LGBT community finds refuge in Ukraine crisis

More than four months since Russia first invaded Ukraine, more than 9.6 million refugees have since left Ukraine and around 8 million people had been internally displaced as of 3 May.

Search by Washington Post found that LGBT refugees are vulnerable to further suffering, with factors such as xenophobia, anti-LGBT sentiment and exploitation which can affect how they are treated by host countries. Gay people already face discrimination, but are likely to face heightened risks of harassment, violence and lack of protection when it comes to refugee responses, according to the UN.

Difficulty for trans men and women

Trans women and trans men have faced difficulties trying to leave Ukraine, with a shortage of medical services and supplies, including necessary hormonal drugs and HIV medications. Trans women have also been turned away at the border due to personal identification documents not matching their gender or physical examinations by border officials who declared them to be men.

When Russia first moved troops to the border, the Kyiv City Council issued a map which indicated the nearest shelters that people could find in the event of bombardment or aggression. The refuges have since been open since stray animalsblind people and self-identifying LGBTQI+ people.

Basic organization SAFETY ARCHhas helped over 4,000 refugees from marginalized groups, including LGBTQI+ people, people with disabilities, seniors and international students who were studying in Ukraine, to leave Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion.

Homophobia is rampant in Ukraine

Alliance Global representative Oksana Dobroskok, which runs three shelters specifically for gay people, spoke with PinkNews stating that homophobia is rampant in Ukraine every day, so there was a need for safe places and support.

Dobroskok explained that gay shelters weren’t just for food and drink, “they provide some security. It is a safe space. »

Fulcrum co-founder Tymur Levchuk has opened two shelters in Lviv and describes the organization as one that advocates inclusive policies, with a focus on ensuring adequate help and support is available for LGBTQI+ people. In addition to accommodation, Fulcrum provides financial assistance and extra money for people who need to buy medicine.

Levchuk said INASMUCH AS in April that eighteen people were living with him and his partner on a permanent basis, most of whom were “men or transgender people with a male marker in their passport who cannot leave Ukraine”.

‘Queen of the shelter’ Olya Onypko helps run an LGBTQI+ shelter in Ukraine where she interviews applicants to ensure applicants identify as gay and will be able to fit in at the shelter. First volunteering at a shelter, Onypko told The New Yorker that people were arriving “terrified, tense, unable to breathe fully. Their jaws were clenched, their diaphragms closed, their shins sore and seized up. So I led workshops, worked on their bodies. The refuge allows a maximum stay of two weeks.

While homosexuality has been legal in Ukraine since 1991, same-sex partnerships are not recognized by law and adoption for same-sex couples is illegal. Similarly, people who identify as LGBTQI+ faced discrimination and harassment before Russia’s military invasion, and in many cases there has been more “acute risks of persecution during armed conflict and humanitarian response efforts” to LGBTQI+ people and people of diverse gender identities.

Other organizations in Ukraine currently assisting LGBTQI+ Ukrainians displaced during the crisis include gay alliance, Z-sexLGBT overview, Pride of KyivLegalife-Ukraine, Sphere and Teenergizer.

Christi C. Elwood