Stories from LGBT soldiers coming out in the Ukrainian army
Ukrainian media outlet Hromadske has released a report on problems faced by the LGBT community from an unusual perspective – through stories from those who are currently serving in the armed forces.
“We fight for freedom, just like any other soldiers”
Vladislav Miroshnichenko, soldier
Vladislav is 23 years old, he has been serving in the Joint Forces Operation for three years (this is what the military action to the east of the country is officially called in Kyiv). He is the commander of the Pion artillery mount.
“I decided to come out because I wanted to open up and to be myself. I’m not very comfortable living with the guys [ed. other soldiers in the service], with people who are like you, but constantly having to act like someone else. You don’t know who will turn out to be your real friends, and who will be the kind of person to treat you badly and mock you.
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Everything changed when the Russian occupation began. Ukrainians with a pro-European position did not have the right to express their desires, they could not fight. I decided to go to serve in the Ukrainian army.
So I still felt that I was among like-minded people. At that point, I still wasn’t talking about my sexual orientation.
There are actually quite a few LGBT people in the army, but they’re afraid to come out. Even within a group of LGBT soldiers, they may be afraid to send pictures or talk openly.
In civilian life it’s simple: behind the closed walls of your apartment, no one will scoff at you. But in the service, you have to learn to live with people, even if they’re homophobes.
Gay soldiers fight for freedom just like any other soldiers. They fight to protect their homeland, history, rights, and others do the same. People who were in occupied territory may understand what it’s like to be surrounded by enemies and fighting for your own beliefs, for your right to speak, for a different point of view. The LGBT community also feels this pressure”.
“In the army, it makes no difference whether you are a man or a woman”
Yarina Chornoguz, paramedic
Yarina is 25 years old. In 2019, she began to work as a military medic in a volunteer battalion. Now she serves in a separate battalion of the Marine Corps.
“Ideally, in the army, where gender equality exists not only in theory but also in practice, there is no gender, it makes no difference whether you are a man or a woman. You are a soldier. You do the same work as others, you take on the same risk. So for me, there is no difference between men and women. There are only people.
Bisexuality is so much a part of my nature that sometimes it is even strange to single it out as some special part of my identity. It’s just how I am. In battle, or in an army, for example, according to the Western standard, it makes no difference whether you are a woman or a man.
So in countries that have received equality and democracy regarding sexuality, gender is no longer a hugely defining factor. There is just a partner that suits you.
My parents are not too supportive of my bisexuality, they are somewhat wary about it. For my friends and acquaintances, it’s nothing strange.
There is a segment of the population who do not understand what the difference is between a bisexual and a lesbian. When my boyfriend died in battle six months ago, they asked me: “And how is it that you can have a boyfriend if you are bisexual? How can you even love if you’re bisexual?”
It struck me the wrong way. These things have nothing to do with love.”
“At first, they all have a negative reaction, and then it’s fine.”
Igor Grigorashuk, former soldier
For three years, Igor served in the army as a contract soldier, and worked primarily as a cook.
“The first time I ever mentioned being gay was when I told my girlfriend. She took it well. But as for publicly declaring it, no, I have not done that yet. I don’t show it either, I don’t have gay mannerisms. When I was in the service, I had a colleague who knew I was gay. We developed a friendly relationship. He used to speak negatively about my sexuality, but on the whole, we were friends.
At first, they all have a negative reaction, and then it’s fine. There was no other way out, I was contracted for three years – what could they do to me?
A guy that I had been dating called my mom and told her I was gay. He did it because I left him. I was 19 years old.
Prior to this, my parents and I didn’t discuss the issue. Mom still thinks I’m going to get married and have children, and everything will be fine.
I was taken to psychologists, psychiatrists, and to church when they found out about it. Dad’s hair turned grey overnight, it was a shock for them, of course. Subconsciously, they know that I’m gay, that’s it, period. But they continue to feed themselves illusions that I will have a wife and family.”