Prague discussion hosted by protection group for Russian LGBTQ+ community aims to “build solidarity”

Since 2008, the organization ComingOut has been working to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ folks in Russia, as a response to the many dangers and difficulties this community faces on a daily basis. Georgii Kalakutskii, a member of the queer community himself, is taking the work ComingOut is doing across Europe, including Prague, to draw attention to these issues and to build solidarity. He told me more about the discussion he is hosting on May 2 in Prague.

Photo: Tom Bílý,  Prague Pride

“We’re coming to Prague to speak about the Russian queer community. I work with ComingOut – an organization where we’ve been helping the Russian queer community for 16 years. We want to inform people about what has been ongoing for the last 30 years in Russia, and also what has been happening for the last two years since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began. Since then, the borders of Russia have been heavily sealed, and there is much less information about the troubles faced by the Russian queer community, making it difficult to build solidarity. That’s why we’re travelling across Europe, to build a global community and start a conversation.”

How are you going to be presenting these stories? Is it a lecture?

“We always try to avoid lectures because we like to create a dialogue and space where people can ask questions throughout the presentation. It will be mostly me speaking, but I always try to leave space for a discussion and questions. While we may all live in different places, it’s so important to share our experiences so we can learn from one another, so that’s the approach we take.”

I’m curious, why did you choose Prague to bring this topic?

“The amount of solidarity that we as an organization feel throughout the world is immense. But we do realize that we have an inner dialogue with some countries. Specifically with Prague and the Czech Republic, this dialogue can be tense because of the history of the Soviet occupation, and that is super understandable. What we are trying to do here is to make sure that solidarity can be built around this history, so we can understand each other’s issues and communicate with each other better. Prague is a great place for this, and the place that we are hosting it at, Safespace Bookstore, is a wonderful environment too.”

Maybe you can tell me briefly about the work ComingOut does?

“For the last 16 years, we were mainly based in Russia. But since the full-scale invasion started, everyone from the organization moved out of the country. We do work on the ground, and above the ground. On the ground, we help queer people with psychological, career, and legal support, so people can feel safer in Russia. Above the ground, we work with the broader community and do a lot of education work that prevents further homophobic attitudes from developing. We also present our annual research to bodies such as the United Nations and the State Department of the United States. Overall, our goal is to help the Russian queer community feel safer, even today.”