Meet the proud gay Russian YouTuber who’s trying to change the country for millions of persecuted LGBT+ people
A proud gay man in Russia wants to inspire other LGBT+ people in the country to come out with his star-studded YouTube talk show.
Karèn Shainyan, 39, a Moscow-based editor and writer, hosts the show Straight Talk with Gay People.
To encourage Russian celebrities to come out as LGBT+, he’s been interviewing high-profile LGBT+ celebrities from different countries.
Unusually for a gay Russian, Shainyan has never kept his sexuality a secret.
Despite the horrific attacks on LGBT+ people in Russia, Shainyan hopes that through education people can be liberated.
He told the Daily Beast: “Ignorance and indifference are the key reasons behind the worst homophobia.”
Shainyan added: “To Russian celebrities, coming out means a political message, a demand for having certain rights.
“But a public coming-out would mean an immediate huge loss of access to the concert halls.”
On a recent, pre-pandemic trip to the US, Shainyan spoke to celebrities including Cynthia Nixon and Billy Porter.
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That was the last but definitely the most inspiring and joyful shooting this time. Thank you so very much, dearest @cynthiaenixon ⠀ Вечером мы снимали такую героиню, фото которой я тут разместить не могу, мы и снимали-то ее со спины. А вот утром — финал апофеоз этой жесткой съемочной недели. Спасибо, дорогая @cynthiaenixon
In the three months since he published them, more than three million people have watched his conversations with them on YouTube.
“The idea of the project is to attract the attention of a broader audience and expose all the existing myths around LGBT+ people,” he said.
“Since as soon as people hear the word ‘gay’ in the Russian media agenda, it always comes from two poles – either from homophobes and state propaganda calling to bring the Soviet criminal law back to the legislation or from LGBT activists, who use the word in the context of their fight, violated rights or clashes with police.
“These are two radical contexts, while in reality, several million Russian LGBT+ people are muted, they are not represented in the public space.”
While the number of LGBT+ people in Russia is unknown, Shainyan said “if we apply the usual statistics, there might be up to 10 million lesbians, gay, transgender, queer or bisexual people in our country”.
Shainyan, who is single and a parent to two boys, aged nine and one, who he had with lesbian friends.
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One son lives with his mother in Kyiv, and while he usually visits Moscow regularly since starting the YouTube series both Shainyan and the boy’s mother have been concerned about the child’s safety if visiting Moscow – concerned that state agencies might attempt to take the son away.
Last year, two gay dads fled Russia over fears the government would take their adopted children away from them.
Vladimir Putin and his government banned “gay propaganda” in 2013, adding to the discrimination, persecution and violence that LGBT+ people face in the country.
In 2017, Putin claimed that it is his “duty” to stop gay people getting married so that people have more babies.