Activist Lyosha Gorshkov On Brighton Beach Pride Parade & RUSA LGBT

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Gorshkov addresses the crowd at the first ever Russian- speaking pride parade last Saturday. (Photo: Brandon Cuicchi)

Lyosha Gorshkov taught LGBTQ and gender studies at Russia’s Perm State University. He was an openly gay professor and activist. In 2014, he was forced to leave Russia after he was publicly ridiculed and threatened by conservatives and the law enforcement.

In 2015, he joined RUSA LGBT.

RUSA LGBT is an organization founded in 2008 by Yelena Goltsman. It aims to fight for “increase acceptance and inclusion of LGBTQ people within the Russian-speaking public.”

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When Gorshkov traveled to New York City, he was expecting acceptance. Instead, he got something entirely different.

“I was not aware that I would face homophobia… particularly, in Russian-Speaking area as I hoped that it was still a part of NYC,” Gorshkov said. “There are no LGBT-friendly bars, or cafes, or clubs. Everything is hidden.”

The Russian-speaking neighborhood he speaks about is indeed Brighton Beach—or as some call it, “Little Russia.”

In a city report from 2013, 52 percent of the immigrant population in Brighton Beach was made up of Russians and Ukrainians. According to data from 2007-2011, Brighton Beach was the third neighborhood of “settlement for persons born in Russia,” and the number one for people born in Ukraine.

Photo: macaulay.cuny.edu

Gorshkov believes that the negative homophobic attitude was brought to the neighborhood by people who fled the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 80s. According to The Atlantic, “homosexuality was a crime punishable by prison and hard labor [in the Soviet Union].”

“Unfortunately, some people from Brighton Beach still think this way. They do not welcome LGBTIQ people,” Gorshkov said. “It is hard to believe, that you made your way to NYC, escaping persecution from your home country, only to be put again at the same conservative pot with mix of slurs, patterns, and ignorance. We do face a verbal and physical abuse in Brighton Beach on a regular basis, unfortunately.”

Which is all why he was convinced that the best place to host the first ever Russian-speaking pride parade, was in Brighton Beach.

As co-president of RUSA LGBT, he worked to organize the parade— which took place on Saturday, May 20— and believes it was successful.

“We did not expect it would go so amazing. It was a fest!” Gorshkov said. “It was the first message toward the Brighton Beach community ‘We are queer, and we are here.’ We are not invisible. We live besides you. We are your neighbors. And we are not leaving, we want you to understand, we are the same human beings. It is hard to say, but according to some video comments from the residents, more of them were supportive and welcoming.”

Gorshkov is now preparing for the main NYC Pride Parade which will take place on June 25. The parade will begin on 36th Street and Fifth Avenue. It is the “biggest pride celebration in the world.”

In fact, for the first time ever, it will be televised on live television on ABC 7.

Pride parade in 2013. (Photo: Flickr Creative Commons)

Gorshkov is also planning on retiring and moving to the countryside, though he believes that “even being within the family I would not sit down besides the fireplace. I would find an issue to fight for! This is my nature!”

Does Gorshkov have a message for our readers?

“Turn around and admit that the world is colorful. There is no black and white, there is a variety of identities. Be open!”

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Bless all you brave marchers and demonstrators for LGBT rights. Gay rights are human rights.

    Stay united and stay safe.

    You are admired by LGBT people from all over the world.

    Love to all of you.

  2. I’m just curious – what does it mean “LGBT-friendly bar, cafe, or club. ” Does it mean that heterosexual people not welcomed there ? If that’s what it is – it would be discrimination for heterosexual people. If it’s not and LGBT people can go there – I don’t understand what these guys/girls want …

  3. Hey Nick,
    You know what they call “straight” friendly bars? FRIGGIN BARS!

    Maybe when you have to worry about being beat up or killed or thrown in jails for the crime for loving someone of a different sex you can complain but until then save it.

    Props to the organizers of this march and for all fighting the good fight against homophobia wherever it is.

  4. Hey NoName, I have not noticed any reason to worry about “being beat up or killed or thrown in jails for the crime for loving someone of a different sex” anywhere in NYC ( at least). So I still don’t get it – why these people create this noise. I think “Activist Lyosha Gorshkov” should do the same thing, but in other cities/countries and I could put the list of those, but it will not include NYC USA.
    And…No..I do not hate LGBT people if you think about it reading my posts 🙂

  5. I too, do not ”hate” gays, however, you are trying to change the ‘minds’ of older Soviet refugees regarding homosexuality. I suggest that you not parade around on the boardwalk in high heels and flamboyant dress. People who want to get a point across to older folks set in their ways, should have a little respect for discretion and you just might get their attention and understanding that, indeed, you ARE here and you ARE queer. Chanting “down with Putin, Down with Trump” doesn’t exactly help your cause either. Make it friendship focused, not political.

  6. @LynnieM

    I’m gay, and also from this particularly immigrant community and I agree with you. Having a parade isn’t going to change the way that these people think. I think it’s just the reality that people over 60 years of age in the “Russian community” think a certain way and you’re not going to change how they think. A lot of them are ignorant about basic facts about LGBT people and will remain that we. Most of them know zero to nothing about the psychology of sexuality and human behavior. Another thought that I have is where exactly in NYC is it “safe to LGBT”. If you’re obviously gay you may get comments or occasional dirty looks in this area but you aren’t going to be in physical danger. Try pulling this on Eastern Parkway or or in the south bronx, and you’ll have to worry about being shot.

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