On August 16, 2021 Charitable Foundation Sphere* together with the Russian LGBT Network celebrated the official release of a children’s book by a recognized author Lawrence Schimel, with illustrations by an award-winning Elina Braslina and Dmitriy Kuzmin’s translation into Russian.
The book has already been published in English, Spanish, French, German and Italian languages, among others, and by the end of 2022 it is expected that it will exist in at least 30 editions and 24 languages worldwide.
The book presents two stories: “Early in the Morning” and “It’s Not Playtime!” telling about a routine morning and evening of two run-of-a-mill families correspondingly. Consequently, the book’s name was translated into Russian literally as “Mothers, Fathers and Kids from Dusk till Dawn”.
The families colorfully pictured in the book are no different than any other: parents oversleep, cannot quite control their pets, read to their children before bed. Both family units, however, give us representation of a same-sex couple.
Due to this fact, the book previously attracted some negative sentiments of Hungarian authorities, so much so that Rainbow Family organization there ended up receiving a fine for publishing ‘material promoting homosexuality’, in accordance with the recent changes in the country’s law.
Hence it came as no surprise that, when Sphere decided on releasing the book in Russia and in Russian, no publishing house would support their initiative. The Hungarian law, in more ways than one, is a relative to the Russian 2013 ‘gay propaganda law’ – or, to be more precise, the law banning any ‘propaganda’ of same-sex relationships among minors. Being discriminatory in its nature as is, over the years it has become a way of practically banning self-expression and freedom of speech, ultimately rendering LGBTQ+ people in Russia fearful of their very existence being labeled as ‘propaganda’.
“Mothers, Fathers and Kids from Dusk till Dawn” is a book that is not only about LGBTQ+ families, but for them. In that sense, this book stands on its own as the very first of its kind in Russia. Despite the hurdles, the desire to give such family the representation that is long overdue drove Sphere and Russian LGBT Network towards opting for publishing the book on an independent basis. Nevertheless, in order to be able to do that it became absolutely necessary to print the book with an ‘18+’ label on it. In other words, because of the existing legislature there was no other choice but to publish a children’s book for adults only (in addition to that, Sphere had to specify that it is the organization recognized under the Russian so-called ‘foreign agents’ law).
That is why this book, for Sphere, is the epitome of the Russian ‘gay propaganda’ law’s absurdity. This law does not protect anyone from anything. Rather, it acts as an instrument of limiting access to information, and legitimization of discrimination in the forms of homophobia and transphobia in the society, - all while real families, with real children are suffering from it. Sphere is strongly convinced that this law has to be repealed, and the belief that people could never be ‘propaganda’ ─ whereas what we can do is promote love and mutual respect ─ is the grand reason behind the organization’s campaign #PropagandizeThat (‘ПропагандируйЭто’). This campaign was launched in June of 2021, and in just a couple of months gathered over 58 thousand signatures supporting the petition against the discriminatory law: https://www.change.org/p/repeal-the-lgbt-propaganda-law-in-russia. The campaign also has its own Instagram account, @spherequeer.
*Charitable Foundation Sphere is recognized under the Russian 'foreign agent' law, we are obligated to specify that.
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