‘Please hate the terrorist state’: Trans people and allies speak up against a transphobic law in Russia

A group of anonymous activists from the Urals Queer Republic project posted quotes by trans people on the streets of Ekaterinburg. Photo from Ural Queer Republic Telegram Channel.

On July 14, Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, approved a new law that prohibits gender reassignment surgery, marking another setback for LGBTQ+ rights within the country. As the BBC reports,  the bill, which also includes a ban on changing genders in official documents, received the Duma's endorsement on Friday. Typically, these measures are expected to pass through the upper house and gain the final approval of President Vladimir Putin, by July 19. 

Vyacheslav Volodin, the Speaker of the Duma, announced that the bill aims to “safeguard” citizens. Activists and transgender individuals have voiced desperate concerns regarding the potential consequences of this legislation. The Moscow Times reports that ,since the bill's introduction in May, many people have rushed to begin the gender reassignment process due to fears that this opportunity may soon be revoked.

Critics of the law warn that it could exacerbate the already alarmingly high rates of suicide and suicide attempts among transgender people. Furthermore, they argue that it might give rise to an underground market for surgeries and medications. Yan Dvorkin, the leader of Center-T, an organization that supports transgender and non-binary individuals in Russia, stated that many people feel that their prospects for the future are collapsing, leading to a significant increase in suicidal messages.

A group of anonymous activists who call themselves The Ural Queer Republic, from the Russian city of Ekaterinburg, announced an action and launched Twitter and Telegram channels before the approval of the law. They gathered statements from trans people from Russia in an anonymous form, published them on Twitter, and then printed them out and posted them on walls of buildings in Ekaterinburg during the night before the ban. 

Photo of one of the pasted tweets from the Ural Queer Republic campaign. The text says: “If Putin wants to get in my panties, he might as well do it personally and not invent some excuses, laws and justifications.” SOURCE?

This is what they stated as their goal:

Цель этого проекта дать транс*сообществу площадку для высказывания — безопасную и анонимную. Не все могут высказаться в своих социальных сетях, так как находятся в России, под прессингом репрессивных законов или не могут открыться близкому окружению, находятся в шкафу. T*witter позволит вам говорить без страха. 

Вот, что мы хотим рассказать о нашем проекте:

«У нас забирают право голоса, право на наше тело, право на будущее. Наши голоса приглушают, значит мы сами найдём способ сделать их громче.

Мы собираем голоса транс*людей и их союзни_ц, всё что вам нужно — это ответить на вопрос: «Что вы думаете обо всей этой срани?», заполнив эту гугл-форму: 

Это место, где вы можете высказать всё. Позвольте себе быть злыми, ваши слова могут выражать те боль, страх и бессилие, которые сеет в сообществе этот закон, а еще поддержку другим транс*людям, обращения к союзни_цам, ваши надежды. 

Все ваши отклики мы разместим в специальном твиттер-аккаунте, а некоторые из них будут выбраны для офлайн артивистской акции. Чем больше их будет, тем сильнее будет наше высказывание, тем сложнее его будет заглушить, закрасить, стереть. Тем виднее будет, как нас много.

Комментарии не будут редактироваться, вы можете писать всё, что хотите сказать, чувствуете, переживаете — политическое, нецензурное, личное, любое. Единственное ограничение это объём текста в 280 символов.

Это безопасно для вас, мы не собираем никакие персональные данные, анкета абсолютно анонимна, вам не нужно иметь никакие зарегистрированные аккаунты, чтобы заполнить её. Если вы используете одно устройство с другими пользователями — используйте приватный режим. 

Есть ли польза от наших высказываний? Мы не знаем. Но иногда люди говорят просто потому что не могут молчать».

 Our project aims to provide a secure and anonymous platform for the transgender community to voice their thoughts and experiences. In countries like Russia, where repressive laws and societal pressures restrict open expression, many individuals find themselves unable to speak up, even within their close circles. However, on T*witter, you can speak freely without fear.

We believe that the right to vote, the right to control our own bodies, and the right to shape our own futures are being unjustly stripped away from us. Our voices are being silenced, but we refuse to stay quiet. We are determined to amplify our voices, and we need your help.

