Ukraine's largest LGBTQ rights event, KyivPride, is going ahead on Saturday. But not on its native streets, and not as a celebration. It will instead join Warsaw's yearly Equality Parade, the largest gay pride event in central Europe, using it as a platform to keep international attention focused on the Ukrainian struggle for freedom. "We are marching for political support for Ukraine, and we're marching for basic human rights for Ukrainian people," KyivPride chief Lenny Emson said, per the AP. "It is not a celebration. We will wait for victory to celebrate." Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are among civilians and soldiers killed by Russian forces. There's been a recent push for same-sex partnerships to be recognized, not least because of the need for partners to bury each other in war.
If the country were to be defeated, it would be a tragedy for Ukrainian people as a whole, but LGBTQ people would risk being "erased completely," meaning they'd be killed or forced to flee or hide their identities, said Emson, whose organization also runs a shelter for LGBTQ people who've fled Ukrainian territory occupied by the Russian forces. Russia passed a law in 2013 that bans the depiction of homosexuality to minors, something human rights groups view as a way to demonize LGBTQ people and discriminate against them. KyivPride couldn't take place in the Ukrainian capital this year because martial law prevents large gatherings, Emson explained. Instead, on Saturday it will be given the honor of leading the Equality Parade in Warsaw—one of many ways that Poles have stepped up to help their embattled Ukrainian neighbors.
Klementyna Suchanow, the author of a book about global efforts to roll back the rights of women and LGBTQ people, argues that if Ukrainians lose the war, it would mark a defeat for a range of progressive causes, including feminism, LGBTQ rights and the efforts to fight climate change. “This is why the war in Ukraine is about everything,” said Suchanow. LGBTQ people in Ukraine still face considerable discrimination, but they've made strides in recent years as the country has sought to tie its fate to the West. The evolution of LGBTQ rights is underlined by KyivPride's own evolution since it was founded 10 years ago. In 2012, it was so heavily outnumbered by angry counterprotesters that participants didn't dare march. Participants have been beaten, and a large police presence is needed to protect them. Yet the event has continued to grow, with 7,000 participating last year.
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