Yulia's story

Having created my own world I've gained much more than I've lost

LGBT activist from Perm, Russia — how she was accepting herself, why she joined LGBT activism, what difficulties she faced with and what motivates to go on today

My name is Julia Babintseva, I am 32 years old, I am from Russia, and I am a lesbian. This is not only about sexual relationships. I am emotionally much closer to women. It's more pleasant to me to be with women, I like being surrounded by women. This is the society where I feel comfortable. But I would not say that I am very different from the others.

Every single one of us is special. Everyone taken separately and every couple. Yes, there are accepted norms of behavior for men and women. There are even pairs that - outwardly - correspond to them. But if you dip into the life of each, you will find out that the standard is a myth, an illusion. It simply does not exist. All is special, and the norm is just an inconsistency with "norms."
a homosexual woman, that is: experiencing sexual, erotic, romantic and/or emotional attraction to the people of her sex or/and gender
It took time to me to understand and accept my features
The girls and boys who come to Raduzhny Mir tell that the realization came to them when they were 15-16 years. To me it happened much later. I realized that I liked a girl when I was 21.

She was crossing the street and gave a smile to someone. I saw her profile. In fact, it is difficult to say that she was very attractive, but she seemed to me incredible. I went into overdrive. Those days I was living in the hostel of the Academy of Agricultural Sciences where I was studying to be an agriculturist (it was a very strange, especially to the Permsky Kray, specialty "Fruit and vegetable growing and grape growing"). Somehow miraculously she settled in my section. We constantly met each other. We got acquainted. She had a T-shirt with Surganova, and at that time this meant a lot to me. I liked her. But it took two years to realize: I don't only like her — I want intimacy with her.

It was not until later, in Raduzhny Mir, that we realized that the problem raises not so much as from the lack of information, but from that a person does not accept himself and simply does not allow himself to search for this information. I understood everything, but a strong protest was inside me. One part said: "I want, I want" and the second slapped on the wrist: "This is not for you, wait and everything will go away." I am such a bore ... I have made a very long way to accept myself. And I also understood that the society does not accept such people.

In addition, I was keen on Orthodox Christianity at that time. No, this is not from the family, at that time the family was indifferent to the religion. Probably the Orthodox Christianity was exactly the manifestation of the teenage protest, the search for own place in the world. I would not say that I was fanatically religious, but some of the steady stereotypes become stable due to the religion.
"Raduzhny Mir"
is a LGBT group (Russia, Perm). Established in 2011. The group provides free psychological and legal assistance to LGBT + people, monitors the violation of LGBT rights, trains specialists, carries out various events. The group leader is Yulia Babintseva.
Svetlana Surganova
Earlier a soloist and violinist of the "Nochniye Snaypery" band, now - the leader of the "Surganova and Orchestra" band, an open lesbian.
At that time it was very strictly defined in my head: homosexual relations are taboo, sexual intimacy is not very good
I went to church for services. I remember I was at the Easter service in a small village church rebuilt from the kindergarten. That was incredible. Feeling of some kind of magic everywhere, in every person, every object. It was something important to me at that time. Still the churches have much power. It was later that I realized that the strength should be sought in myself. My little God is living in me and in each of us.
Of course, I tried myself as a HETEROSEXUAL
I had relationships with young men. Without any intimacy — both spiritual and physical. Just to check the box. All the girls spent time with the guys, so did I.

As for internal acceptance I decided everything after my first intimacy with a woman. This happened when I was 24. Аnd no more attempts to pretend that I am like everyone were not undertaken. The part of me that said "I want!" won. However, the other one still scrabbled in the background for some time. Great public opinion is difficult to take out of the head.

I would say that this was not an acceptance that I like women ... I like women, no question! But first of all this was the acceptance of the fact that I should not follow other people's norms. Acceptance of non-polarity, allowance of freedom, allowance to myself to do what comes from the inside. First, through the protest, because it is always pleasant to send anybody to hell. Later - through understanding what I really want.
sexual, erotic, romantic and/or emotional attraction to the members of the opposite sex or/and gender
After that I did not become an atheist. It just got easier to take. If I feel warm in my heart, if I am happy and can give happiness to others, then everything is right, everything is as it should be.

