Children – ‘404’

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‘Good day. I want to thank you for “The pervert state,” your material. I changed my mind about killing myself. Everyone told me that I am abnormal, a freak. I wanted to go. I had no more strength. So lonely, there was nobody around who would understand. But I realised that I am in fact normal. Thank you’.

We started writing to each other.

‘Interview? I am afraid. If it is found out – that’s the end… Let’s talk later’.

‘Ok’.

Three days later we talked over the phone.

I have Vera (Faith – translator)

‘I am Nadya, from Samara [author’s note: the name and city are changed]. I am 15. Vera is studying in my school. We have been together for over a year. We were together over breaks and on the way to and from school. We didn’t make anything public, didn’t kiss. We were just happy together. But everyone somehow figured it out. I was in a biology lesson. There was a group of girls in the class, they laugh and bully everyone. They started to distract me, hissing at my back: ‘lesbian, lesbian…’. I listened to them, was silent, but then I got sick of it. Shouted at them to shut up. They started laughing out loud. I was kicked out of the class…

Yes, teachers do not help. Almost none of them help The biology one said that gays are mutants and should die out, as they don’t have children. I really wanted to stand up and shout – am I a mutant, as well? Should I die out? But I was afraid.

I slammed the door as I came home. Mum was there, asked why I came early. I started crying and told her everything. I didn’t want to, I just couldn’t be silent, I felt so insulted.

My mum knows. I tried to tell her a year ago that I fell in love with Vera, but she ordered me to shut up. Then she realised that it was all true. She took away my cell phone, wanted to transfer me to a different school, told my dad. He decided that it is not serious, just a folly.

You know, it wasn’t the first time they bullied me. Once they beat me up. They always joke and laugh about it, they told everyone at school. It is tough. You’ve no idea.

And then mum started to scream at me. I was to blame, I am provoking everyone. Everyone else’s children are normal and I am a pervert. I am sick. She won’t let me go to Vera and will lock me up in my room. She screamed and screamed and then hit my face with a towel. But I didn’t feel anything. Something clicked in my head: enough. I will die, right now. And it all became so easy. I was smiling as she hit me again.

She ordered me to my room. ‘Do your homework!’. But I made up my mind. I was so tired. My mother, my teachers, my classmates – they all were against me. I chose a building to jump from, so it’s for sure.

I didn’t think about Vera at all. Nor about my father. But I did think about my mum. But I decided that she would be glad if I died. What does she need an abnormal daughter for? ‘You are a shame to me, neighbours ask about you, you are sick…’ If I die I’ll no longer be sick! No longer be a shame! But it wasn’t true, of course, I understand, it was coming from an insult. I was crying and thinking: ‘Mum, mummy, why are you like that to me? I love you. Why can’t you at least accept me?’ I’m sorry, I cannot calm down… Starting to cry again.

No, I’ll try to speak. By the force of habit I was scrolling though news in the internet. I don’t know why. Funny, isn’t it? I decided to die and I am reading the news! I’m crying and still peering at the screen. And I saw your material. I read it. And something clicked in my head again, but in a different way. I don’t know why it didn’t happen before. I understood that there are people who could support me, it’s just they are not near me. And that was when a sudden fear consumed me – what if I did die?

I am trying to forget everything. Things are still tough with my mum. I went to the school psychologist. I was afraid before. She helped me. Said that it’s all right, it’s not an illness and there is nothing to fear. Even if it goes in the future, it is still normal.

I lacked support, as simple as that. Simple words. I couldn’t talk to anyone. Everyone turned away from me.

I want to live a quiet life, where nobody would disturb me. I am ordinary, but they think I am somehow wrong. Yes, I love another girl. What’s wrong in that?

I hate this stupidity… Me and Vera will emigrate abroad. Somewhere where we won’t be thought of as second class citizens and garbage… To Canada or the States… Or Europe…

I won’t do silly things like that again. I have an aim”.

 Children who do not exist.

Straight after receiving Nadya’s letter I hurried to the internet. And couldn’t find any information, statistics or numbers – virtually nothing about LGBT-teenagers in Russia.

