“People are not coming back to the closet”: The fight for Ukraine is also a fight for LGBTI+ rights

Vladimir Putin’s assault on LGBTQ rights made him a hero to the global far right and a pariah in Ukraine. As the invasion enters its second week, queer Ukrainians are fighting back.

On the seventh day of the war, Olena Shevchenko posted a message of despair on Facebook.

Shevchenko, who leads the LGBTQ organization Insight, was not just voicing the heartbreak of watching her city destroyed, feeling the bomb blasts in downtown Kyiv. Or fearing what the prospect of Russian occupation might mean for her and other queer activists. It sounded like she had lost faith, questioning whether all the tools she had used over years of fighting for LGBTQ rights, Ukrainian self-determination, and democracy had proved futile.

“I do not know what will happen tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, the only thing I know is that this world has been fucked up, international structures are not effective,” she wrote. “There is no system that can stop this shit.”

LGBTQ people have been at the center of the tug-of-war over Ukraine’s future from the moment Vladimir Putin launched his crusade to pry it from Europe.

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