Raduzhny Mir helps a lot. Having organized this group, having created my own world I've gained much more than I've lost. Yes, my relations with surrounding people changed. With acquaintances, colleagues, neighbors and especially with relatives. Right after I told them about myself I felt strong misunderstanding and rejection. And when Raduzhny Mir appeared in my life, we absolutely stopped communicating. This happened somehow naturally. But frankly speaking the relationships would be terrible, even if I were not a lesbian, but were a civil activist of any kind.
The relations of many wonderful, intelligent people whom I know with the relatives became worse only because they take up a position different from that of Channel One
Once I had close relationships with my aunties, the father's sisters. I told them about myself, they pretended that my orientation did not matter them. They never asked me about the relationships, as if there were none, but I decided to tell them that I and my girlfriend want to have a baby. The aunties were horrified and told that such people like me must not give birth to children.

It was very unpleasant. Extremely unpleasant. I stopped communicating with them too. But the need for family remained. I want a big family.
Nowadays, when we have the Internet it has become much easier for LGBT individuals
You can find each other and communicate, and remain invisible. I preferred to be visible. No, initially I did not plan to create an LGBT organization and change the world. It just happened. I was at the wrong time in the wrong place (laughing).

I liked the girl, and I wanted so much to be liked by her. And she loved all sorts of social activities. I remember, I said to her: "Come on, Natasha, let's create a group, we will hold public LGBT events, lectures, seminars. We will educate people." She: "Ye-e-s, let's do it!" And we created.

The first time a small group of like-minded people gathered. The idea to hold street concerts for "their" came to our minds. It was in May, the weather was favorable. We found a great place - at the abandoned fountain. We gathered every Friday, performed themselves, everyone doing whatever he can. The site became popular quickly, by the middle of summer 30-40 people were already gathering there.
The abbreviation "LGBT" stands for "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender". The term "LGBT +" is now considered more correct, because it includes by default all possible orientations and identities that cannot be covered by one abbreviation. Also there are abbreviations LGBTI, LGBTIQ, LGBTQIA, where I is intersex people, Q is queer, A is asexuals.
Funny thing is that in the neighborhood located the building of the Department of Internal Affairs. Today it is hard to believe, but those days the police paid no attention to us. No, we did nothing bad. Sober people playing guitar, singing songlets.

In Autumn, when it got colder, we moved to the office-apartment owned by a Perm public activist. We got acquainted with the Center for Gender Studies. They began lecturing with us. Later they began educating themselves, holding various events for the community. The people who had believed in this appeared. At first there were few of them, but it doesn't matter. At the same time, I being a postgraduate student of the Academy of Agricultural Sciences was psychologically completely unprepared for what I will have to do.
Center for Gender Studies
A Research Center under the Faculty of History and Political Science of Perm State National Research University (PSNRU). The purpose of the Center is to study a wide range of issues related to gender relations.
Then Natasha was not interested any more. And I was left with the responsibility
Besides responsibility there is also inspiration, of course. What I am doing is very inspiring. Raduzhny Mir is a huge resource to become free. Here we accept people as they are, and do not say how it must be and how it should be. That is our main message. It is important that LGBT community does not "mirror" the stigmatized heterosexual world with its limits and rules. Often we "mirror", copy without realizing this. There is also a strong polarity in the LGBT community. For example, bisexuals are often taken not seriously: either you are definitely a lesbian or heterosexual.

In Raduzhny Mir we strive to get away from this and get rid of polarity. You are welcome whoever you are. You can be a heterosexual and come to us if you are interested, if you have understanding, empathy. You can be a queer man, a transgender, a bisexual, an intersex man - anyone! - and you may gain support. I found this freedom in Raduzhny and I am living with this huge baggage.
a system of views and beliefs assuming heterosexuality is the only natural, morally and socially acceptable form of human sexuality
sexual, erotic, romantic and/or emotional attraction to the representatives of both sexes and/or genders, not necessarily equally and not necessarily at the same time
a collective term used to designate the people of different sexual orientations and gender identities who do not correspond to heterosexual or cisgender identity. Also it is often used to describe anti-heteronormative and anti-homonormative identities and beliefs.
a person whose gender identity and/or gender presentation does not correspond to cultural and social expectations associated with sex attributed at birth. The term is used to designate a wide range of gender identities.
variations of sexual characters that do not fit into the traditional binary ideas about the gender. They include variations in genitalia, sexual glands and chromosome set
I mean sexual harassment because of orientation towards LBT women from heterosexual men. What is on the surface and what many girls are talking about are sexual suggestions from men in the Internet. Threesome and stuff like that. Classics, very humiliating, I myself constantly face this. At the same time, a woman orientation serves as an additional incentive - men express their desire to "correct" it or sort of justify their actions by it.

