Out of focus: LGBT on the front line

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There are 2 things in the phrase “all fags should be sent to ATO” that makes me mad. The first thing is that the people who call themselves patriots (sic!) consider the army to be a punitive measure taken against both criminals and all who don’t fit into their “right patriotic” value system. Did you steal? To ATO! Did you take bribes? To ATO! Are you gay? To ATO! And the second thing. Who told them actually that there were no LGBT on the front line? They are there. A lot. They are among soldiers and health professionals in the combat zone and among volunteers who go there at their own risk or gather humanitarian aid in the rear.

Zhenia* is in the combat zone now. We get in touch by phone. He cannot speak plainly about many things. He has to resort to allegory or use hints. When talking to the comrades-in-arms, he cannot also tell the truth about his family status and personal life. Because Stanislav waits for him at home, not Sveta.

Have you been recruited? Or have you volunteered?

I have been recruited. But I just didn’t hide. I received a military subpoena and went. It is the fourth wave of mobilization.

Where are you serving?

Infantry. The ATO zone. The line of contact. I may not say where exactly.

Is it dangerous? Do they shoot there?

It is altogether dangerous in the combat zone. Yes, there is a shooting every day, but not along the entire line of contact. Today is here. Tomorrow is there. It is not possible to foresee the Russians. We hear the shots every day.

Can you call yourself a patriot?

I don’t want to say that I am such a big patriot. But I have come here? I had had a chance not to go. Of course, I want to live, like everybody else. But it sounds morbid to me that people are taken from their homes, being recruited. There should be professionals in the army, but not the people who want to go home. Now people have come here from the villages, from provincial towns, they thought they would earn much. They were promised some crazy amounts of money. When it turned out that nobody would pay such a lot of money, of course, they wanted to go home. A person who wants to go home will not fight well. I don’t see here that patriotism, which is widely trumpeted by the press and on TV that everybody is so patriotic… I agree, it must be, but it is too little here. The food is good, we have clothes to put on, and it is true. But the war has been lasting way too long.

I do not think it will end soon.

Neither do I. One should look at it from another point of view. Professionals are missing. Other than that, we do everything, what is required. Of course, military science is not enough. I think, a doctor should treat, a shoemaker should make footwear, and a military man should fight. Certainly, the army will be renewed, but when it will be.

Have you come out of the closet?

Here, certainly not. It does not make any sense. Because… How can people treat LGBT in our country? Progressive people, capable of thinking, who read a lot and display interest, they treat us well. Most of the people face an information gap in that regard. They have certain stereotypes. There are very few people who think.

Is the LGBT topic raised in the army?

No, it is not raised. Well, there are jokes, like in the army. But if it is raised not like a joke, a person would become not just an outsider… he would not survive. Either he will be driven to suicide, or he will be stabbed to death secretly.

But people are shoulder to shoulder at war, shed blood together, defend the country together. What is about “brothers in arms”?

There are “brothers in arms”. But everything ends when it comes to openness. Openness is a limit. There is a misunderstanding and hostility after the coming out. But it has been always like that in our country. Ukraine is not just ready to grow out of it. If a person does not understand something, he either adores it or hates. In this case, hatred. People do not even want to delve into the subject. “That is bad”, that is all. The situation is the same in the army, just multiplied. The army itself has not changed much. Most people are from the villages, and “it” is not welcomed there at all. They just brought their negative opinion here. Maybe, I have dramatized much that everything is so bad here. There are good people here. The brotherhood “one for all and all for one” is at a high level. I hope to God nothing bad happens, but if it does, I have no doubt that my sworn brothers would carry me out of the battlefield. I will do the same.

…until it comes to the orientation?

Well, let’s say, not me, but a person with orientation different from others will carry somebody out of the battlefield. Later it becomes known who he is…. If their friendship is real, nothing will change. But to come forward in front of a squad and declare – no, it is not going to work out.

Do you know other LGBT people in the army?

Everybody is so secretive. I look at people, and I can assume that they are “too”. But nobody says anything, people are just afraid.

You are telling, the society is not ready. Will it change the situation if next year or in some years LGBT people who were at ATO would take to the streets for the Equality March? Wearing uniforms or with medals.

(I can hear somebody’s voice, Zhenia is apologizing and turning aside towards the voice I hear on the other end of the line. I can hear, “Ah, do you want a cigarette? My pleasure”)

I have given a cigarette to the comrade-in-arms. If he knew who I was, he would not take a cigarette from me.

So, I would take to the streets wearing the uniform. I don’t care, I live openly at home. My friends know, all people from workplace know. I am not a small boy, enough to fear. I want to live freely. It will be no trouble for me to take to the streets. But it should be hard for a person who conceals it in civilian life too.

So, I am serving here… After it is over, I would like to meet 10 persons out of 100. To tell them, afterwards? Fine, I don’t care how they would take it. The most important is information. Our population lacks the information. The people think that gays are such persons wearing pink shirts and having white socks; if they are given an assault rifle, they will hold it with two fingers. We should show to the people that it is not the case. Of course, one should be careful when providing information. For example, to rank now all soldiers and tell them everything, no. The people will be messed up and they won’t understand anything. It should be done step by step. Constant dropping wears away a stone. Maybe in twenty years when Ukraine joins the European Union. It would change the things for sure, if Ukraine also joins NATO.

* – the name is changed for safety reasons.

You can read the interview with Stanislav by clicking on this link – "Life is on hold: wait for the boyfriend to return from the war ".

Both interviews are published in the ninth issue of the youth digest GAYD!

Автор: Kira Kowalski

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