WE HELP LGBTQ+ PEOPLE
AND THEIR CLOSE ONES
FEEL SAFER IN RUSSIA
WE ARE COMING OUT –
AN LGBTQ+ INITIATIVE
We protect LGBTQ+ rights and help queer people feel safer in Russia.
Our main goal is to secure nationwide equal rights for everyone regardless of their sexuality and gender identity, both institutionally and socially. We have been working towards it since 2008.
WHY DO LGBTQ+ PEOPLE NEED HELP?
Being an LGBTQ+ person in Russia is a catch-22.
Queer people regularly encounter discrimination and bigotry almost everywhere: at their workplace, in their studies, in renting, at home, and while seeking medical care.
The police and the court, created to protect people, in reality, do just the opposite, dismissing formal complaints about discrimination. The “LGBTQ+ propaganda ban” legislation hinders our attempts to voice our concerns. Other Russian laws do not protect LGBTQ+ but sow hatred and aggression in society.
Our government does not only persecute people: human rights protection initiatives as well as small businesses face censorship and pressure from authorities and security agencies.
WHAT DOES COMING OUT DO?
by hosting group support meetings and offering individual consultations. Our psychologists, lawyers, career advisors, and a team of transgender peer-to-peer consultants are always ready to help.
by helping the police investigate cases of queer discrimination and hate crimes and defending queer individuals and organizations in court.
by collecting real statistics on the status of queer lives in Russia and providing them to journalists and international human rights protection organizations. We cover a variety of topics related to sexuality, gender identity, and LGBTQ+ rights in a simple and accessible way – through articles, the printing press, live streams, and Queerfests.
‘COMING OUT’ HAS PROVIDED:
My inner transphobia was deleting for me the letter T in LGBTQ+
Searching for justice: Maria and Coming Out against domestic violence
Transwoman went to see her parents and didn’t come home
Justice Served: A Story of Courage & Change
The story of Igor: scammers on dating websites and a public coming-out
From isolation to freedom: Slava's journey to self-discovery with 'Coming Out' support
Coming Out helped foster a healthy relationship: Ekaterina discusses psychological support and personal growth
Ksander, "I always felt that I was different from others, but I couldn't understand what was wrong with me. I lived my life in the "right way": have passed school with a gold medal, university, marriage at the age of 18, a child at the age of 19, a house, a family, a job. Everything was fine, but I was not me. I was playing someone else's role. I handled my depressions on my own, not understanding their roots, I did not ask for help from specialists."
Ksander was outraged by a law banning "LGBTQ+ propaganda" among all ages. Ksander, "My inner transphobia was convincing me that I was a heterosexual woman, and my inner "I" was just bursting me with dysphoria* (tantrum)."
Ksander had no information about transgender identity. But feeling involved in the LGBTQ+ community, Ksander found Coming Out on Telegram and signed up. Soon, Ksander made an appointment for a free consultation with a Coming Out psychologist. That was a first and anxious experience for him applying for professional support.
Ksander shares his experiences, "I have a lot of masculinity in me, but it doesn't reflect on my sexual preference: I'm not lesbian or even bisexual, I just wish I was a man, but it's not possible.’’
"Why is that impossible for you?" - the psychologist's question stumped Ksander. After the session, he began to look into the question, studying all available sources.
Ksander, "I had realized myself and accepted with such delight, it was such a coming out of me from myself... I can be who I am. The only thing I was worried about was: isn't it stupid and embarrassing to come to this at only 44 years old?".
The transgender man is not yet letting his mom know about his new identity. His daughter says she will support and accept her parent in any way, but still calls her by her old name.
Ksander, "The hardest thing is with my husband. We love each other. And it's hard for both of us now. We gave each other time until the new year: he - for me to "come to my senses", I - for him to make a decision."
Ksander has found people in the transgender community with whom he could be himself.
Two meetings with a psychologist were sufficient for Ksander to feel supported and become secure in his new identity. Ksander also goes to support groups for transgender people, has got help at peer counseling sessions, and reads advice from lawyers.
Ksander plans to continue to go to Coming Out for support in the future.
Ksander, ''Thanks to Coming Out, I have a purpose in life, I have found the most valuable thing in life - myself. It is going to be hard in the future, but I will manage. We do exist and will remain, no matter how hard the authorities try to exterminate transgender people.''
