Are you ready, guys?
There's a lot of stairs.
I'll hold your hand.
I got it. I got it.
Let's go... Oh!
♪ Did you see them? ♪
♪ Oh, did you see them? ♪
♪ They're just walking around, yeah ♪
Hi. We're coming up.
Ian and I are in Ukraine to meet members of the q*eer community and learn about the LGBTQ experience here.
Oh. Should we press a button?
Man: Not yet.
Since we've never been here before, we're going out for a night on the town with a new friend.
Daniel: We brought you some alcohol.
We know what to bring. You do your thing.
And you'll make you a drink.
And then, we'll come back in.
What do you... We do tequila.
Do you want tequila or whiskey?
Wait, just tilt the bottle, and then the liquid...
Because of gravity, it just sort of...
Oh, is that how it works?
[Chuckling]... comes out.
Tell us if that's too strong.
We had a feeling.
I kind of want to try this. Do you mind?
I have no idea how to do it.
This has b*lls on it.
Yeah, Rainbow b*lls. Yeah.
It's kind of good for your abs, man.
Vlad, you have to be, like, fit to do this.
I mean... No? [Laughs]
How long have you been doing drag for?
Are there many drag performers in Kiev or in Ukraine, or too many?
Page: A former journalism student, Vlad Shast now preforms as his drag alter-ego named Guppy Drink.
And he might seem modest, but what he does is pretty profound here in Ukraine.
Daniel: Why do you do drag?
Is it about self expression, or is it about protest, or is it about just about having fun?
Are you scared actually getting into the taxi?
No, not drag, no. I've...
What about this?
It's like a...
Mm, that's kind of... No.
Look at his body. That's what the audience wants.
That booty's getting big, beau.
The rotten child of the Guppy Drink.
Page: Guppy performs at Pomada Club, one of the only LGBTQ bars in Kiev.
[Cheers and applause]
[Cheers and applause]
Page: This club is legendary here in Kiev, but in 2014 it was the scene of a violent att*ck.
A group of right-wing radicals tried to force their way into Pomada.
They threw a smoke b*mb and firecrackers into the club, causing a stampede.
This anti-LGBTQ att*ck turned out to be one of many that year.
Ukraine is a nation in transition.
This is the Maidan, right in the center of Kiev, where, in 2013, Ukrainians gathered by the thousands in protest of government corruption.
The Ukrainian government just defaulted on an agreement with the European Union.
[All chanting in Ukrainian]
For many Ukrainians, E.U. integration held the promise of political reform and economic stability.
[All singing in Ukrainian]
But for LGBTQ people, it held the possibility of steps towards equality and basic human rights and a shift away from Russian influence.
Instead, the Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, opted for closer relations with Russian.
Yatsenyuk: This president betrayed the Ukrainian people.
He sold my country, and he did it under the auspices of President Putin.
Page: Eventually, the protests turned violent, and clashes erupted between and demonstrators.
These events have come to be known as the Euromaidan Revolution.
[All chanting in Ukrainian]
In the end, over 100 protestors and 18 police officers were k*lled while another 166 protestors are missing or presumed d*ad.
Even now, when I smell this, um, smoke, it brings just, like, memories of the... of the revolution.
Maxim Eristavi is one of the few openly gay journalists currently working in Ukraine and reported from the front lines of the revolution.
What does it feel like when you come back and just walk around?
All the time, I find it quite emotional.
It's not normal when you're in a normal city living your normal, urban life, and then suddenly, you're in the middle of urban warfare and with people dropping d*ad around you.
So, what is the current political state of the country right now?
Personally, I think the revolution is still happening.
Two years later, it's not about protests, v*olence, and active face, but it is happening everywhere...
In minds, in, uh...
In the governmental buildings, everywhere.
The process is still there... This uncertainty, this desire for change, a time to change.
Page: We're continuing our conversation in a location away from the square.
Daniel: We understand that you felt uncomfortable talking about q*eer issues or q*eer rights in the Maidan Square. Why is that?
I think that they politicized this issue so much that standing on the Maidan talking about q*eer rights or, you know, any political issue, could backfire later, and you can be accused either of being a Kremlin agent or a traitor.
If I criticize the country in any way possible...
... I'm a target...
... for far-rights.
Could you tell us about the LGBT involvement in the Euromaidan Revolution?
LGBT groups, activists, they decided intentionally they don't want to bring social issues into this fight.
A lot of gay people, a lot of q*eer people, they've been there, and they were fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone else, but it wasn't manifested in any way.
And I think it was one of the biggest mistakes of the q*eer community here to, uh, keep it silent.