There was only one option left – to make my own research. I made up questions and (thanks to social networks and the Internet) asked for help on themed forums for lesbians. I thought that girls will be more likely to contact me. Thought five or six people answering would be quite good…

Five people did indeed answer – within the first minute. And it all started: ‘I’ll do it anonymously’, ‘Good day, I’ve been wanting to speak out for a very long time’, ‘I want to support others’, ‘I want to answer your questions, it is very important’, ‘Maybe it will save somebody? Let’s do it’; “I am afraid they’ll figure out. But I was silent for all my life. Sick of it!’.

Who are they? Ordinary kids. But those children in Russia are out of the information field. You won’t see them on TV, won’t hear them on radio, won’t read an interview in a newspaper.

They themselves understand it perfectly well.

Anya, Saint Petersburg, 15: ‘Why are you talking to me, to us? Why are you asking, what do I think? Are you really interested? I don’t believe in it. Who cares? I don’t exist, do you understand that? Everyone pretends, that I don’t – from my parents to the state’.

Stasha, Odessa, 15: ‘No one will listen to me. I am a nobody: right now, my voice doesn’t mean anything’.

During the next two weeks 115 people, 12 to 18, wrote to me (105 from Russia, 2 from Belarus and 8 from Ukraine). Despite my initial expectations, there were some letters from young men, as well, though not that many – just six overall. There were people not just from Moscow and Saint Petersburg, but also from Miass, Tula, Voronezh, Nizhniy Novgorod, Yekaterinburg, Noginsk, Tambo, Vorkuta, Samara, Bologoe, Arzamas, Smolensk, Iuzhno-Sahalinsk, Kazan, Yoshkor-Ola, Omsk, Kaliningrad, Tolyatti, Irkutsk, Elista, Belgorod, Novosibirsk, Volgograd, Taganrog… Even the cities Shekino and Labitnangi, which I heard of for the first time.

I want them, the invisible children, LGBT-teenagers, to speak now. Too many people lately say that we need to protect our children, from among other things, ‘propaganda of homosexuality’. However, having read more than a hundred stories, I am thinking: who will protect the “children-404,” those who do not exist in the media sphere? Who will protect them from uneducated teachers, cruel classmates, ignorant parents? Who will talk to them when they are lonely and have no one to share their darker thoughts with? And who will give them a helpful hand instead of pushing them away if, God forbid, they decide to take their own lives?

 ‘I didn’t give you birth for you to become a lesbian’!

The story of Nadya from Samara is a story with a happy ending. The thing is, a story about a suicide is not just empty words. 37 people (32%) of the 115 who sent me letters thought about suicide because of non-acceptance of their sexual orientation. 13 (11.3%) tried to take their own lives, 5 (4.3%) of them undertook multiple attempts.

In my opinion, these are horrific figures. Just think about it: every third LGBT-teenager thought of suicide at least once. Every tenth tried to die. And we don’t know how many actually died.

Teenagers listed physical (beating up or limiting their freedom) or emotional (rumours, insults, hatred, mockery, lack of understanding) violence from three main sources as their main reasons for depression or thinking about ending their lives.

First of all, violence from people of their own age:

Victoria, Vladivostok, 17: ‘ There was a time when I couldn’t go through my school without somebody saying ‘Lesbi, pheeew’. It was so insulting. I started feeling that I was flawed. Just a very childish inability to understand: why? Suicidal thoughts started appearing to me on this basis. I tried, and not just once’.

Alexandra, Moscow, 16: ‘…I thought that in Moscow, in the new school, it would all be different. I’d been here for half a year already. Met a wonderful girl, thought she was my best friend. She said that she would be my friend whoever I was… I decided to trust her. But I again saw contempt and non-understanding in her eyes… The next day the whole school knew. I didn’t go to lessons for over a fortnight, explaining it off by an illness. In all truth, I was thinking up a suicide plan. I took a huge amount of pills… but was saved. I really regret that they managed to do it, to save me. I have to live with all those insults all the time. Even my teachers don’t hide their contempt’.

Secondly and sadly, violence from their mentors:

Lena, Saint Petersburg, 17: ‘Coming to school… they kick it into our heads, that people like me have no right to live. I am in year 11 and teachers decided to talk to us about current social topics, homosexuality among them. And all of them – Russian and literature teachers, even the biology teacher – say exactly the same things. That same-sex marriage breaks down the health of society. That paedophilia would be the next thing to legalise after that. That hell awaits sodomites. That these things shouldn’t happen in our Orthodox country (religion is at the bottom of everything for them*, and this is at a secular school). That it is against nature, a mutation and a perversion…’

Anna, Tolyatti, 16: ‘When we discussed it at school, they said that this law is being made so the likes of me don’t exist anymore! That I am a victim of this propaganda’.

