The Ukrainian LGBTQIA+ union in uniform
In Ukraine, even in times of war, the government attacks the rights of the LGBTQIA+ population
Interview Patrick Le Trehondat
The comments of the comrades are, of course, their own responsibility. It seems important to us to make their existence, their actions and their positions known.
The Ukrainian LGBTQIA+ community in uniform is angry. The Ukrainian Minister of Defence does not support the draft law No. 9103 on same-sex couple "partnerships". Oleksiy Reznikov said that the bill is contrary to the Constitution. The LGBT military union Військові ЛГБТ denounced these statements. According to the LGBTQIA+ rights association "the armed forces and the national guard, where about 1 million people currently serve, could have 50-100,000 people belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community". According to Viktor Pylypenko, head of the union, "Ukrainians are ready for gay marriage ... polls show that 82% of Ukrainians support the participation of the LGBTQIA+ community in the fight against Russian aggression, and 64% believe that the community should have the same rights as other citizens. First of all, to marriage.” In 2022, in its annual report, the LGBTQIA+ centre Nash svit [Our World] reported that 16 cases of violations of the rights of members of the LGBTQIA+ community by military personnel of the Armed Forces as well as paramilitary formations were documented. Other assaults have probably been committed but have not been recorded, mainly because of the victims' self-imposed silence.
The LGBTQIA+ Military and Veterans Association was founded in 2018 by Viktor Pylypenko, an openly gay veteran who fought in the ranks of the Donbass Battalion. In its founding statement, Військові ЛГБТ set out the following goals: 'Our association stands for the values proclaimed by the Dignity Revolution (EuroMaidan). Our goal is to ensure that the LGBTQIA+ community has the same rights as any Ukrainian citizen, among others the right to marriage, the right to found a family and the right to non-discrimination. In addition to enforcing our rights, we demand the building of an inclusive and equal society." Військові ЛГБТ kindly answered our questions.
Can you tell us about the situation of members of the LGBTQIA+ community in the Ukrainian armed forces? What are the main problems they face?
On the one hand, situation is quite democratic because Ukraine supports human rights as it is and the media and the most of the government and society support participating of queer people in the fight against the russian aggression. On the other hand, situation with queer military in Ukraine is quite difficult because our queer soldiers face with inner homophobia in Armed Forces and homophobia in society. But homophobic cases are not as much widespread and mostly this is a unique particularly situations. The most relevant concern for queer soldiers is absence of law that supports a civil partnership in Ukraine. In case of that, our queer soldiers could not have the same rights as they are heterosexual colleagues in army. It's about a right to visit partner in the hospital or have a legacy if one of the partner dies in a batterfields and other civil necessary rights. So now we are demanding from our government to provide a law about civil partnerships, to protect soldiers that protect Ukraine.
Recently, the Ukrainian Minister of Defence expressed his opposition to the draft law No. 9103 on same-sex "partnerships". What do you think about this?
We think that if Minister of Defense will not remake of their response from negative to positive, it can influence the situation with our international partners. We appeal from our NGO and created a letter to Ministry with signatures from our queer soldiers to support this law, because it's matter of thousands of LGBTQI people in army. It's an issue with integration to European values and NATO. And it can influence that speeds and amounts of heavy weapons that are need to be provided for our army because the situation with our LGBTQ soldiers is the face of democracy in Ukraine now. So if the Ministry will support this law, it will show to our international partners that Ukraine equals democracy. The Ministry reach to us after our appealing, so we will meet with them as soon as possible.
Військові ЛГБТ was founded in 2018. Can you tell us why and under what circumstances it was founded?
The NGO was founded by our head, Viktor Pylypenko after exhibition that it was created by Anton Shebetko. The exhibition was called. «We are here», and it shows a coming out story of queer soldier in Ukraine. After that coming out, Viktor decided to create an organization that would unite all the LGBTQI fighters in the russian-Ukrainian war since 2014. Now we have around 20 members of NGO and about 300 of people in our closed community. [her Twitter account 3,600 followers]
What are the main activities of Військові ЛГБТ?
First of all, we are providing information campaigns and social media activities to pop up and to show stories of our LGBTQI military. We work with advocating laws about civil partnerships, and anti hate crime law. Also, we have a closed chat with hundreds of soldiers to make them feel supported and not alone. We provide for them and mental help, support them with their needs for equipments and other support that they could need.
Who are your members? Professional soldiers or citizens recently involved in the defence of Ukraine?
Our members are soldiers that fighting against russian aggression since 2014, and also we have civil members that work with social media and other management. Also, we are participating in different LGBTQI meetings and conferences that happen during wartime, work with advocating, making collaboration with Ukrainian businesses and also work with Ukrainian and international media. Our team is quite small and spread through all the Ukrainian regions, but we are united in our wiling so to have equality in Ukraine.
Do you have relationships with other LGBTQIA+ associations in the world? Or associations of members of the foreign armed forces?
We stay in touch with our international colleagues through all the Europe, United States, Canada, Australia, and other democratic countries that support equal rights. Also, we are supported by pride organizations that created Ukrainian groups in their marches. We would like to reach more of our queer sisters and brothers in army structures all around the world so we are working on that. Otherwise, we are in touch with international politicians, for example, German deputies that met with our members in Ukraine.
How do you see the future of Ukraine and the LGBTQIA+ community's place in it?
We clearly see that Ukraine will win this war. After our victory, our queer movement will be stronger as never before. Our Equality Marches will be the biggest ones. The support of government, media, businesses will grow on as fast as it can be. Ukraine will be a full member of the European Union and NATO. Everyone would like to come to Ukraine to feel our freedom in the streets. But it won't happen if Ukraine will not receive all the heavy weapons, airplanes and air defense systems that we need now, so we would like to ask stand with Ukraine, arm Ukraine now and everything will be Ukraine.