We are gathering the voices of trans* people and their allies, and all you have to do is answer a simple question: “What do you think about all this?” You can share your thoughts by filling out a Google form.

This platform is a safe space where you can express yourself freely. Allow yourself to be angry, as your words can convey the pain, fear, and powerlessness that these oppressive laws inflict upon our community. You can also offer support to other trans* individuals, reach out to allies, and share your hopes for a better future.

All the responses we receive will be posted on a dedicated Twitter account, and some of them will be chosen for an offline artistic action. The greater the number of responses we receive, the stronger our collective message will become. It will be increasingly difficult to silence, cover up, or erase our voices. We will make it evident how many of us there are.

Your comments will remain unedited, allowing you to express whatever you want to convey, whether it's political, profane, or personal. The only limitation is the maximum text size of 280 characters, in line with Twitter's format.

Rest assured, your safety is our utmost priority. We prioritize your privacy by not collecting any personal data whatsoever. Our questionnaire guarantees complete anonymity, and you are not required to have any registered accounts to participate. If you share a device with others, we recommend using private mode for added security.

As for the impact of our statements, we cannot predict with certainty. However, there are moments when people simply need to speak out because silence becomes unbearable. Sometimes, the act of speaking itself holds immense value, regardless of immediate outcomes.

Their Twitter account now has 166 anonymous tweets from trans people and their supporters in Russia.  The activists, as promised, printed some of them and pasted them on the city’s walls during the night of July 13.

Photo of some of the pasted tweets from the Ural Queer Republic campaign. The texts say, from top to bottom: (1) I am scared and in despair. My life is getting ruined every day in front of my eyes. (2) To not let people decide what to do with their bodies is unspeakable. (3) I am just tired of ignorance, hate, devaluation of feelings,  which trans people encounter every day. I am tired that they do not see us as people.  I just want my body to belong to me only. I want to feel safe. (4) All my life I was postponing the transition because of fear.  I thought that with higher education and career I would be the queer who would be judged because of talent not because of their ‘queerness’.  But however hard you work, Russia doesn't need smart trans people. It needs dead trans people.  I am sorry about everything. Please hate the terrorist state.  Protect your trans* sisters, trans* brothers and non-binary siblings. Otherwise we will all end up in the gas chambers.

After they posted numerous posters with quotes from trans people on the streets of Ekaterinburg, the activists wrote on their Telegram channel:

В ночь со второго на третье чтение Екатеринбург заговорил голосами транс*людей. Стены домов и заборы, остановки и знаковые места, центр и даже некоторые спальные районы. Мы оставили множество ваших сообщений, напечатанных такими, какими они были в t*witter, и наш манифест. Города, в которых мы живем — наш дом, и в своем доме мы хотим выражать свои мысли свободно. В своем доме мы можем пережить эту боль и исцелиться, потому что надежда продолжает жить в нас и в том, что нас окружает. Ural Queer Republic посвящает эту ночь всем транс*людям, чьи жизни под угрозой. Всем, кому тяжело. Всем, чьи жизни изменятся. Помните — это не навсегда

During the night between the second to the third reading [of the law], Ekaterinburg spoke with the voices of trans people. From the walls of houses and fences to bus stops and iconic landmarks, the entire city, including residential areas, became a canvas for our message. We printed numerous unaltered posts from Twitter, alongside our manifesto.

The cities we live in are our home, and in our home we want to express our thoughts freely. In our home, we can experience this pain and be healed because hope lives on in us and in our surroundings.

Ural Queer Republic dedicates this night to all transgender people whose lives are endangered. It is a night for those who are going through challenging times, as well as for those whose lives are about to change.

Remember, this darkness is not everlasting. It has an end, and light awaits us beyond it.

As the Moscow Times reported, since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the escalating domestic repressions, transgender people have been among the hundreds of thousands of Russians who have chosen to leave their country. However, seeking refuge abroad comes with its own set of challenges and risks, not to mention the financial burdens it entails.

The number one cause for suicide is untreated depression. Depression is treatable and suicide is preventable. You can get help from confidential support lines for the suicidal and those in emotional crisis. Visit Befrienders.org to find a suicide prevention helpline in your country.

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