Now when you talk to people, they say, "Well, where have you been during the revolution?"
"I didn't see any gay people fighting with us there, so why should we care?"
And I think that's very tragic.
How does it make you feel as an out journalist in Ukraine?
I'm trying to do everything possible to expose rising, uh, animosity towards gay people.
But at the same time, the constant death threats and then when you look over your shoulder...
I've been through a lot of stuff myself personally, and I know that, at some point, you know, you have to stand up because otherwise, well, you're gonna face death anyway.
Maxim, thank you so much.
Thank you for coming.
Your bravery is, like, absolutely astounding.
Oh, it's... no, it's not.
You don't need to be humble. It is.
As the country regroups in the wake of the revolution, where does this leave the LGBTQ community?
Page: We are in Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine.
[All chanting in Ukrainian]
In the years since the revolution, there has been a surge of right-wing activity in the streets.
These fringe groups of ultra-right nationalists have an ideology rooted in a mistrust of Russia and the west and believe in an independent and socially conservative Ukraine.
Waging a battle for Ukraine's morality, some groups coordinate violent att*cks aimed at members of the LGBTQ community.
Local activist Zoryan Kis has experienced v*olence at the hands of such groups.
They want us to to be scared.
They want us to hide, and they told me, "We will be attacking every event that you organize because we don't want you on the streets."
"We don't' want you to demonstrate your sickness," or something like that.
So we took part in an experiment where me and my partner, Tymur, we walked down the city holding hands, and there were two secret, hidden cameras filming the reaction of the people.
Then we ended up sitting on a bench at [speaks Ukrainian] and Tymur was sitting on my lap.
And then, within three minutes, we were approached by a g*ng of, um, far-right teenagers.
They were obviously, like, Neo-n*zi.
They had some tattoos, and, like, varying t-shirts with various signs.
There were, like, 10 or 12 of them.
They pepper-sprayed us first and started, uh, kicking and b*ating us.
They said we are the shame of the Ukrainian nation.
Page: Some youth groups even go on so-called "gay safaris" where they use social media to lure unsuspecting members of the community to att*ck and shame them.
We've made contact with one of the most notorious local groups perpetrating gay safaris here in Kiev.
They're called Fashion Verdict, kind of a dark twist on the phrase "fashion police."
This group allowed one of our producers to film for the night.
Fashion Verdict was founded by a name named Nikolay Dulsky.
We've arranged a meeting with Nikolay at an undisclosed location.
Daniel: Thank you.
Page: And as a precautionary measure, we've decided to not share the fact that we're gay.
Hi. How's it going?
Um, okay, uh, first, we're just wondering what the group is that you're a part of and if you could explain, um, what you guys do and maybe how many members are in your group.
Can you describe more of your values of these various groups?
I mean, what are your... Maybe your greatest fears of the things that negatively impact Ukraine?
Page: This ideology is spreading.
[Shouting, expl*si*n in distance]
Two weeks before we arrive, over 200 ultra-right-wing nationalists laid siege to an LGBTQ equality festival in the city of Lviv 350 miles from Kiev.
[Chanting in Ukrainian]
Page: We're at the headquarters for Insight, an organization dedicated to LGBTQ awareness and advocacy founded by Olena Shevchenko, one of the organizers of the Lviv festival.
What happened there exactly?
Can you walk us through your personal account?
So, basically what we did, we put an advertisement on social network that the equality festival will be held in Lviv.
Yeah, we started, uh, at 12:00 like we planned, and in one hour we calculated more into hundreds of ultra-rights around the hotel.
They just surrounded the hotel.
Mm, and then, when something like that happens...
Like, I'm just... I'm wondering how you regroup 'cause it seems like such a difficult situation to navigate when you're just trying to have a gathering for equality, and then you're dealing with 200 potentially extremely violent people.
Well, when we came back was a hugest-ever media attention from Ukrainian media, from international, as well.
Um, and it's a good thing because, you know, this issue, uh, became more public.
That's not just, you know, an issue of one minority group anymore.
That's an issue of, uh, v*olence in Ukraine.
Could you maybe speak specifically to, um, some of the challenges and issues lesbian and bisexual women face in Ukraine?
Of course, in our patriarchal society, women's rights is still something, you know, not really popular.
First of all, you're women, and then you are lesbian.
So, basically, that's a double stigma.
Feminism, like, that's for radicals.
But, of course, we are radicals, and we use this word.
What does that mean for you when I walk in your office and I see this image, which is, I'm assuming, a target on you from various organizations or groups, and what does that mean for you and others working here in that sort of constant fear?
I don't think that we are working in the fear.
