Page last updated at 08:27 GMT, Friday, 17 February 2006

Young, gay and Russian

Sasha, a young gay man from Siberia, is happy about his sexuality among his family and friends but is wary of going public. He strongly supports Moscow Gay Pride. Here he talks in Moscow to the BBC News website about his life:

Sasha is only open about being gay among his family and friends

Only people close to me know about my orientation. I had no real difficulty coming out, apart from with my father.

At first, he was angry, of course, and reacted negatively, but of late he sort of ignores it and there is an understanding that nobody raises the subject in his presence although my parents and sister and I are great talkers. I have a couple of close friends who know about it.

It suits me that my family and friends know the truth so that I do not have to lie to them. Strangers - or polite strangers, anyway - do not as a rule ask about my private life.

I had some problems in school. There were jokes. But I never took offence and I found the experience useful because I developed a thick skin and I do not react when I hear unpleasant things being said for my benefit.

One TV presenter called [Brokeback Mountain] a "controversial film for adults"

When I am in the street with my boyfriend, I cannot show tokens of affection. I cannot take him by the arm, for instance. Well, there are places we can go, but I don't like it, for instance, when ordinary, heterosexual couples demonstrate their relations. I have never risked holding hands in public and that is the only reason why I would not want to live in Russia.

Before I came to Moscow to study, I lived in a village with a population of 1,200 where the temperature fell to minus 50C in the winter and there was no internet back then. Even some of the TV channels could not be picked up. That had an effect on the people, of course.

I feel much more at ease in Moscow. There is greater development here, it is closer to Europe, there are less conservatives here, in my opinion. People take a more grown-up view here.

One day, I was out with my loved one on a square in central Moscow, we were hugging and two army officers came up to us. Well, we thought we would probably have to make a run for it, but they walked up perfectly normally. One of them even admitted he was writing a dissertation on homosexuality in the armed forces. That kind of thing could only happen in Moscow.

I have friends in other cities like Krasnoyarsk and Novosibirsk where there is also good access to the internet and information circulates more freely. There is tolerance there, but it's not the same as Moscow.

News vacuum

I don't personally know any cases of people being thrown out of their jobs in Moscow because of their sexuality and there are a lot of well-known gay people working here. On the contrary, I know a lot of gay people who are quite open about it and have not suffered because of it at work.

I know people who lived together in their flats in Soviet times

Despite the prohibitions in Soviet times, there were places in Moscow and other cities where gays could meet and mix. Of course, any mass arrests would not have got into the news anyway but from the people I know, I can say that there were no mass operations against gays in the 1970s and 1980s. I know people who lived together in their flats in Soviet times, at the end of the 1980s. Of course, it was an underground lifestyle.

I am absolutely in favour of the Pride. Many people have been wanting to hold this for a long time. Some gay people are not ready for it, but nobody I know has said the Pride is unnecessary.

I need this Pride to asset myself. This is my "pride", I'm "proud". This is one way of making ourselves known to society. The state controls the TV channels, which is how the people in the provinces get their information. When they were reporting about the success of Brokeback Mountain, nobody mentioned that it was a film about gay people.

I specially watched the reports on the TV news bulletins on the two main channels when they were handing out the Golden Globe Awards [in Los Angeles]. One presenter called it a "controversial film for adults".

So I believe this event, even if it does not make it on to the central TV channels, will reach the masses in some way and people will know that there are a lot of us and we are ready to defend our rights.

I think the success of this Pride depends on the contribution of every gay person, even if it's just persuading somebody else in an internet chatroom to attend.

Gay pride challenges Moscow
17 Feb 06 |  Europe
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