„People have become afraid“
Lena Klimova, founder of "children 404" on her community work
The website „children 404“ for LGBTI teenagers is now blocked in Russia for violating the country’s law against promoting homosexuality.
Lena, how do you keep up your important work now?
The main work of the community Children-404 takes place in the social network VKontakte. Therefore, the website blocking did not stop our main job. The website existed just as an archive. It is a pity that we have lost it. But there are some ways to bypass the blockage. The project is still working.
Politicians have tried to put an end to your work with „children 404“ – but you are still there. Why do you think that is?
I, and all of the project’s team (6 volunteers + approximately 20 psychologists) are carrying out the work for different reasons. Here are mine: 1. I know that the project is important and much needed. 2. I enjoy doing what we are doing. The politicians may say and do what they want, but the project will continue to exist as long as there are people who want to run it.
Do you have to hide because of your work for LGBTI people? Do you ever feel frightened?
I receive threats and insults on Internet. I don’t take the threats seriously. They used to scare me before, but I got over that. I’m much more afraid every time I have to go to the police (and that is rather often: every time when somebody who isn’t happy with the project files a complaint).
How often do you receive a letter by someone who came out and has experienced a calm or loving response by their parents?
That happens in approximately each fifth coming-out (15-20 %). The rest of the parents don’t accept their kid.
Most of the children tell in their letters of horrible parental reactions to their coming-out. Can you help them?
The project is steadily publishing letters from teenagers, and whoever wants it can leave a comment with their support or advice. If the teenager is telling about problems with an unlucky coming-out, they will get advice on that.
What was your experience in your own family after you came out?
I am communicating with my family, but we are leaving out the subject of my sexual orientation. This situation used to hurt me before, but now I am happy with it. My life is my own only.
Is there an organization of Russian parents who are trying to support gay children instead of pushing them away?
In St Petersburg, there is an organization called ”Parents’ club”, which was founded by parents of LGBT children. They meet once a week, and both children and parents are welcome to attend.
Do you sometimes think about leaving Russia?
„Gay propaganda“ is forbidden in Russia. Do you think there will be new laws punishing homosexuality itself?
No, I don’t think so. The law banning ”propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors” is operating and it has its consequences. During the time since it was passed, 4-5 persons have been fined (I’m not sure about the precise number, and there may be cases that I am unaware about), and I am one of them. But the effects of the law are much wider. People have become afraid. LGBT websites and groups are displaying a ”18+” label, teenagers are not allowed to LGBT gatherings, LGBT families are leaving the country in numbers, and “ordinary people” claim that even saying “It’s OK to be a lesbian” is propaganda. Any neutral and calm attitude towards LGBT people is considered propaganda. In such an atmosphere there simply is no need to prosecute homosexuality as such.
Is there anything people – or politicians – outside Russia can do to help make things better for the LGBTI community in your country?
I think that we, the inhabitants of the Russian Federation, have to do everything ourselves. If we want rights and freedoms, we have to fight for them ourselves, and not wait for people on the other side of the border to do it for us.