Anna Sharigina, co-organizer of Kharkiv-Pride
My name is Anna Sharigina. I represent Kharkiv Women’s Association “Sphere”. I also work a little in Kyiv-Pride and this year is co-organizer of the first in our city Kharkiv-Pride.
Our organization works in several directions, first, it is an educational activity we love to do educational projects, we tell people about human rights about those rights that are not available to homosexual people, about gender equality, about different opportunities for different people. We also have a community center where we share our organization’s resources with the LGBT community and Kharkiv-friendly organizations. And we also hold public events where we make visible such issues as women’s rights, human rights, the rights of homosexual people, and we also participate in various partnership activities.
We started working back in 2008 and did mostly feminist projects or pro-feminist projects. We talked about gender equality, in particular, about the diversity of people, on the one hand, and on the other hand, about equality between men and women. And then we started to get involved in the LGBT movement a little bit and from the very 8th year we started doing different activities for the LGBT community, we started to participate in conferences, and then it turned out that we went to 1 in our life Kyiv -Pryde, I started working at Kyiv-Pride. Engaged in volunteering, the Kyiv Pride program, actively joined and 5 years later decided that Kharkiv – our hometown – was ready for the first Pride in the city streets.
Over the past 2 years, more than a dozen hate attacks have been committed on our events, including physical attacks and blocking of our statutory activities, and efforts to disrupt our activities and those of our partners. We regularly try to counteract various means, in particular, we apply to law enforcement agencies that identify and classify crimes as hate crimes or, more often, unfortunately, as hooliganism. We communicate with human rights groups, including the Kharkiv human rights group.
In order to explain to them what the content of this hatred is, we communicate with the police on a regular basis to explain to them that no, this is not normal and it is not just bullying, but a litch against a certain group of people who attack us not as an organization , not as individual activists, but as a whole group of people at risk. I’ll tell the story of my girlfriend. She was very active in promoting patriotic ideas at one time. At the same time, they came out with a lesbian. At some point I noticed that she began to switch to Russian in communication. Previously, she spoke Ukrainian. When I asked her why she was switching to Russian, she replied that it was difficult for her to say, “Glory to Ukraine!” because it is with these words that they are attacked.
After the first attack on KyivPride, after our attacks began, I realized that Ukrainian identity is not only something that we can demonstrate by wearing an embroidery, carrying a flag, it is something that we can disgrace by committing attacks on peaceful assemblies. It seems to me that we can be who we are and at the same time feel Ukrainian identity. It is difficult for me to imagine activists now in Ukraine who would oppose territorial integrity or even not, would not advocate the integrity of Ukraine, condemning Russian aggression. We often say “conservative” in the sense of “bad”, “backward”. I think that Ivano-Frankivsk, like many Western Ukrainian cities, is more progressive than the eastern cities, because territorially it is closer to Europe. People there have the opportunity to participate in European events, to organize international events in their territory, such events that will be in demand.
Regarding religion and religiosity, I would also like us to stop confronting religiosity and tolerance. It seems to me that religiosity should not be so aggressive as to reject any people. The LGBT community is also very religious, and they suffer because they do not feel in the community. They do not feel like themselves because they also need religious brothers and sisters. Sometimes they cannot be themselves because they are rejected on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
It seems to me that we should strive to unite the Ukrainian society, regardless of the community that this or that person belongs to: regional or non-Ukrainian, Russian or Russian, of a different skin color or other political beliefs. There is no need to divide 75% and 25% people there, by majority and minority. Let us be one Ukrainian society, it will be about winning and winning, it is about strengthening our country as a whole, not breaking it into small pieces.