Rainbow flashmobs, film screenings, and a "rally in a box": the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia 2017 in Russia

Every year on the May 17 people all over the world celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOT). This is one of the most important days for the LGBT community. On May 17, 1990, the World Health Organization (WHO) excluded homosexuality from the international classification of diseases. This marked an immense step towards equality. Since 2004, people celebrate this day worldwide to draw attention to issues of discrimination and violence against LGBT people. This year, a variety of events dedicated to honoring May 17 happened in more than 130 countries, including those 37 countries in which same-sex sexual relations are prohibited by law.

In Russia to salute the IDAHOT activists organize a Rainbow Flashmob: an event when people launch rainbow-colored balloons into the air. This year LGBT activists organized events and flashmobs in Arkhangelsk, Krasnodar, Samara, Yekaterinburg, Tyumen, Voronezh, Moscow, and Vladivostok. For activists in Rostov-on-Don, this was the first time they’ve participated in a flash mob. Traditionally, in St. Petersburg, the annual Rainbow flash mob was organized by the LGBT initiative group “Coming out". Many cities held IDAHOT-related events: meetings, walks, picnics, film screenings and round tables.

The Rainbow Flashmob marathon of 2017 was launched by the initiative group “Rainbow World” from Perm. They held their event on May 14. It was allowed by the city administration and patrolled by the police. Around 30 people joined the celebration. "After the organizers made a speech on the history of the May 17 and wished happy IDAHOT to the LGBT people, the society, and the world, all participants launched rainbow-colored balloons into the sky. The event passed without any complications, it was a very positive, light, and pleasant day, " activists wrote on their page on VKontakte

In St. Petersburg, the event was traditionally held on the Field of Mars. According to the information from the LGBT group “Coming out", more than 400 people joined the event. Among the speakers of the Rainbow flash mob 2017 were the journalist of the “Novaya Gazeta” Elena Kostyuchenko, the HIV-activist Maria Godlevskaya, the trans*queer activist Johnny Dzhibladze and the member of the Alliance of Heterosexuals and LGBT for Equality Alexei Sergeev. The first speaker a member of the Council of the Russian LGBT Network Igor Kochetkov. Kochetkov's speech was dedicated to the problem of silencing LGBT-related issues. He also touched upon the recent events in Chechnya (reference). He encouraged those who came to the Field of Mars "not to be afraid and not to be silent." After all the speeches ended, the activist of the Parents Club Nina Sozaeva gave a countdown, and everyone present launched rainbow-colored balloons into the sky.

Activists of the Moscow Community Center also hosted a Rainbow flashmob. Flashmob was supposed to be held near the metro station "Ulitsa 1905 goda", but the Moscow police asked the activists to leave the area. The activists agreed and left with a bundle of rainbow balloons and leaflets, heading towards the metro station "Barrikadnaya". As Zlata Semyonova commented on the issue, the participants actually hosted a spontaneous March for Equality. "We were asked to leave and, well, we marched! It turned into a mini pride parade!

In Samara, the Rainbow Flashmob has turned into a creative way of fighting the system.The city administration did not allow the action, one of the activists of the LGBT organization "Avers" held a solitary picket. "The administration of the city refused to coordinate the flashmob twice, and on Saturday Ganner conducted a solitary picket in the city center, on the main pedestrian street of Samara.
Since the administration offered us to hold a public event "in a closed room or territory, the entrance to which will be limited to minors", he decided to hold the action inside the cardboard box (territory). Outside the box, he put "18+" stickers and and wrote: “This is a territory, the entrance to which is restricted for minors”. He also put copies of the rejection letter from Samara administration.
Ganner warned the passerby's that LGBT action is taking place inside the box. He also told that there should be 50 people inside a box. He also offered to "rent" a box to those people who also had their right to held public events on the street stripped away from them,  just like from the LGBT people. Some people wondered why it is impossible to launch balloons and argued that more people should be allowed into the.”

Vera Kruzhkina, activist of the Samara LGBT organization "Avers" 

In the evening of May 17 activists from Yekaterinburg gathered in the community center to watch the movie "Save Me" (directed by Robert Kari). The protagonist of the film, a young man named Mark after another drug overdose gets into the Christian commune, where people are trying to cure him of homosexuality. Mark has to decide how to combine love and faith. The screening was followed by a discussion.

In Voronezh, activists also gathered to launch the rainbow balloons into the sky despite the bad weather. "The weather was disgusting, we were nearly blown away by the wind. An hour before the launch, it was raining with hail, it was cold. But, nevertheless, we gathered. There were 11 people. We discussed the importance of the problem, made a wish, and released the balloons. By the time of the launch, the rain had stopped, the clouds were gone, and the balloons with our wishes flew into the clear blue sky, into a bright future." Nikolay Pravdivets, head of the Voronezh branch of the Russian LGBT network.

On May 21, the Rainbow House Community Center together with the Tyumen Regional Branch of the Russian LGBT Network held an annual Rainbow flashmob. "The action went smoothly after we launched the balloons everyone went to the community center to drink tea with cookies and to play board games.” The activists also hosted an educational seminar "Sexual orientation and gender identity" on the 17th of May 17 activists from Tyumen wrote on their page Vkontakte. Each participant got a commemorative wooden badge "May 17”.

In Vladivostok on May 19 activists launched balloons into the sky and watched the movie “But I am a Cheerleader" (directed by Jamie Babit). Activists noted that hosting a Rainbow flashmob becomes more and more difficult than in previous years, due to pressure from the city authorities. This year, Flashmob turned out to be quite closed, however in no way less important.

LGBT organization “Rakurs" from Arkhangelsk held its Rainbow flash mob on the 17th of May. Activists gathered on the embankment and released the balloons to fly over the Dvina river.

On May 20, activists of the LGBT Movement "Revers" held Rainbow flashmobs in Krasnodar and Rostov-on-Don.The action expressed support of both the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia and the International Day for Equality of Families. "Flashmobs were fun and joyful In Krasnodar, the action has already become a tradition for the local LGBT community as this is the third annual flashmob. For activists in Rostov-on-Don, it was the first flashmob and it was nice to see both LGBT people and their families that among our activists,” said one of the Revers’s activists. There were holiday picnics in each city.

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