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.”
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.
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.”
— ACT UP New York (@actupny) May 20, 2017
— Liz Bergstrom (@Liz_Bergstrom) May 20, 2017
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.”
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!”