|Sasha Korbut, photo by Evgeniy Koval in OUT|
Sasha is young, gay, Russian, living now in the US, and is speaking out about what it was like to grow up gay in Russia.
In this February 12, 2014 article in OUT magazine, he writes about "Finding Love In a Hopeful Place" and he spoke out in the excellent piece in the New York Times in November 2013, On Holding Hands and Fake Marriage: Stories of Being Gay In Russia.
In Sasha's words:
I knew I couldn’t build my private life in Russia. So when I got an offer to study at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York, in May of 2012, I took it. And it was there that only a few months later I met my boyfriend, Max. He was the first guy I ever held hands with in public.
Now I’m studying and working in New York. Just 35 minutes ago I kissed my boyfriend in a coffee shop. I would still never do that in Vladivostok. I talk to my gay friends back home and many of them don’t see it as bad because they have gotten used to living under certain kinds of rules. But under these rules, nothing ever changes. In small cities and rural villages, gay people just go on, seeming like something from a fairy tale.
Finally I worked up the courage to tell my two best friends that I’m gay. My female friend accepted it, and she basically told me she already knew. My other best friend, a guy, was upset and said, “Well, what can I do?” I asked them not to tell anyone, but he told his wife. And his wife told him I couldn’t see their child, the boy who they’d asked me to be godfather to. And the funny thing is that she and I were friends first since we were classmates. But she said, “We’ll tell our son that Uncle Sasha exists but we can’t see him because he lives far away.” Like I was a character from a book.
I’m still dancing, but I’ve also started writing for a couple of Russian magazines and newspapers, and gradually writing about gay issues in Russia. A couple of major magazines in eastern Russia have published a few of my articles but it’s a small world so of course my parents found out about the content and asked me to never write anything on the topic again. They’re afraid that when I come back to Russia I’ll have problems with the government, they’re worried I’ll end up in jail. But while I’m free and have something to say, I’m going to keep writing, to keep pushing back.
Sasha's story is poignant and important, and I'm so proud of him for standing proud and speaking out! Because we Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Trans, and Queer people DO exist outside of books. We exist in every country in the world - even in Russia!
So celebrate Sasha Korbut with me. Because there are so many other gay men still in Russia who can't speak out and stand up. And because Gay Russia is something to celebrate!