The ways our world of LGBTQ people and their safety are connected is not always abundantly clear. As Russia invades and wages war on Ukraine, we should all be deeply concerned for the state of global stability, world peace, and the safety of the lives of all Ukrainians. LGBTQ Ukrainians have an added fear of persecution under a Putin regime.
Russia has a terrible legacy of anti-LGBTQ human rights abuses. The 2020 documentary “Welcome to Chechnya” gave the world a terrifying glimpse into how LGBTQ Russians are subjected to state-sanctioned and extra-legal kidnapping, torture, and murder. While these human rights abuses have been occurring in Russia for quite some time, much of the light shed on these issues occurred under the Trump administration, whose relationship with Putin and Russia meant the US largely turned a blind eye to issues
In 2015, LGBTQ activists across the US began reporting to one another that our organizations’ websites were being hacked by Russian hackers; San Diego Pride was one of those organizations. At the time, we didn’t think much of it and simply put additional security measures in place. In 2016, Russian hackers and social media bots spreading disinformation in the US to further polarize a nation in the lead up to a key US election began to make these connections more clear; LGBTQ organizations were practice.
The US hasn’t been the only target of Russian efforts to polarize nations. Putin has targeted much of Europe, to stoke polarization and sow anti-LGBTQ sentiment and policies. One only needs to look at the “Gay Propaganda” laws in Russia that give license to LGBTQ human rights abuses, that suddenly popped up in Hungary and Poland to begin to understand what is at stake for LGBTQ people in Europe. We need only look to election manipulation and polarization Putin stoked in our country to understand how “Don’t Say Gay” bills in Florida, and bills that would arrest LGBTQ supportive parents and health care providers are jeopardizing the lives and safety of LGBTQ people here at home.
The attacks on voting rights, reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, and the rise in white nationalism domestically and abroad are all deeply connected. These issues are too large for any one person, organization, or nation to tackle. It will take collection action in the US to end the filibuster, protect and expand voting rights, and pass the Equality Act if we are to ensure the safety of LGBTQ and all Americans.
In 1982, San Diego Pride helped in the co-founding of InterPride, an organization that connects LGBTQ activists and organizations across the globe. We will be bringing that annual international conference to San Diego in 2023. Through our partnership with the San Diego Diplomacy Council and State Department, we’ve met with over 538 delegates from 134 countries around the world. Our mission statement is to foster pride, equality, and respect for all LGBTQ communities locally, nationally, and globally. Our actions now to #StandWithUkraine and firmly against Putin will have long-lasting impacts on the rise in nationalism and the lives of LGBTQ people all across the globe. As we all hope for peace, and fight for freedom, may we also remain determined to pursue Justice with Joy.
Fernando Zweifach López Pronouns: They/Them/Theirs Executive Director San Diego Pride
Fernando Lopez is the Executive Director of San Diego Pride. Lopez’s years of LGBT advocacy, nonprofit management, public education, diversity consulting, media relations, guest lectures, and organizing have made them a consistent presence ensuring the struggles of the LGBT community are ever visible.