Thirdly, which is even sadder, violence from parents:

Maya, Ismail, Ukraine, 15: ‘My mother is a highly qualified doctor. She said that I am sick in my head and tried to lock me up in a madhouse’.

Ksenia, Taganrog, 17: ‘It is tough in my family. Threats (“I won’t let you out of the city to study unless you cease all communication with her!”), forced visits to doctors (they thought that a psychologist would help, and this ‘childish infatuation’ would disappear). They always address me as “worthless”, “just a nobody”, insults… Less often now – I am not silent and I can stand up for myself. I will never forget an argument with my mother when she shouted: “I didn’t give birth to you, for you to lick wenches!”. By the way, she herself lives with a man who always demeans her in front of her children’.

Anton, Yekaterinburg, 17: ‘Father found out and beat me up. Said that he’ll kick me out of the house if I ever mention “it” again. I had to lie in school, pretend that I accidentally fell on the street. How could I tell the truth? Mother did not intervene. After that he often demeaned me, saying things like “Why are you such a freak? Everyone has normal kids and I have a monster.” I tried to commit suicide. An accident saved me’.

This refusal to understand by mates, teachers and parents creates the second reason, pushing teenagers to a suicide: loneliness, feeling ‘abnormal’ and not needed, fears for the future.

 We don’t believe in cabbage and storks.

I read those stories and thought: where are our politicians? Do they really just not care about how LGBT-teenagers manage? Do they not care that many of these youngsters live with constant thoughts of suicide? That our society, homophobic to the bone, is the reason for that? Do they  just not think that it is necessary to enlighten people, so they do not victimize teenagers, who feel like rogues, not cared for by anyone?

I understood soon enough: no, they don’t care.

First of all, many think, that LGBT-teenagers simply do not exist. For example, the director of Institute of Demographic Safety Irina Medvedeva: ‘Who told you that they [children] have such [non-traditional] orientation? It is all a myth, I see a mass of ordinary children!’

A member of State Duma (Parliament) Elena Drapenko (Fair Russia) voiced one of the reasons for accepting the ‘propaganda law’. According to her, the Duma cares for ‘the rise of Russia’s population’ and believes that a tolerant attitude will lead to ‘degeneracy of the nation’.

Secondly, and even more interestingly…

There is an opinion that children need to be shielded off from any information about homosexuality. Moreover, they keep insisting on shielding them from any sex education. Members of Ural Parental Committee go through children’s books in bookshops and get unhealthily excited if they see word such as ‘paedophile’ or ‘homosexuality’ there.

The President of the foundation ‘Urals Parental Committee’ Evgeny Zhabreev: ‘I believe that accessibility of information like that brings in only  a negative factor, it is a psychological attack on our children and it is breaking the law’ (Russian Gazette).

However, not long ago, according to a ITAR-TASS statement, experts from Moscow, having examined children’s literature, came to the conclusion that the books don’t have any hints of defilement of the youth. Of course, UPC was not satisfied by that conclusion and suggested to equate that literature with… extremism.

Of course, the creators of the ‘propaganda law’ outdid them all by forbidding to talk about ‘social equality of traditional and non-traditional marital relations’. Isn’t anyone perplexed by the inanity of this formulation (have you ever seen non-traditional marital relations in our country?). To put it more simply, one cannot talk about social equality of hetero- and homosexuals, which automatically makes the latter second-class citizens.

Overall, according to grown-ups, children under 18 shouldn’t know anything about sex (and particularly homosexuality). Sexual desire is awakened only after 18. Sex education literature is extremism, schemed  by the dirty West, trying to defile innocent Russian kiddies. If a child finds out anything about LGBT, they will definitely ‘try it’ and will become exactly the same kind of ‘pervert’, so it needs to be imbued into them that gays are sick monsters (which is successfully accomplished by the majority of Russian mass-media).

Dear lawmakers, I won’t argue with you. Alas, I don’t believe that you will listen to the opinion of somebody not as highly placed as you are.

