Russian Pride: QueerFest celebrates 10th year — peacefully

Despite the persistent homophobia and repression of Russian society, the Russian Pride festival QueerFest is under way for the 10th year in a row — this time without violence or other disruptions.

Russian Pride: Part of the celebration of QueerFest 2018 is the publication of the "Everybody Has a Body" collection of eight personal stories by LGBT people.
Russian Pride: Part of the celebration of QueerFest 2018 has been the publication of the “Everybody Has a Body” collection of eight personal stories by LGBT people.

QueerFest issued this report:

Russian Pride festival QueerFest celebrates its 10th anniversary

The Russian annual Pride festival QueerFest opened for the 10th time [Sept. 20] at an art space in St. Petersburg’s historic region, Vasilyevskiy Island. Over 200 guests -– members of LGBT* community, civil society, European diplomatic missions in St. Petersburg, and the St. Petersburg ombudsman office -– gathered to reflect on the festival’s path and evolution, remember its challenges and toast achievements. Guests also enjoyed the photo exhibition “Transgender Military” by U.S. photographer Jeff Sheng.

For the third year in a row, the festival opened with no problems: no venue closures, police pressure, fake bomb threats, or attacks by homophobic groups. Instead, the police again demonstrated interest in that the festival proceeds safely.

Ana Anisimova, the festival coordinator, said:

“When we were 5, it felt like we’ve done it all. And now, at the age of 10, the feeling is that we’re just beginning. Only 3 years ago, to “survive” and complete the festival felt like a big success. Today we can concentrate all our efforts on putting together the best, and most interesting program for the audiences, to provide the peaceful and celebratory atmosphere for the communities.”

QueerFest’s efforts to claim the rightful place for LGBT* communities in the cultural and social landscape of St. Petersburg in these 10 years are coming to fruition. From an unknown event, today QueerFest enjoys the support of allies and St. Petersburg media, collaborates with businesses, and brings together artists, and activists from all corners of the world.

Russian Pride: Opening ceremony of QueerFest 2018. (Photo courtesy of QueerFest)
Russian Pride: Opening ceremony of QueerFest 2018. (Photo courtesy of QueerFest/Alba Photography)

Head of the St. Petersburg ombudsman’s office, Olga Shtannikova, observed the festival’s path for several years:

“Values and norms are not constant. People themselves change the society, and you do so much in this respect,” were her words of greeting. “I would like to see your efforts become the norm.”


“Everybody Has a Body”

As part of this year’s celebrations, QueerFest published “Everybody Has a Body,” a collection of eight personal stories by LGBT people. QueerFest described it as follows:

Everybody has a body. And almost everybody seems to have some uneasy moments in relationships with it. Our relationships with the body can reflect our interactions with the world around us, perception of own selves, difficult and happy moments of our lives. While we are alive, we are constantly building the relationships with our bodies.

«Everybody has a body» is a collection of 8 personal stories of LGBT+ people. Surely, one publication cannot possibly include experiences relatable to everyone (though it’d be so desirable!). We hope that those stories about different bodily experiences (whether being similar or not to your own) through either agreement or disagreement with oneself would become a reason to get in closer touch with one’s self — in all senses of the word.


Russian Pride: Part of the celebration of QueerFest 2018 is the publication of "My Intersex Story," a collection of three intersex people's personal stories.
Russian Pride: Part of the celebration of QueerFest 2018 is the publication of “My Intersex Story,” a collection of three intersex people’s personal stories.

“My Intersex Story”

QueerFest 2018 also published “My Intersex Story,” a collection of three intersex people’s personal stories.  QueerFest writes:

Translated from medical and activist “languages”, intersex is a term used to describe people whose bodies do not fit into the conventional understanding of binary gender differences (‘male’ — ‘female’) because of their genetic traits and/or anatomic features.

Why do we know so little about intersex? Because of the common preposition that there is a ‘norm’ that all bodies should correspond to, the experience of intersex people has been hidden behind a wall of silence. Family secret, personal tragedy — such perception of the intersex identity has been the reason of shame and suffering for some people; in others’ minds, it has infixed the illusion of simplicity and binarity of human bodies and the whole world created by nature. However, it is much more complicated. People, their identities and their experiences are diverse.

Every story in this book is authentic. Every story is someone’s destiny. It represents a long way that an intersex person has gone to perceive and accept their corporeality, to break free from their fear, shame and pain. We are honoured to publish this book, and our team feels great responsibility about it. It is our contribution into people’s education and fight against stigmatization, stereotypes and suppression of various communities’ problems.


This is the program for QueerFest, which runs through Sept. 30:

Sept. 20-30: «Transgender Military», photo exhibition

Sept. 20: Opening Ceremony

Sept. 21: «TIRF and TERF. Radical Feminism and Trans Inclusion», lecture

Sept. 22: «Russian Travesty. Silver Age, Revolution, NEP (New Economic Policy)», lecture

OPENSPACE «Seven Salome’s Predicates», theatre play/software

DRAG NIGHT Party; special guest — «The Villbergs» project (Sweden)

Sept. 23: OPENSPACE «Invisible Life of the Republic», documentary

OPENSPACE «Influence of Prison Subcultures on Mass Culture. Attitudes towards LGBT», discussion

Sept. 24: OPENSPACE «Intersex Phenomenon in Culture: Historical Perspective», lecture

Sept. 25: «Just Sex: Mapping Your Desire», workshop (in cooperation with Grindr)

«Well Strung», concert (USA)

Sept. 26: OPENSPACE Human Library: I am Proud of My Culture

Sept. 27: «Queer Consciousness: Spiritual Dimension of LGBT culture», discussion

OPENSPACE «Gender and Sexual Diversity in Islam», discussion

Sept. 28: OPENSPACE «Sports. Overcoming Barriers», discussion

Sept. 29: OPENSPACE «Can the Oppressed Sing?», workshop

OPENSPACE «Queer Partner Dances», showcase

Festival Closing Ceremony — Party with INFINITY project. Special guest – DANA SOKOLOVA

Sept. 30: OPENSPACE «Keith Haring-Style Pop Art Postcard», workshop

OPENSPACE «Twist Your Rainbow», workshop

OPENSPACE «Queer as Art Object», workshop


See also:

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, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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