A new crackdown of anti-LGBT sentiment in Russia is sending refugees out of the country or into hiding after December's law.

A new crackdown of anti-LGBT sentiment in Russia is sending refugees out of the country.

In December, the Russian Parliament expanded their previous law against ‘LGBT propaganda’ to ban any positive depictions of same-sex relationships at all. Its original form, adopted in 2013, only banned those depictions that were aimed at minors, such as young adult literature, children’s shows, and advertisements. The new law was a total ban. Nothing in media, public performance, or the news could positively depict any same-sex relationship, and anything showing a trans person was defined as illegal pornography.

The law has destroyed the livelihood of many already. Danya [redacted] was formerly a drag performer in St. Petersberg, whose performances were frequently sold out. Now drag performance is illegal, punishable with a fine of nearly $6000 per offense.

In response, Danya has decided to emigrate to France, though the current war complicates the process. But he can’t wait.

“My hands are tied. I just don’t have a choice anymore. Either I leave the country, or stay here and wait for it to get even worse. What’s happening now – it’s very frightening,” he says.

The few sources of LGBT material, bookstores and television networks braver than most, still have to heavily censor the materials they release. For instance in one book, a romance between two men, whole pages and chapters are replaced by black lines. The censorship happened at the publisher.

LGBT activist Piotr Voskresensky hasn’t left the country yet, but he did have to close Russia’s first and only LGBT-museum after only three months when the new law made it illegal. He could have been fined for every single display in the venue. He says the new crackdown is due to the poor progress of the war.

“The war is lost, the economy is destroyed, and the authorities need to show people what they have risked their lives for,” says Piotr. “And the best idea they have is to find a new scapegoat – LGBT people.”

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