Free of anti-LGBT attacks, Russian QueerFest thrives

Opening night at QueerFest 2016. (Photo courtesy of QueerFest)
Opening night at QueerFest 2016. (Photo courtesy of QueerFest)

QueerFest 2016, the 8th international LGBTI pride festival of Russia, has concluded on a high note, the festival announced in a press release. Songwriter and performer Sian Evans (of KOSHEEN) sang all-favorites, wished audiences to be themselves, to love and to stay strong, at the closing concert that gathered hundreds of spectators at the venue “Biblioteka,” located in the heart of St. Petersburg on Nevsky Prospect.

This year’s festival was especially heartwarming, enjoying high attendance and level of interest from the visitors. The night before the closing, the play by TEATR.DOC from Moscow attracted over 200 people, who squeezed themselves into a 100-person space to watch the premier of a powerful play “Coming Out of the Closet.”

Over 1,500 people visited the festival this year, but more importantly than targeting wider audiences, Queerfest 2016’s goal was to be more inclusive. We aimed to give voice to the groups whose problems are often silenced – LGBTI living with HIV and LGBTI with disabilities, transgender* and people with non-binary identities. We discussed intersex activism in Russia, feminism within the LGBTI movement, and the special challenges Rainbow families face raising kids in Russia.

For reasons that can only be hypothesized, the festival enjoyed complete freedom from attacks and harassments. There were no bomb threats, no venue closures, and no attacks by thugs. Visitors did not have to worry about running into aggressive young men, being harassed or checked out by the police. And the program flourished.

“The stress-free atmosphere could be literally felt, visitors and participants were relaxed, spirits were high. As a result, every day the venue was full, we saw many new faces,” says Ana Anisimova, festival’s coordinator, “With no attacks we were finally able to concentrate on the content, the quality, and the people. This is how a festival should go, and for the first time in 8 years, we are there!”

For more information, see QueerFest’s collections of photographs from the festival’s activities:

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor / publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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