On March 4, 2022, Vanity Fair published an article by Outright’s Senior Fellow of Emergency Research, J. Lester Feder, on the battle for LGBTIQ human rights and what is at stake in Russia's war with Ukraine. In the piece, Feder provides a brief historical overview of Russia’s attack on LGBTIQ human rights, underscoring the symbolic cultural and ideological battle between Russia and the global West–a narrative that Putin himself decided to capitalize on during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. Before the war, Ukraine had been making positive steps towards protecting LGBTIQ communities, and “the perseverance of Ukraine’s LGBT[I]Q movement was an important signal that Russia’s culture war was failing in one of the places where it began.” However, with the current Russian invasion of Ukraine, LGBTIQ activists are concerned that Russia will use the imposition of martial law as an opportunity to hunt LGBTIQ people and opponents of his regime. Nevertheless, in the face of adversity and an oppressive Russian military, the response to the war from LGBTIQ Ukrainians has been strong and empowering: “We’re helping each other, we’re staying together…People are not coming back to the closet,” says director of Kyiv Pride, Lenny Emson. Many activists and LGBTIQ organizations are refusing to leave, staying in cities to help protect LGBTIQ Ukrainians who remain in the country. When asked about why she has not left, activist and leader of the LGBTIQ organization Insight, Olena Shevchenko, stated, “Because someone has to stay.”
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