Where do gay teenagers come from?

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Heated debates about ‘rainbow questions’ do not stop. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on the 26th of February that Russia – what a surprise – doesn’t have any international requirements to ‘allow the propaganda’ of homosexuality. Not long after then (21st of February) during a talk show called ‘Open discussions’ on Channel 5 (theme –“The same-sex question”) members of the ruling United Russia party, Maksim Mishenko and Vitaly Milonov, were shouting, interrupting each other: ‘There is an aggressive attempt to drag people into that society! That movement will conquer more and more people! The country is being corrupted by fornication and sin!’ And so it all began…Gays pervert children! Gays are recruiting supporters! Gays are filling our schools with propaganda! Propaganda, propaganda, propaganda, propagandapropagandapropaganda…

I think it is time to stop the hysteria and look into the question. First of all – how do children become gays and lesbians? Are they really perverted by somebody or does it happen in a different way?

Some self-proclaimed experts claim that sexual orientation can be enforced. Apparently, the fragile psychology of a child, who finds out about the gays, shatters: he inevitably decides to ‘try’ and if he likes it, he will become gay. Apparently so. When it comes to LGBT-related questions everyone considers themself a specialist – exactly like in football, politics and bringing up children. But this is the opinion of ordinary people. A different opinion is held by the medics. For example, the dean of clinical psychology of Saint Petersburg Pediatrics Medical University, Dmitry Isaev, states: ‘Sexual orientation cannot be enforced, otherwise the total propaganda of heterosexuality would have led to extinction of homosexuality’.

 Let’s move on from words to the facts. Recently I have interviewed 112 Russian LGBT-teenagers aged from 12 to 18 from different cities around Russia – anything between Kaliningrad and Yuzhno-Sahalinsk. The previous material, ‘Children 404’, focused on the threat of suicide among LGBT-teenagers. Today I will try to give them an opportunity to explain for themselves how they realised that they belong to a sexual minority. So, are those who claim that ‘gays multiply through propaganda’ correct?

 When I was talking to the kids I asked them, among other things: ‘How old were you when you realised that you are not hetero and how did it happen? What did you feel after that? Do you think there is such a thing as “propaganda of homosexuality”? If yes, did it affect you in any way?’

In the case of the age question, teenagers divided up into two groups. The first said: ‘at the age of 11 (or 12, 13, 14, 15 etc) I fell in love with someone of my own gender and it all became clear’. Others answered that they have always felt it or realised very early in their childhood. There wasn’t a single person among the more than a hundred who started to identify as LGBT because of an outside influence. They all realised it themselves.

 The answers to the question of what they felt after that were way more varied. A small few had positive feelings.

Alena, Yaroslavl, 17: ‘Peace’.

 Oksana, Krasnoyarsk, 16: ‘ Joy. It was awesome to be in love’.

 Joanna, Odessa, 15: ‘I loved and I was madly happy!’

 Sabina, Saint Petersburg, 17: ‘Freedom. It was all put in its place’

 Liza, Novokuznetsk, 17: ‘It was like a weight had been lifted from my chest’.

 The rests were divided into two roughly equal groups.

 The first 50 said that they didn’t feel anything special and just accepted themselves.

 Alexandra, Kazan, 16: ‘I didn’t have any pangs of conscience or anything like that’.

 Varvara, Smolensk, 17: ‘I felt like a normal human being’.

 A.[girl], Omsk, 17: ‘I didn’t have any contradictions. I found out who gays and lesbians are from the internet…It turned out that I needed to be more careful when speaking to people about myself…’

 A. [girl], Tomsk, 17: ‘At first it was a shock, I was trying to avoid those thoughts at all costs…Sometime later, having read a lot of articles and forums on the internet, I stopped trying to persuade myself that it is wrong and decided that the main thing is my personal comfort and not the opinion of people around me’.

 Some were surprised, others took it very differently.

 Margarita, Surgut, 16: ‘I was 14 when I first fell in love with a girl and I didn’t despise myself in the slightest. It was damn interesting to find out if there are many of us around. And how others realised their orientation. I was so surprised when I read that those people suffer so much, suffer from not loving themselves, how frightened they are. I was so shocked’.

Around 50 people confessed that they had negative feelings.

 Alexandra, Saint Petersburg, 16: ‘I had a very severe depression, I was trying to start “normal” relationships, but they all failed within a couple of days. Then, very slowly, I started to understand myself…’

 Asya, Moscow, 15: ‘Loneliness, as if I were caged’.

 Enot, Moscow, 16: ‘I felt so limited. Was trying to suppress feeling for other girls, but to no avail’.

 Alexaner, transsexual, Novosibirsk, 16: ‘At first I felt desperation. I thought I would have to live all my life in an alien body. Then I realised that there is a way out’.

 The two domineering feelings were fear and a feeling of ‘being wrong’. Fear was there for many reasons.

 Yaroslav, Voronezh, 15: ‘I used to be afraid of opening up to anyone, afraid to tell anyone about my feelings. I wanted to mend my ways”, to fall in love with a girl; tried that, but then realised that I can’t’.

 Olya, Zelenogorsk, 15: ‘Fear. I was afraid that they would kill me. Literally. The streets are full of “fighters for a healthy gene pool” nowadays. Their main aim is to destroy people of a non-Russian nationality, of another race or sexuality. They often attack people on the streets and in blocks of flats…I am afraid, how am I to live? They don’t touch us all too often while they still deem us to be kids’.

Nastya, Yaroslavl, 16: ‘The fear of not being understood’.

Dmitry, Belgorod, 17: ‘I felt that if I confessed that I am gay, almost everyone would turn away from me’.