Maria found out about Coming Out from her acquaintances who had previously engaged with the organization. After coming out to her parents, Maria was in need of support. Her parents didn’t take the news well, and the fights at home became regular. Maria turned to Coming Out for psychological assistance to ease her persistent anxiety. Working with a therapist helped her overcome depression and feel that she could move on with the life that she had chosen for herself, despite her parents’ opinion.
In 2023, Maria witnessed her mother physically abuse her younger brother. In an attempt to save her brother from domestic violence, she filed a court case in order to remove parental responsibility from her mother and become her brother’s guardian. Maria did not trust Russian legal organizations, knowing that LGBTQ+ people often encountered discrimination there. She turned to Coming Out once again - this time, for legal assistance. Our attorney informed her about the details of gathering the evidence for removing parental responsibility from her mother and the issues that may arise during every stage of the legal proceedings. Maria is currently preparing the documents for a court hearing. She knows that she can always turn to Coming Out for support, whenever she needs it.
Sara figured out her gender identity when she was still in school. She didn’t tell her parents about it, aware of their transphobic and homophobic views. She feared that they would cause her harm and, as it turned out, she was right.
At 18, Sara moved out of her parents house, and her life turned around: she got her documents changed, started hormone replacement therapy, and found a boyfriend. Unfortunately, the happiness didn’t last: when Sara’s parents found out about her transition, they acted out.
Sara: ‘I tried to explain to my mother how important this was for me, but she kept saying that it’s not normal and that I’m sick and should get treatment. I knew it was no use to try and talk some sense into her, so I asked her not to call me again and hung up.’
Three days later, Sara received a text from her mother that said: ‘I understand you, everything will be alright’, followed by an invitation to meet up. Sara agreed, hoping to talk things out so that her parents could finally accept her decision and identity.
After seeing her mother and father, Sara didn’t come home. Her parents asked her to get in the car under false pretense, but she quickly realized that they were taking her somewhere else. When Sara tried to get out of the car, her parents forced her back in and kept driving. On the way, they said that they were taking her to a clinic for an examination. When Sara protested, they said that she should be grateful that they had picked a nearby clinic instead of taking her somewhere far.
Inside the clinic, Sara’s personal belongings, including her phone, were immediately taken away. She was taken to a room that had a bed, a nightstand, and a window with heavy shutters that were impossible to open. She stared at the bare walls of the ward and felt the fear sweep the ground from under her feet. A doctor asked Sara to sign an examination consent form that didn’t even contain her personal information. Sara spent her first night at the clinic terrified and haunted by nightmares about her parents.
The clinic resembled a cell: Sara was put on the ‘high security’ floor, she wasn’t allowed to go outside, have visitors, or talk to anyone except her parents. She felt that the staff saw her as ‘sick’ and didn’t even try to understand her. Doctors bombarded Sara with questions about her trans identity, ran multiple tests, and performed an EEG. During one of her parents’ visits, Sara’s mother and father gave her a stack of papers they printed off the Internet, claiming that trans identity can be imposed by anime. Sara had spent three anxiety-filled days at the clinic before she was finally discharged.
Sara: ‘I found out what was in those forms they made me sign on the first day and it shocked me: it had my new female name with a male inflection and stated that I was 16 years old, most likely because the clinic was trying to avoid kidnapping allegations. As an underage person, I would have been considered my parents’ responsibility.’
On the day Sara got discharged, her parents met her at the clinic. They were convinced that Sara had schizophrenia and that her trans identity was imposed by Center T* (*initiative that provides support for trans people in Russia) which they were planning on reporting to the authorities.
Sara: ‘My parents threatened to give me an injection that would make me fall asleep so they could take me somewhere farther away. Since then, I’ve been unable to go outside without feeling threatened, I constantly look over my shoulder and always carry means of self-defense.’
When Sara refused to get in her parents’ car, they left, unwilling to cause a scene in public. Sara called her boyfriend and went to his place. She could not believe that she was finally discharged from the clinic, that she was free. Sara’s boyfriend comforted her and said that he had already contacted Coming Out. She had two attorneys and a lawyer who were going to help. One of the attorneys tried to get inside the clinic but was turned away at the door.
The next day, Sara and her boyfriend recorded the injuries inflicted by her parents during the kidnapping, and, following a consultation with Coming Out, Sara filed a report with the police. Following attorney’s advice, she requested proof of confinement from the clinic in order to take the matter to court. Coming Out’s attorneys will accompany Sara in court, provide her with legal advice, and assist with paperwork.
