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Russia: Transitioning lawyer comes out in protest against anti-gay laws

Idea of what is traditional 'rooted in the Middle Ages': Masha Bast

Lawyer Masha Bast has come out in protest against Russia's anti-gay policies. Credit: themoscowtimes.com

A lawyer who has worked on some of Russia’s most high-profile and politically sensitive cases says she decided to reveal that she is transitioning, in part, as “a protest against what is going on in Russia today,” The Moscow Times reports.

"I couldn't just sit there and do nothing," Masha Bast says.

In a press release written by her spouse, Yulia Guseinova, Bast declared that she would no longer be living as Yevgeny Arkhipov.

Bast and Guseinova have begun raising awareness about the transgender community in Russia, inviting people on Facebook to follow her transition process and ask any questions they may have.

Bast, who is chairwoman for the Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights, says she thinks of herself as a woman, not as transgender, but considers herself part of the LGBT community because “we are all in the minority,” the report says.

Bast adds, “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.

“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,” she says.

State Duma deputy Alexei Zhuravlev has also recently introduced a proposal to amend the Family Code to deprive people who have a “nontraditional sexual orientation” of their parental rights. Zhuravlev says he’s sure he’ll have parliament’s support to get it approved.

But Bast says the definition of what is considered traditional is “rooted in the Middle Ages” and “simply doesn't match reality.”

She adds, “Evolution is ongoing. It isn't an issue of right or wrong. If there is a family, we have to recognize it. If it is a same-sex family, we have to recognize it. There are many different types of families.”

She says the situation for transgender people is different from that which gays and lesbians face, noting that the emphasis is usually on the LG in LGBT. Many gays and lesbians are “ashamed” of transgender people, she adds.

“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.”

Bast advises young trans people to come out — “the sooner, the better” — and not to be afraid of their parents.

“Too many trans people worry about how society sees them and think they're a problem for society. Don't think that. It is your right. If it makes someone uncomfortable, that's their problem. And especially for young trans women, don't be afraid to go to a doctor. There are good doctors in Moscow and some in St Petersburg who won't judge you.”

Asked if she considers herself to be brave, Bast says it isn’t something she's trying to prove.

“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.”