We are, you know, experienced people and really motivated ones.
Today, Olena has organized a flash mob in Kiev to support Lviv and to make a public statement that the community will not hide in fear.
We need to unite our efforts.
We need to unite our efforts to be more visible and a more vocal movement.
I believe that that's possible to change something.
I don't plan to give up.
Page: We're in Ukraine, where, according to a recent study, 63% of Ukrainians surveyed believe h*m* is a mental disease.
The organization Gay Alliance is trying to change that by helping to educate people on LGBTQ issues.
How's it going? I'm Ian.
Great. I'm Yuri.
Nice to meet you.
Ellen. A pleasure to meet you.
Nice to meet you, Ellen.
How's it going? What's going on?
Yeah, we saw...
Um, it's pretty fun.
We are having, like, kind of informative campaign just to support the same-sex partnership.
Mm-hmm. So, what does this say?
It actually says that they have right for a common life together.
And this says they have right to, uh, uh, grow old together.
Page: Today, Yuri is raising awareness for a bill on same-sex civil unions.
Page: The former Soviet Union has a long history of using propaganda to control public opinion.
And so, most recently, the Russian Parliament unanimously voted for a bill criminalizing anything deemed "gay propaganda," which President Vladimir Putin signed into law in 2013.
[Camera shutters clicking]
And here in Ukraine, activist Ruslan Kukharchuk campaigns in support of a similar law.
Thanks for meeting with us.
We appreciate you taking the time today.
Your organization was supporting and pushing forward a bill that would make there be an anti-gay propaganda law, I believe, that would lead to a sentence of maybe five years. Is that something you're um, still working on pushing forward?
That would mean, like, no, I guess, pride celebrations.
Would that also mean, like, no gay movies, or...
Say, like, if an athlete came out as a gay person...
All of that, I'd imagine, would become illegal?
Right, so, I'm curious, then, how you feel about just freedom of speech because it seems like you're for the right to protest for your organization but against LGBTQ protest.
Page: Despite the best efforts of Love Against h*m*, we're invited to one of Ukraine's first same-sex ceremonies.
Page: Though unrecognized by Ukrainian law, gay-right activists Zoryan and Tymur are having a commitment ceremony at the local LGBTQ center.
If the anti-propaganda law ever passes, what we're doing today, filming a same-sex ceremony for television, would be strictly illegal, and we could all face up to five years in prison.
Daniel: Well, thanks for letting us join in.
And can we do anything to help out?
Okay, well, you get ready.
We don't... You know, we're here to just hang out. Okay. [Laughs]
Okay. [Speaks Ukraine]
[Cheers and applause]
[Cheers and applause]
[All chant in Ukrainian, laughter]
Page: It's nighttime in Kiev, and the streets may seem quiet, but below the surface lives a small and defiant underground arts community that refuses to stay silent.
[Laughter, indistinct conversations]
Misha Koptev is one such figure in the scene.
Considered by some to be an outsider because of his art, his unabashed sense of self has attracted a cult following.
Daniel: Hey. [Chuckles]
Hi, I'm Ian.
Nice to meet you.
[Laughs] Interpreter: "I had a dream you were naked under my blanket tonight."
You had a dream of me naked?
I think that's called wishful thinking.
Uh, who are you?
I'm from Viceland.
Yes, you know the channel...
The TV channel?
I'm here to hang out with you tonight, so...
I'm in your world, so take me around.
Page: Misha blurs the boundaries between performance art and fashion.
Daniel: Yes. Okay.
Oh, thank you.
So, wait, wait... Tell me what's going on tonight first.
Oh, that's Oh! Oh.
That is your twin. He's crying?
Why is he crying?
Page: Misha gleeful plays the role of the jester, but under the surface there's a lot more to his story.
He is just one of over 1.5 million internally displaced Ukrainians who were forced to relocate after the Russian invasion in the Eastern provinces.
After Euromaidan, the country became destabilized, and Russia attempted to annex Eastern Ukraine.
The region broke out into w*r, creating a mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of people.
LGBTQ people like Misha were among those who left everything behind, migrating west toward Kiev.
[Dog barks in distance]
How are you? We brought you some...
... early morning wine.
The whole thing?
Where did... Where did you get this from?
I'm gonna start controlling the situation.
Maybe just a little bite here, huh?
That's so good, so good.
No, I don't' think it's that big.
I wanted to ask you about your hometown and where you're from and what it's like there.
Page: In a nation torn apart by w*r and revolution, it seems that Misha uses his renegade art as a way to make sense of his world.
But he's only one of countless LGBTQ people fleeing the Russian occupation.