Sara: ‘I finally feel protected, and my attorney looks like Hagrid, so I know he won’t let any harm come to me!’
Sara is determined to follow through on both cases: against the clinic and against her parents. To deal with the stress she had experienced, she signed up for Coming Out’s therapy sessions. Now, Sara is working with a psychologist in order to get back to her normal life without the constant flashbacks to her kidnapping and nightmares about the clinic, which for three days became a prison.
In 2020, Yaroslav met someone on a popular dating app for gay men. After a few days of texting, they decided to meet in person. The match refused to go to Yaroslav’s place and asked him to come over instead.
The circumstances didn’t help, as on the day of the meeting Yaroslav had deposited 900,000 rubles for a downpayment on his mortgage.
Yaroslav: “I did debate taking such a large amount of money with me to the meeting, but I couldn’t have even imagined that I would be searched, so I just put the money in my bag.”
When the men met up, Yaroslav had no sense that something was off—the new acquaintance looked exactly like he did in the pictures, and their conversation was going smoothly. Upon entering the apartment, Yaroslav noticed that it was unlived-in: there were no clothes, shoes, or stuff on the shelves. But the other man quickly distracted him and they moved to the bedroom.
Yaroslav looks back in horror on what happened next. He heard someone enter the apartment. The other man got up and ran off, and instead, three men came into the room and introduced themselves as police officers.
Yaroslav: “One of them waved the badge and gun in my face, even though I wasn’t resisting, I couldn’t even move from the shock. They said that the guy I met up with was underage, and threatened to put me in jail. They said that reporters and Tesak’s* people were waiting downstairs. And if I wanted to avoid them, I had to pay up. I protested and the main guy hit me on the head. It hurt both physically and psychologically, and all I could think about was the money I had in the bag.”
The self-proclaimed police officers spent an hour trying to extort money from Yaroslav before they found the bag. After that, they threatened to take Yaroslav out of the city. Yaroslav said that the money belonged to his boss and that he would declare it as stolen. Several hours later they finally let Yaroslav go.
From the apartment, Yaroslav headed straight to the police station. Most police officers didn’t take him seriously, they invited their colleagues from neighboring precincts to ridicule and lecture Yaroslav. The police inspected the apartment and figured out that the owner was leasing it short-term. The investigation ended there.
Yaroslav: “I decided that I needed help, and Coming Out was the only organization that picked up the phone and immediately provided assistance. Coming Out’s attorneys guided me through every stage of the process, they made it possible to see the CCTV footage from the cameras outside the apartment and arranged a meeting with the central administration of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Six months later, the criminals were identified, and with the help of Coming Out’s attorney, I managed to get my money back and receive compensation for moral damages. The offenders received suspended sentences and spent six months in jail.
I want to thank Coming Out from the bottom of my heart. You make it possible for people to be who they want to be and fight for their right to love freely.”
Igor grew up in a small village. From his childhood he began to realise that he was not interested in those values that ware enforced to him by his relatives. At the age of 14, Igor started dating a girl because it was customary and he was trying to comply with the society and play the role.
Igor said, "I realised my desires [to be with a guy], but it was scary because I lived in a rural area in the province, and there was terrible in terms of the tolleranthe."
At the end of the 4th year Igor made a camming-out during an argument with his mother. She was once again planning Igor's life, "He would work as a teacher, live in a flat with his wife and children. Igor said that this would not happen because he liked boys
In response to the disclosure of his identity, his mother threatened to take her son to church and to a doctor. After this statement, Igor wanted to leave his parents' house forever.
In 2013, Igor moved to St Petersburg and started a relationship with a guy for the first time.
Igor periodically visited home, he was asked about his personal life, but he did not had said anything, because his mother still perceived his homosexuality negatively.
Igor later had worked out his relationship with his mother with a psychologist from Coming Out and came to the conclusion that he was "not yet ready to sacrifice his mental health to change another person's mind."
In 2022, Igor had came out on Instagram and encountered homophobic comments. He came to accept his sexual identity and consider it simply as a part of the life, realising that he was tired of pretending.
Igor does not hide the relationship with the guy, shares their everyday life in social networks. Some subscribers write to Igor that it is "treatable" and that "what an role model he sets for children", but the guy does not want to get into an argument with them and tries not to pay attention to them.
