A top Russian lawyer has come out as transgender and bisexual to protest that country's barbaric crackdown on LGBT rights, the Moscow Times reports.
Masha Bast, who formerly went by the name Yevgeny Arkhipov, is the chairwoman of the Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights; she has worked on many controversial and high-profile cases in that capacity.
Bast announced her transition earlier this month in a press release prepared by her spouse. On Facebook, she invited people to follow her through the transition process and indicated an openness to answering questions that others might have about things like hormones and surgery.
She sat down for an interview with the Moscow Times in which she spoke positively about being a member of the LGBT community, thereby breaking Russia's ban on so-called "gay propaganda." She told the paper that she came out in order to be true to herself, but also because she couldn't bear to remain silent in the face of the massive injustices being perpetrated on LGBT people in Russia today. "I couldn't just sit there and do nothing," Bast said.
Excerpts of Masha Bast's interview are after the jump.
Moscow Times: What made you transgender?
Masha Bast: There are people who actively choose their gender, and there are people who don't think about it, or they try and avoid questioning it because of their religious beliefs or other reasons. Those who choose to decide their own gender because their internal gender doesn't match their external appearance are called transgender, especially when they take visible steps to make their external gender match their internal gender. I don't think of myself as transgender though -- I just think of myself as a woman. I do, however, consider myself part of the LGBT community because we are all in the minority.
The law banning gay propaganda among minors is completely wrong, though. I remember being 10 and wanting to be a girl and putting on girl's clothes. I didn't understand what was happening to me. This was in the Soviet Union and there was no information to explain what was happening to me. I went to dances dressed as a girl back when I looked more feminine. I also started taking hormone pills on my own, but they made me sick, and once an ambulance had to be called for me. I had to stop taking the pills, and for five or six years after that I couldn't take any pills at all.
You have to understand the complete lack of information on this subject. According to statistics, there are thousands of people going through what I went through. Just imagine all the kids who have no idea what's happening to them. I never once met a homosexual in my childhood and only learned what a homosexual was when I was 14. By then, I had long known that I was a woman and I had been wearing women's clothes for years.
So it isn't a matter of upbringing. It's nature. That's why I think the law against " homosexual propaganda" is a law against children and one that targets certain social groups. It is a fascist law and nothing else.
MT: [How did your wife react?]
MB: I explained to my wife when we started dating that I wasn't the gender I appeared to be. I am female and have always wanted to be a girl. We talked about it for a long time, and it wasn't an easy decision for her. I explained that I like men, but I am a bisexual woman. In Russia, same-sex marriage is illegal, but in practice we have a same-sex marriage. Really, I am more of the wife and she is more of the husband in terms of gender roles.
MT: Do you think the situation for transgender people is different than for gays and lesbians?
MB: Yes, of course. I had to do my coming out on my own after one LGBT leader stopped talking to me when I told him I wanted to come out as transgender. That is discrimination. The emphasis is usually on the LG in LGBT. Many people in LG society are ashamed of transgender people. They don't understand that we're the same.
When the Times asked Bast whether she considered herself brave, she replied modestly. "Because I came out? I wasn't trying to prove that I was brave. It was my choice. I'm a free person. Bravery and freedom are one and the same in my case. You have to be brave to be free. The freer a person is, the braver they have to be."
Bast may not think of herself as a brave woman, but I sure do. It's wonderful to see such strong role models rising up for LGBT people in Russia during this time of such great persecution.
Click here to read Masha Bast's full interview with the Moscow Times.
Photo of Masha Bast via Facebook.