What is not on the surface and what people are talking about more rarely is real harassment from acquaintances including rapes. Sometimes the girls with very serious consequences from what they have experienced come to us. Our psychologists need much time to bring them to life. But such cases are difficult to register through monitoring, it is too unpleasant for a person to talk about it.

My personal "front line" in the fight against Russian homophobia lies in a different plane. I am LGBT activist. This is not prohibited in Russia, but after the appearance in 2013 of the so-called "the law banning propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" the police began showing interest to me.
irrational fear of homosexual thoughts, feelings, behavior and people, hostility towards homosexual people. Lesbian-, trans-, and biphobia are defined in the same way
The law on the prohibition of the so-called "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations"
This title implies a series of changes in several laws of the Russian Federation. First of all, in the Administrative Offenses Code of the Russian Federation, where article 6.21 "Promotion of non-traditional sexual relations among minors" appeared. It specified the changes in other regulations, namely in the law "On protecting children from information harmful to their health and development" and in the law "On basic guarantees of the rights of a child in the Russian Federation".
The first time the police came to my parents in 2014, after the Raduzhny flashmob. This is our annual action which Perm LGBT community has been holding since 2009 on the Day Against Homophobia. It is a peaceful, harmless action: we get together and release balloons into the sky with wishes of good and peace. The police came to the parents about five times. Every time they asked about me. What is your daughter doing? Do you know that she helps "homosexuals"? At first my mom was very worried. She genuinely believed that I was doing something wrong. Then she took this easier.

The brightest episode with law enforcement officers happened in 2015. One day right during the event, they unexpectedly came to our office with a check. We were having a seminar on information security. Five people in the room. And they are fourteen. Fourteen officers including uniformed police officers, prosecution officers and some people in civilian clothes. Two of us were put up against the wall, three were taken out into the corridor.
Honestly I don't remember how all this was happening. I remember: the door opened, and the next moment - I am already standing against the wall
They were looking for propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations. They asked what we were doing here. They looked through the documents, searched for something in the PC, took away some literature. They promised to return, but didn't, of course. The feeling was that we were the worst offenders. So much honor! And didn't they mind sending 14 people on Friday, after work to fight with gays?

I remember, one of the participants said: "You are fourteen people here. According to the statistics one gay among you should be for sure." They looked at each other awkwardly. They found nothing. But the feeling was very unpleasant, I have still goosebumps. Then such an opinion about us was transferred to the management company and the landlord, so we were forced to move out.

I confess, before this situation I wanted to leave Raduzhny. It seemed to me that I wanted to do something new, different. Not LGBT activities. But after the collision with law enforcement authorities I realized that I had no choice. I had to go further. This is the only way to survive after the humiliations that we and other activists experienced. There was no other way.
Now I myself go to the prosecutor's office, to the courts, I write appeals to the police. I see the situation differently and I understand that here, too, it is possible and necessary to fight for justice. But the desire to protest for the sake of protest went away. Now the possibility to achieve changes inspires. Well, you never know in advance what your action will cause real changes. Maybe it will be easier for one person to deal with himself, and this is already a change. And then he will become an activist and will help others. He will help happen new changes already inside these people. Or he will not be afraid to come out for the defense of own rights, to be public, and this will cause new results that are important for all of us.

If you ask me what I want in a global sense ... Few will understand me. I want a blurring, a disappearance of the gender notion in general. That there were no messages how the things should be in principle. That a person could himself decide what will be good to him. And that meer happiness, acceptance of him as he is became a value. That this became also a value to the person himself (exactly this and not what other think about him) and to the community as a whole.
a sociocultural construct of the gender. The gender includes all those characteristics that are formed and developed in a person in the course of socialization, in order to bring his behavior and thinking in accordance with the accepted in a given culture norms, orientations, ideas about the behavior of men and women and other male and female characteristics
Text: Vladimir Sokolov. Photo: Yaroslav Chernov. Illustration: Natalia Makarikhina. Editing: Anastasiia Sechina.Translation into English: Irina Galina
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