Natalia Soloviova: I want to make all of Russia a safe space for LGBTI persons

31 March is the International Trans Day of Visibility, a day celebrated every year to draw attention to the challenges faced by trans persons globally.

Over the Rainbow

  • From March until June 2021, connected to important Human Rights Days, The Norwegian Helsinki Committee will be sharing stories from some of Europe’s brave and energetic human rights defenders.
  • Our aim is that young people in Norway will learn more about and get engaged in the situation for LGBTI persons in Europe.
  • The initiative, “Over the Rainbow”, is carried out in collaboration with the online news portal Framtida.
  • Stay tuned for interesting stories, events and even a competition or two!

– Violence, discrimination, and stigma against trans persons are among the most serious and unresolved human rights situations in Europe today, says Mina Skouen, who is responsible for Equal Rights in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

– This makes 31 March an important Human Rights Day. It is also a day for tribute and celebration of the incredible work done by the activist community – every day of the year.

One of them is Natalia Soloviova from the “Project for transgender people and their close ones T9 NSK” in Novosibirsk. We are happy that she wanted to tell us about why trans visibility is important in Russia.

Pride

– What I am most proud of? The activists in Russia, and the people who come to participate at events. It requires power, courage, to attend them, says Natalia.

Natalia, from Novosibirsk in Russia, is 32 years. She prefers the pronouns he/him and she/her.

The website of Natalia’s organization T9 NSK is designed with the pink, blue and white colors of the trans flag, and has the compulsory 18+ label, that is there prevent minors from browsing the site. A Russian law that prohibits so-called “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations towards minors” has forced LGBTI organizations and groups to put up a warning where they spread information about their work.

Human rights organizations has repeatedly warned that this law endangers children and youth, as it prevents them from gaining information about their rights, their health and psychological wellbeing, and the European Court of Human Rights has stated that the law violates human rights.

Natalias organization, T9 NSK works in Siberia and the far East of Russia, where there is a long distance between cities, and the trans community have very little support and offers.

– I am working for to increase the self-confidence of the community, to inspire as many LGBTI people as possible to start doing something.

– Seeing the people that come to attend my trainings, it makes me excited, happy – and proud.

-We are working for a society where trans people are not second-class citizens, and where they do not feel like second-class citizens, Natalia says.

Among the worst in Europe

The European umbrella organization ILGA Europe, measures the human rights situation for LGBTI persons on an annual basis, and for 2020 Russia is considered the fourth worst country of the 49 countries that are measured. Several of the indicators for this index is connected to the situation for trans persons, and the challenges are many.

You can change your legal gender, but the process is not following international standards. Violence is common, and at least one transphobic murder was registered last year. Discrimination can be found in all spheres of society, and anti-LGBTI attitudes are expressed vigilantly from highest political level, and from the church.

On the other hand – people’s attitudes are changing, little by little, in a positive direction. More people want to help. Lawyers, psychologists offer their services to groups and organizations. And the international community are following the situation closely.

– Seeing the people that come to attend my trainings, it makes me excited, happy – and proud. Photo: Private

Bright eyes and warm hugs

Getting involved in activism was a gradual process for Natalia. 19 years old, she went to a small LGBTI film screening. One person, a guy, went up on the stage, sat down on a chair and started to share his story.

– This film screening was my first experience with being in a safe place, she says.

– The experience made me want to make all of Russia a safe space for LGBTI persons.

The guy from the stage is now living happily ever after with his husband in Germany. Natalia as well, has been happily married for the past ten years.

– Times are changing, and activism is the space where more and more people can take part in this change, Natalia concludes.

– Activism is not about age, it is about passion, goals, drive for change. My work is motivated by people. By warm hugs and bright eyes. By seeing the results of what we do.

 

– Activism is not about age, it is about passion, goals, drive for change. My work is motivated by people. By warm hugs and bright eyes. By seeing the results of what we do.

 

 

 

Change can happen!

In 2021, Natalia took part in ILGA Europes campaign #Nevergiveup, against the amendments to the Russian constitution, which explicitly included into the constitution that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, prohibited adoption in same sex families, and threatened to ban legal gender recognition.

The proposal to ban legal gender recognition – the process of changing the gender you were assigned at birth into the gender you identify with – violates international human rights law. The European Court of Human Rights has stated that legal gender recognition falls within the right to private and family life in the European legal framework.

Both Russian and international organizations campaigned against this law, and finally on 16 November it was withdrawn.

-We are working for a society where trans people are not second-class citizens, and where they do not feel like second-class citizens, Natalia says.

– Some day we also hope to have a law that protects against hate crimes based on gender identity, sexual orientation and gender expression, she concludes.

The campaign against the transphobic law proposals used #-tags like #ProtectRussianTransLives #законоразрушениисемьи #НетТрансфобнымЗаконам #ЯВместеСТранссообществом

Do you want to know more?

The International Trans Day of Visibility is an annual event occurring on March 31, dedicated to celebrating trans people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by trans people worldwide. If you want to know more, you can visit the site of Transgender Europe.

If you want to know more about being trans in Norway, you can check out iChatten, Forbundet for transpersoner i Norge, Pasientorganisasjonen for Kjønnsinkongruens, Foreningen FRI, Queer Youth, Queer World and Salam Norge.

Contact:

Employee

Mina Wikshåland Skouen

Head of Equal Rights SectionEmail: [email protected]Phone: +47 90 82 50 76
Read article "Mina Wikshåland Skouen"