Dozens of queer people and their allies came out for a kiss-in at Vancouver's Russian consulate Oct 11. The event, celebrating National Coming Out Day, was held in support of LGBT Russians subject to recent homophobic laws.
"We want to show support for people who can't celebrate National Coming Out Day," event organizer Yogi Omar told Xtra.
Russia's so-called gay propaganda law, enacted in June, focuses on the "restriction of information that promotes non-traditional sexual relationships among children" and doesn't impose restrictions on sexual orientation, Russian officials have said.
National Coming Out Day is an internationally observed day of awareness, celebrating those who publicly identify as LGBT.
"In Russia, it's propaganda," Omar notes. "Here, it's love. People get arrested for what we're doing here in many places around the world."
Even if they couldn't attend the protest, people can still participate by posting a picture of themselves kissing someone of the same sex to social media with the hashtag #globalkissinprotest, Omar says.
"I want to inspire people to do something," he says, adding that he's been getting a lot of response to the initiative.
"Post it all over social media," Omar urges. "People think it's something they can't do. They can." All of those individual actions together can help create change, he says.
"A change must come from one's self. There's no collection of people if we don't have the same attitude. If we don't love ourselves, how can we love other people?"
Moreover, Omar says, it's not just about coming out as queer. He says the celebration of difference may inspire youth who feel different somehow to accept themselves.
"It's okay. It's good to be different."
Locking lips with Omar in front of the consulate was Lewis Kane, who says he participated to support a cause where other people might not be able to.
"We have the freedom to stage something like this and make a bit of an effort," he says. "It could go a long way to help gay rights and help others around the world."