A top lawyer in Russia has come out as both bisexual and transgender against the country’s notorious anti-gay law banning “homosexual propaganda,” declaring “it is a fascist law” that targets children and creates marginalised social groups.
President Vladimir Putin signed the law in June banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors, a move that has been criticised as part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community.
Masha Bast, the chair of the Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights, has spoken out in mainstream Russian media to oppose the anti-gay law.
In an interview, she told the Moscow Times: “The law banning gay propaganda among minors is completely wrong.
“I remember being 10 and wanting to be a girl and putting on girl’s clothes. I didn’t understand what was happening to me.
“This was in the Soviet Union and there was no information to explain what was happening to me.
“I went to dances dressed as a girl back when I looked more feminine. I also started taking hormone pills on my own, but they made me sick, and once an ambulance had to be called for me.
“I had to stop taking the pills, and for five or six years after that I couldn’t take any pills at all.”
She added: “Just imagine all the kids who have no idea what’s happening to them. I never once met a homosexual in my childhood and only learned what a homosexual was when I was 14.
“By then, I had long known that I was a woman and I had been wearing women’s clothes for years.
“So it isn’t a matter of upbringing. It’s nature. That’s why I think the law against “homosexual propaganda” is a law against children and one that targets certain social groups. It is a fascist law and nothing else.”
Ms Bast said she explained to her wife when they first started dating “I wasn’t the gender I appeared to be. I am female and have always wanted to be a girl.”
She said: “We talked about it for a long time, and it wasn’t an easy decision for her. I explained that I like men, but I am a bisexual woman.
“In Russia, same-sex marriage is illegal, but in practice we have a same-sex marriage. Really, I am more of the wife and she is more of the husband in terms of gender roles.”
She has invited the public to learn about trans people and follow her hormone and surgical treatments through her Facebook account.
Her advice to young trans people in Russia is “Come out. The sooner, the better. Don’t be afraid of your parents. Too many trans people worry about how society sees them and think they’re a problem for society.
“Don’t think that. It is your right. If it makes someone uncomfortable, that’s their problem. And especially for young trans women, don’t be afraid to go to a doctor. There are good doctors in Moscow and some in St. Petersburg who won’t judge you.”
When asked if coming out was the right thing to do amid anti-gay controversy in Russia, she said: “If we use terms that are frequently used to describe outer space, I would say that before coming out I was like a black hole.
“Now, though, I am expanding and becoming happier and happier. I’m like a bird that’s finally free. I don’t regret it. I did the right thing.”
She added: “I wasn’t trying to prove that I was brave. It was my choice. I’m a free person. Bravery and freedom are one and the same in my case. You have to be brave to be free. The freer a person is, the braver they have to be.”