Igor has repeatedly come across scammers on the phone or on dating websites. On several occasions he was able to recognise that a criminal was talking to him thanks to the fraudulent schemes described in the materials of Coming Out. Igor has reported one of the scammers to the police and after receiving no response, he requested help from Coming Out. The lawyer suggested writing a letter to the police, but Igor was afraid of the consequences, as the anti-LGBTQ+ law had come into effect and he was afraid that it might affect him.
Igor continues to stay in Russia. The materials and work of Coming Out helped him to get rid of panic and calm down.
The year 2022 was not an easy one: there were financial difficulties, the death of a loved one and misunderstandings in his relationship with his partner. Igor was afraid to go to his hometown for the funeral, as he had made a public coming-out.
The young man applied for psychological help from Coming Out. The consultations helped him to calm down, sort out his feelings and find motivation to work on the relationship. Igor's boyfriend then also asked for help from a psychologist of Coming Out. Now Igor feels more confident and calm, and thanks Coming Out for its support.
Slava was born and grew up in a small town. She went to work here, started a family, and people around her thought that everything was fine.
“Everybody around me told me to be a good boy. Since childhood, I tried to be “normal”, I showed the feelings and emotions expected of me. Over time, I started to notice I stopped feeling real positive emotions and instead felt endless misery and self-hatred,” says Slava.
Over time, anxiety turned into suicidal thoughts, and she realized that she must do something.
"I tried to seek help in a local psychiatric facility; however, I couldn’t even imagine that "doctors" like those could exist. They immediately became hostile towards me and tried to convince me that my feelings were wrong, that I shouldn’t change anything, and that it was just a minor neurotic episode. The psychiatrist insisted that I should go to church, light a candle, and move on with my life. After the appointment, I felt irritated and angry for the first time, not about myself but about the "specialist" and society in general. It’s not me who is "wrong", it's their attitude. This new experience gave me the will to fight for myself," recalls Slava.
Despite what the “specialists” have said, Slava decided to start her transition. She went to a psychoendocrinology center in Moscow to undergo a formal procedure needed to change the legal gender marker, but even there she faced discrimination: having heard about Slava’s decision, the doctors refused to listen to her, asked insulting questions, and abused her.
Feeling desperate, Slava searched for organizations that help transgender people, and she was told to contact “Coming Out”. She received counseling, finally felt supported, and decided to move to Saint Petersburg. Here, Slava underwent the formal procedure and changed her legal gender marker. At every step, she was supported by peer counselors and lawyers from “Coming Out”.
“I have a feeling that before meeting “Coming Out”, I was living in total darkness, but as I moved to Saint Petersburg it’s like they lifted me up and showed that it is possible to live without this pain,” confesses Slava.
Now Slava regularly consults with our lawyers about her documents and wants to start seeing a psychologist to overcome the stress and psychological trauma she experienced. In the future, Slava wants to become an LGBTQ+ activist and write guides on gender-affirming surgery in different countries.
Ekaterina did not face immediate problems in her relationship with her girlfriend. However, one day she realized that she was constantly feeling down and guilty, while her girlfriend continuously reproached her for her behaviour.
“Our relationship turned awful, codependent and abusive. I felt like I was constantly being manipulated. Going through this was difficult, but considering the breakup was even worse,” confessed Ekaterina.
The couple decided to seek help from a family psychologist and, during their search, they found out that at Coming Out they could get free consultations. After several shared consultations, the relationship improved. Nevertheless, Ekaterina continued her therapy independently afterward, as she felt that the problems had not been entirely resolved. There was no doubt about “where to go”; Coming Out became a place where she could seek help and understanding. Ekaterina was assigned a specialist and had private therapy sessions for a year.
Working with a psychologist yielded results: “These consultations changed me a lot. I realized that I cannot control the actions and decisions of others. I acknowledged my personal boundaries, area of responsibility, and my own abilities. Most importantly, I significantly improved my self-confidence. I had never felt like that before.”
Ultimately, Ekaterina decided to end the relationship that was dragging her down. Now it is hard for her to understand why she used to succumb to manipulation. Ekaterina is currentlt in a healthy relationship with a new partner. Thanks to the psychologist from Coming Out, she understood that it is okay to ask for help, and now she feels like a new person, ready to build a happy life.
“Coming Out is a ray of sunlight against the backdrop of a cancerous tumor in the country,” says Ekaterina about the organization.