But still – audiatur et altera pars – listen to what comes from the mouths of babes, those whom you are so diligently protecting and trying to shield from unnecessary misinformation:

Dmitry, Belgorod, 17: ‘When I realised who I am, I thought of suicide at the beginning. Wanted to address our homophobic authorities before my death… You know, if I hadn’t read about LGBT, I would have killed myself, because I thought that I was defective’.

Asya, Moscow, 15: ‘Half a year after a suicide attempt I started attending LGBT-support groups, then I realised that I am not alone and it became a bit easier, honestly’.

Sophia, Saratov, 17: ‘Hi. Your law is non-constructive and is based only on prejudices. Citizens in Russia have a freedom of choice. There is nothing horrible if people see other sides of life. It is necessary to have enough information on a subject to see it clearly. And no one’s standing there with a gun trying to make you gay! …Moreover, I think that it is necessary not only to give people information, but also to fight stereotypes. Like “a woman’s place is in the kitchen”, “naturals are better than gays”, “homosexulity gets in the way of demography” …There you are’.

Evgenya, Har’kov, 17: ‘You are behaving so stupidly that there are no words to express my discontent. It’s all so simple. A kid who sees information about LGBT in the internet or on TV, will not simply become a lesbian or a gay. It is impossible to either prohibit or to enforce it’.

Lena, Saint Petersburg, 17: ‘I grew up in a normal family, in front of me there has always been an example of a solid and loving union. But that did not prevent me from falling in love with a girl’.

Diana, Ulianovsk, 14: ‘I believe that the big problem now is misinformation. People don’t know anything about homosexuals but Boris Moiseev [Russian ‘shock’ singer, suspected but not an open gay], the word ‘praaativnyj’ [derogatory mannerist word for gay men] and the fact that it is wrong. I don’t know, maybe it is better in the big cities like Moscow or Saint Petersburg, but my city needs objective data and unbiased information. But that is called propaganda now…’.

Stasya, Kemerovo, 16: ‘The propaganda law is amusingly non-productive. I am a homosexual teenager and can say that sexual orientation does not depend on mass media and other rubbish. It’s all much simpler. I’m comfortable around girls. And I won’t change my life because of persecutions. I love my country and faithfully believe that one day it will stop mocking these people. It is my life and everything that is in it is natural by definition’.

A. [a girl], Tomsk, 17: ‘If they start directing homophobic propaganda to me, I won’t change, won’t go off looking for a boyfriend, won’t run into a marriage… Since my childhood I’ve been told only about ordinary families, I haven’t heard a word about non-traditional ones. So why do I want to live with a girl and not a guy?’

Evgenya, Norilsk, 16: ‘The only propaganda I encountered in my short life is the noise around the law, and it was raised by its supporters’.

Natasha, Novosibirsk, 17: ‘Crazy. The government is attracting even more attention to LGBT! These laws unwillingly will make people protest on the streets’.

Darya, Irkutsk, 15: ‘Dear grown-ups! On behalf of the children of our vast Russiyshka [cute word for Russia] I state: it would be much better if you devoted your attention to orphans and sick children, no one’s enforcing anything on us! Stripping others of the right for a full life is not worth the peace of mind of a handful of aggressors’.

Lada, Nizhnii Novgorod, 16: ‘Lawmakers! You are getting weirder and weirder lately. Don’t try to fool us. We are not the generation which believed in “cabbages and storks”. We can tell who is a gay and who is a homophobe. There is no such thing as propaganda, so there is nothing to protect us from’.

LGBT-teenagers are in isolation, they are lonely. Sometimes completely lonely. And the information, helpfully provided by the mass media, only makes the situation worse. The Church, media people, teachers and parents all say the same things: you are bad, you are sick, you are abnormal, there is no place for you among us. What will it lead to? What has it led to already? Children are closing off from the world, suffering and, worst of all, trying to commit suicide.

Since ancient times the Russian way of solving questions is building walls. Prison walls. Iron curtains. Today Russian lawmakers practically sealed LGBT-teenagers off by walls, thinking that sitting between those four walls is much healthier for them. And any arguments for those grown-ups among authorities fall on deaf ears. When the law was ratified, de facto underage prisoners, sentenced to eternal isolation from true information, from society and from themselves, appeared in Russia…

Lena Klimova

The original article can be found here.

 

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