Pride Festival so amazing. Photos and video are from Queer Pride Festival

The 5th annual International Queer Pride festival Queer Fest 2013 opened on Thursday in St. Petersburg. The opening was a success, with over 150 visitors, despite attempts by the author of St. Petersburg "propaganda" law Vitaly Milonov to foil the event.

150 visitors crowded the art gallery "Nesuschestvuyuschij Etazh" (The Non-Existent Floor) in St. Petersburg for the opening of the 5th International Queer Festival, to celebrate together the pride, rights, and lives of LGBT people in Russia.

The visitors included members of a wide variety of civil society and human rights organizations of St. Petersburg, such as the Human Rights Council of St. Petersburg, Anti-dicsrimination Center "Memorial", Russian LGBT Network, Side by Side LGBT film festival, Straights Alliance for LGBT Equality and others, and representatives of Swedish, Danish, Finnish cultural institutes and several diplomatic missions of European countries and the US.

Many warm words were said about the continuing the struggle for human rights and the importance of collaboration. Visitors also enjoyed the photo exhibition dedicated to the Russian LGBT history throughout the 20th century.

Video streaming by Ustream

In the meanwhile, at the entrance to the building, the visitors were met with the now world-infamous author of the St. Petersburg "propaganda of lesbianism, sodomy, bisexuality, and transgenderism" law, United Russia city parliament deputy Vitaly Milonov and the leader of the "People's Council" ("Narodny sobor") of St. Petersburg. Milonov, together with 5-6 of his companions, verbally insulted the guests, calling them "un-Russian", "faggots", and "animals". One of the visitors was physically attacked and hit in the face, but no major injuries were incurred.

Vitaly Milonov on right

In the middle of the ceremony, the police arrived, but finding no cause for action and everything in order, the police left the event.

Queer Fest offers 9 more days of events, ranging from seminars and discussions on LGBT police or proud parents in Sweden and Russia, feminism and the Russian LGBT movement, history of pride events, to musical concerts, art workshops, and much more. Queer Fest's special guests will be the Swedish rock band GRAVITONAS with its lead singer Alexander Bard, well-known in Russia for his projects Army of Lovers and Vacuum.