“I am a non-binary person, musician, and artist, originally from Chernihiv, but for the last 5 years I have lived in Lviv. Now I am in Berlin, due to the escalation of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
My process of recognizing my identity has been stretched over time. At the age of 18, I identified myself as bisexual, later realized myself as a non-binary person, and even later realized myself as a pansexual person.
At the age of 18, I fell in love with a girl for the first time, and later, realizing my queerness, I began to read a lot of literature, dig into gender theory, research and make queer art, engage in activism. At that time, the word “non-binary” began to resonate with me.
During that time, I didn’t want to identify as non-binary so that people wouldn’t think I was following a trend or something, but then I decided for myself that my hesitance was just doubt and transphobia. If I see and feel it, I see the meaning in it, then I have the right to call myself as I feel and think. So in August 2019, I came out as a non-binary person on my Instagram.
My parents know that I am bisexual, because back in 2017, my mother saw a post of mine on Facebook about bisexual visibility day. My mother called me and said, ‘God, what can your father and I expect now? We will never have grandchildren!’ For me it was a very emotional, unpleasant conversation, but it was the first and last conversation. We haven’t talked about it anymore and I think they understand everything. Emotions subsided, and although we never talk about it, I feel support from them, especially from Dad. I didn’t come out to them as a non-binary person because I don’t see it that way. A lot has changed in our relationship since I came out. I feel how they love me. They do not discriminate in any way, I do not hear any comments about my appearance or way of life. We have a good relationship, we love each other and have found a way to communicate this love. My parents may not be able to understand the concept of non-binary, and I do not want to scare them. I don’t have the motivation and resources to prove something to them, to fight. I know that they love and respect me, and they probably guess something. We just don’t talk about it openly.
I have had two unpleasant experiences with my identity and activism. My first experience was with the Catholic university where I studied. Although I loved and respected it and put a lot of effort into the university community, I was expelled because of my identity. My heart was broken. It was a private university; it had its own laws. I got good marks there and received a scholarship, but one day the priests, seeing me with a rainbow flag, in red leggings and shorts, decided that it was a performance against Christian values. They wrote a complaint against me and started calling me to the dean’s office for talks. I did not come into conflict with them, but I did not agree with them. It was a difficult period for me mentally, even before the situation with the priests. I was in a bad mental state and the department knew about it. I was pressured by the top faculty and the head of my program. As a result, I wrote an application to drop out of my own volition. I really wanted to build a career in academia, and I loved the university. I volunteered, took part in student life, and attended the church choir out of curiosity. When I learned that they purposefully wanted to expel me, and one of the options was to put pressure on me, all my plans to return to university were thwarted. After the expulsion, I worked on this trauma in therapy for another 2 years, experienced many depressive states and was only able to tell this story publicly a year after the expulsion.
The second case is bullying on the Internet. My data merged into a right-wing radical telegram channel with tens of thousands of subscribers. They tried to hack my accounts, wrote to me, and called me with death threats.
The main problem of the Ukrainian LGBTQ+ community at the moment is the lack of legal regulation of liability for hate crimes. With this, we would be able to fight violence and bullying, and right-wing radical, neo-Nazi groups and people would be held accountable. People are still scared to walk down the street because they can be attacked.
I haven’t had a problem with this yet, no matter what I look like. I am mostly read as a woman in society. We live in a patriarchy and people who look like women are the weaker sex: they are not people, they have no voice, they are not touched. Quite the opposite situation with men who look feminine.
I believe that Ukraine is the most successful country among all our neighbors in the fight for human rights. I mean: Russia, Poland, Moldova and Romania. In Poland, this is problematic because Catholics are in power. Their situation is worse; they have LGBT free zones, they have an abortion ban. Russia has a law against LGBT propaganda, and Belarus is under Russian law.
We have Prides in different cities and it’s very cool! In recent years, we have had Kharkiv Pride, Odesa Pride, Mykolayiv Pride and some other cities, not just Kyiv. And we have a very good organization that provides psychological assistance to people; I have used their services more than once. We also have a well-developed electronic music scene in Kyiv, which is very supportive of human rights and the queer community. I know that many of my friends from Kyiv feel very free at raves. That is, there are places where you can go and see your people. These are small safe areas where you can feel free and safe.
I am very glad that TikTok exists, because through it people become more educated. It is such a queer space of people in Ukraine, where they can communicate, get acquainted and learn something relevant. However, I still see ignorance in the community, especially among senior members of the LGBTQ+ community, which has a lot of internal homophobia and transphobia.
Despite these stories, I was not going to leave Ukraine. We have very small sections of people who call themselves nationalists. Recently, just before the war, I realized that I could not leave Ukraine, that the best option for me would be to find a remote job.
About war. On February 24, I was in Lviv with my partner Kateryna, in an apartment where we were renting a room. When the war started, we were there. Katya’s father woke us up and said that Russia had started attacking Kyiv. In the first seconds I was very scared and my coping mechanism was that I pretended that nothing was happening. I really wanted to show calm, although I was very scared.
Katya’s parents started to panic a lot, shouting that she should go home. I joined Katya because she wouldn’t have gone anywhere without me. It was the first day of the war.
We stayed in the village near Ivano-Frankivsk during the first weeks of the war. It was a shock and all I could do was read the news and eat, sometimes sleep. It was survival. The next day we went to volunteer in local volunteer organizations. I remember how I wanted to sleep all the time, and it was such a very depressing state when reality is very difficult to perceive.
I lost my income, housing, and could not stay in the village. Just taking advantage of Katya’s parents’ hospitality, periodically hiding in the basement due to air raid sirens, seemed to me to be as ineffective as possible. I decided that it would be better to go abroad and make room for those people who can’t leave. Here I am much more useful and can really do something.”