Stahsa, Odessa, 15: ‘When I realised who I am, many different emotions erupted within me, but most of all – fear. Fear of confessing to my acquaintances, friends and relatives, but most of all – the fear of confessing to myself…’

 The feeling of ‘wrongness’ in each case was enforced by the environment a teenager was in.

 Diana, Ulianovsk, 14: ‘Mum hates LGBT. That’s why at the beginning I felt that I was wrong and defected’.

Yana, Samara, 14: ‘It was difficult to accept myself. I had to think that I was “abnormal”, “wrong”: I got so confused’.

Katya, Moscow, 16: ‘I was, to put it gently, in shock, because my family hates LGBT so much. But I never thought I was abnormal…’

 Eugenia, Moscow, 13: ‘It was so difficult to accept it, because I was taught since my childhood that people similar to me are not right and are to blame for everything…’

 All the teenagers claim that they realised their homosexuality themselves, and that the mythical propaganda did not influence them. So, why is it then necessary to shield the under-aged from it? And does it exist at all, this ‘propaganda of homosexuality?’ Some said that it does.

 Alice, Moscow, 16: ‘The homophobes themselves make this propaganda now…’

 Kristina, Samara, 16: ‘It exists. Yes it does! And it is led by our government. I never heard so much about homosexuality than in the past two years in my life!’

 Julia, Perm, 17: ‘Yes. The main propagandist is Milonov. And overall there are enough of them in the Duma…Seriously speaking, there is no such thing.’

So there you are. I’m curious guys, what is propaganda at all?

 A.[girl], Omsk, 17: ‘Is it like: hey, little one, I’m a lesbian, come with us?! That just does not happen’.

 Alice, Saint Petersburg, 15: ‘It means to go out on the streets and shout: I am a lesbian! I have a much better life than you! You must cease to have any relationships with the opposite gender and come to our rainbow side! I haven’t seen anything like that’.

Really, nothing like that happens in Russia (or anywhere else in the world). So, why do our lawmakers create this law?

Eugenie, transgender, Novosibirsk, 16: ‘For a struggle against a common enemy’.

 Elena, Noginsk, 17: ‘Homophobes need to somehow legitimise their hatred’.

 A. [girl], Omsk, 17: ‘It is there for frightening those objectionable to the authorities. LGBT in our country are considered to be something to fear, like the plague. So as soon as an objectionable person is proclaimed homosexual everyone will turn away from them’.

 Anya, Moscow, 14: ‘It is there to distract people’s attention from what the authorities get up to, the horrid things happening in the country’.

 Ksenia, Taganrog, 17: ‘They are doing it out of boredom. Are there more free places in universities? Really free healthcare? Why would you try to fix the country when all you have to do is to find a scapegoat? All our suffering is coming from the gays! When a meteorite fell down in Chelyabinsk they blamed the gays. God’s wrath, you see?’

 Darya, Moscow, 17: ‘This law is absolutely ridiculous. It is needed by the authorities to distract people from the really serious problems which they don’t want to solve. All the headlines in the papers are about murders, thefts and rapes. Why don’t they devote their attention to that? Why do they proclaim innocent people as enemies of the nation?’

 Elena, Volgograd, 17: ‘It is just another way of shutting up the mouths of those who oppose the situation in Russia’.

 Gulnara, Tambov, 17: ‘The government is trying to get absolute power over the people. These are the thoughts provoked by some other recent laws, as well’.

By the way, the teenagers think that this law won’t change much anyway.

Maria, Moscow, 16: ‘If it is forbidden to speak about homosexuality lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people won’t become invisible’.

 Eugenia, Kharkov, 17: ‘We don’t kill anyone. We don’t force our views upon others. We don’t force people to be like us. We just live, and fight for our relationships, for being able to love and be happy. This law won’t make people relent from protecting their freedom and happiness’.

Anastasia from Serpukhov, 15, paid attention to a very important moment: ‘This law is ridiculous! It is a breach of constitutional rights. Where is the freedom of speech and expression?’

Victoria from Vladivostok, 17, remembered the same thing: ‘I look at this law and am surprised by it. According to the Constitution we have a democracy, our state is a secular one…so why do they keep saying that we don’t have a right to love whom we wish, why do they equate us with extremists? We want happiness, a family and children! Why are they robbing us of that?

The fact that the Constitution of the Russian Federation is being systematically breached and rewritten according to you-know-whose needs is no longer surprising or perturbing. But still I would like to remind everyone about article 19, point 2: “The state guarantees equality of rights and freedoms of the citizen regardless of gender, race, nationality or other criteria”. The attitude to LGBT in Russia shows that there is an invisible question mark after the word “criteria” in the article 19. Either that or a note: “Not applicable to LGBT”.

To conclude:

All the teenagers questioned realised their orientation themselves. Some felt it from very early childhood, others realised it a bit later. Mythical gay-propaganda did not influence anyone. Moreover – nobody seriously believes that it exists.

Those of the teenagers who did know anything about LGBT, asked their parents (very seldom), friends (a bit more often) or looked for it in the internet (most often).

Now, the most interesting thing is that those who got neutral information (i.e. that homosexuals exist and that it is normal) accepted themselves calmly and felt liberated, happiness, joy or ‘nothing special’. Those who found out that people around them perceive LGBT in a negative light felt confusion, cluelessness and pain. They suffered as they realised that they are ‘damaged’ and that the people around them – family, friends and society – thought it was wrong. And the fear.The fear to open up and talk about themselves.The fear, and not a groundless one, that they will not be accepted; will be laughed at, insulted, mocked or even killed.

So, the obvious conclusion is that there is no such thing as gay-propaganda. Nobody perverts children, forcing them to cross over to the rainbow side. On the other hand, society’s negative attitude toward LGBT (let’s call things by their proper names: hatred) affects their mental state, so cared for by our lawmakers, immensely.

Lena Klimova

The original of the article can be found here.

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