We're visiting the only LGBTQ safe house for internally displaced people in Kiev.
Can we come in?
Marina and Marina are a couple who fled their hometown in Eastern Ukraine.
[Both speak Ukrainian]
[All speak Ukrainian]
Thank you so much for having us. We really appreciate it.
So, how did you guys first meet each other, and when was the moment when one of you was, like, "I'm Marina," and then you were both like, "Whoa!"
Wow, that one look.
So, how long have you been in Kiev?
Guys, what was it like on a day-to-day basis in regards to v*olence that was happening?
How did you two make the decision to leave?
What's the ideal future for you two?
Page: Some LGBTQ Ukrainians have been displaced by w*r, but others can't even leave if they tried to.
[Camera beeps, shutter clicks]
Fritz Von Klein is a trans man trapped in Ukraine because the government will not issue him documentation that matches his gender identity.
[Camera shutter clicks]
A self-described artist-activist, Fritz poses for photographs as a way of using his body as an artistic form of protest, highlighting the difficulties of simply existing as a transgender person in Ukraine.
I'm just wondering how you feel knowing that then the government has control over who you are on some level.
You have a kid, yeah, you have a daughter?
Oh, my God. It's on rainbow flag.
And where do they live?
You're not able to see her at all?
For now, Fritz lives in Kiev, which could be considered a more cosmopolitan city in the nation.
But what's life like for LGBTQ people outside of the city?
Our old friend Vlad, who performs in Kiev as his drag persona Guppy Drink, offered to show us.
Page: We're headed to a town in rural Ukraine with Vlad, and, uh, spend some... spend some time in his hometown.
Page: We're now seven hours outside of Kiev in a small town called Bobrynets.
What was it like being young and growing up in this town?
Shast: I wasn't able to be open.
Everyone hates to be just thinking about some gay stuff.
But, uh, to be open gay in this town is like to be d*ad.
I heard "f*g" like, almost every day.
But it's made me stronger.
And this was my surname and other bad words...
It's like "Licking of the dicks".
You can even see "H", "A, "S," and "T," and this was, like, bad word.
What did you mom say? How did she feel about it?
We didn't talk about it, because...
But she saw it, yeah?
I think yes. And this is not the first one here, I can say.
There's a few ones was near my school... on school.
... it was the normal thing.
What does it make you feel like to see them?
Shast: I don't, like, have any evil in my heart, because I understand that people can do mistakes and that people can change.
And I need to show by my example that to be q*eer is normal.
Daniel: I'm wondering, if you didn't have drag, do you feel like you would have made it out of this town?
Drag has given me the opportunity to say to everyone that, "I'm here."
I'm q*eer. Get used to it! [Laughter]
Page: We're in Ukraine, where Kiev Pride is around the corner.
Newlywed Zoryan has organized a self-defense class for the LGBTQ community to learn how to protect themselves.
[Speaking Ukrainian, people chanting in Ukrainian]
Last year he experienced v*olence firsthand during the pride march when an ultra-right mob att*cked the event with nail b*mb, injuring 19.
And this year, an ultra-right nationalist group has promised a "blood bath" if this event isn't cancelled.
For the last part of the training session, Zoryan hints that he will relive an experience from his past in order to prepare the class for Pride.
Daniel: He looks in severe pain, honestly.
I mean, that shit burns your eyeballs.
Page: The fact that he just did that to be able to show other people the reality of that experience, to help members of your community feel prepared probably psychologically more capable of, you know, going to these events or even just walking down the street with your partner...
It was a pretty unbelievable thing.
It's the day of pride 2016.
The city of Kiev has deployed 5,500 police and 1,200 members of the National Guard to protect the marchers.
Every year since it started, it's faced serious threats of v*olence.
Man: [Speaking in Ukrainian over loudspeaker]
Page: Despite everything, the LGBTQ community is out in full force.
[All chant in Ukrainian]
[Cheers and applause]
For the first time since it began, Kiev's pride march ended peacefully.
While our friends celebrate today, tomorrow is a new day back in the trenches in the fight for equality.
It's been an honor to meet members of Ukraine's LGBTQ community.
They've shown us that the gentlest souls make the fiercest warriors, that real bravery is moving forward in the face of uncertainty, and above all their hard work is a reminder that two years after Euromaidan, their revolution continues.
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02x01 - Ukraine
Episode transcripts for the TV show "Gaycation". Aired: February 2016 to April 2017.
"Gaycation" follows Ellen and Ian as they set off to explore LGBT cultures around the world. From Japan to Brazil to Jamaica to the USA, the two meet some fascinating people during their travels and hear their stories.
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1 post • Page 1 of 1