10 Years of the Russian LGBT Network: WE ARE MAKING HUMAN RIGHTS TODAY

On November 4, a gala evening dedicated to the tenth anniversary of the Russian LGBT Network was held at the Forum of LGBT Activists. On this evening, Igor Kochetkov, a member of the Russian LGBT Network Council, gave a speech:

Dear Friends!

Ten years ago, most of those with whom we discussed the idea of establishing a national, public, human rights-oriented LGBT organization in Russia, said that neither society nor the LGBT community were “ready” for this. Since then, we have constantly heard this argument (“society is not ready”) on various occasions. Today, however, the Russian LGBT Network exists as a national organization with supporters from Kaliningrad to Kamchatka; an organization recognized and respected not only in our own country but also across the world. This fact cannot be denied by anyone.

The main thing this ten-year history has taught me personally is that life is worth spending in the pursuit of such hopeless ideas, for which “society is not ready”. Everything else is not interesting.

Mahatma Gandhi said: “If you want to change tomorrow, become that change today.” We are creating an organization that makes change today. We are uniting people who are not waiting for change, but are trying to live as if they are living in a just society, one about which they dream. They are trying to live in harmony with their convictions and conscience, with respect and concern for the dignity of themselves and others. This is not a utopia or a detachment from reality. For 10 years we have proved that this is real.

We dream about a society in which the rights and freedoms of every person will be equally protected and respected. However, we do not simply wait for the government or someone else to acknowledge and protect these rights. We are creating legal and psychological services, available throughout the country, for LGBTIQ people. We are giving every person the strength to defend their dignity and their rights. This strength lies in knowledge and experience, which we are collecting today and can be applied today. It is our wish to use them.

We dream about a society where people will hear and understand each other in spite of mutual differences. About a society where people will look after each other’s human dignity. Between us there are many differences, and perhaps the only thing that unites all people - human dignity for all.

Dreaming about this, today we are creating a community of different people, for whom the care for general human dignity is more important than sexual orientation, gender, religion, politics, and other differences. We gain experience in caring for the human dignity of each and every person. We are learning to work and live together despite all our differences, living as if at times it was not difficult. In the end, this goal will be given to us because by recognizing our diversity and even cultivating our dissimilarities, we begin to value each other for what we are – people.

However, we are not creating a “sanctuary” in which it would be possible to hide from the outside world. Our expression of our own human dignity, our experience of a common cause, is based on openly caring for this dignity. For some, our experience is becoming an example and a hope. Therefore, the number of our supporters, allies, and partners is growing. Our experience frightens those who are afraid of losing their power, which is based on the humiliation of some people by others, or those who do not believe in their own strength to live and accept themselves and others. They are fighting us. But their struggle makes us stronger.

The Russian LGBT Network is not an ideal organization. It was created and continues to be created by imperfect people who are fully aware of their limitations. We are learning, we are changing, and we are always coming up with something new. Imperfection, learning, adaptability, and inventiveness are manifested in the humanity of the Russian LGBT Network. The history of the Network is a stunning example of the empowerment of people who want to be free not in the distant future, but today. People who answer the question “Do human rights take away from or give to people?” with “Human rights create.” I am infinitely grateful to all, every person, who was and is involved in creating this example. I am thankful for all the participants in the Russian LGBT Network for their courage to be free people.