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Ukraine’s gay soldiers fought Russia — and fought for their rights

When Pasha Lagoyda Joining the Ukrainian army in 2021, he has not told anyone he is gay. During his first few weeks on the job, his roommates at training camp found some “spicy text” and, as he puts it, he was being bullied. “There’s aggression. They call me gay—whatever.”

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The intimidation dies down as his recruits get to know him better. Mr Lagoyda is now serving on the front lines and is known to all 180 employees in his unit as gay. The selfie he posted looked perfect in his camouflage camouflage outfit, with washboard abs and a flawless stubble.he too gayMilitary, a featured Instagram account gay A person in military service. It even has a link to buy the merchandise: a mug and cloth patch depicting an armored unicorn breathing fire. “No matter where I serve,” Mr. Lagoida said, “everyone tells me: ‘Because you’re here to fight a war, I have no right in principle to call you a gay or fag; you’re just someone who protects us equally .”

He is not alone. Thousands of gay men serve in the Ukrainian Armed Forces, often wearing rainbow insignia in Ukrainian blue and yellow on their uniforms. gay Groups have also been at the forefront of humanitarian volunteering. Their popularity led to dramatic changes in Ukrainian society.

Same-sex sexual activity was legalized after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, but when Kiev held its first gay pride parade in 2013, only a few dozen people bravely ignored the threat of skinhead violence. Even after the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and subsequent reforms, legislation protecting gay rights lagged behind. For example, despite years of campaigning, Ukraine’s parliament has yet to amend Ukraine’s hate crime laws to include acts against homosexuals.

War changed everything. Last summer, parliament finally ratified the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on Violence against Women after a decade-long delay after church groups objected to using the word “gender” in the text. It is now drafting a bill that would give same-sex couples the right to register a civil partnership, something unthinkable a year ago.

Inna Sovsun, Congressman The bill’s sponsor said she was encouraged by the fact that more than 25,000 people signed a petition calling for same-sex marriage to be legalized last summer, meeting the threshold for presidential consideration. Polls show that more than half of Ukrainians believe gays and bisexuals should have equal rights. Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky has expressed support for the civil partnership law, but his government has not yet made it a priority.

Protecting the rights of gays and lesbians in the military gave the bill a huge boost. Civil partnerships would allow same-sex couples to make medical decisions if a partner was injured; if someone was killed, the survivor would be able to bury him or her as they wished, inherit the same tax benefits enjoyed by spouses, and receive state compensation for damages. “It’s something that a lot of people dream about,” Mr. Lagoida said. “If something happens to me, God forbid, I want my boyfriend to come to ICU or take my body.”

Sofiia Lapina, Head of Ukrainepride non-governmental organization, argues that the shift in attitudes towards gay issues partly reflects Ukraine’s desire to be closer to Europe, culturally and politically. She added that it was also a way for Ukrainians to oppose Vladimir Putin’s repressive Russia, which has outlawed “gay propaganda” and framed the war in Ukraine as a war against what the West says promotes same-sex Marriage, rampant pedophilia, and gender-neutral pronouns for the struggle to survive.

Ukraine gay Groups have documented how gays and lesbians in Russian-occupied territories are hunted down, raped, detained and humiliated. A tattoo of a gay symbol is as much a red flag for the Russian military as the Ukrainian trident. Transgender people there are afraid to take to the streets. “Ukrainians have started to see more clearly that hate of any kind — racism, homophobia — is basically Russian propaganda,” Ms Lapina said.

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