Olga Bakhayeva and Alexander Yermoshkin
While President Putin insists that gay people are not discriminated against in Russia, at least two gay teachers are reported to have either been forced to resign or been fired because of their sexual orientation.
The website Colta.ru published interviews with the two teachers, who have opened up about their plight. The Straight Alliance for LGBT Equality (Russia) also highlighted their stories.
Olga Bakhaeva (24), who worked as a history and social studies teacher in School No. 56, in Magnitogorsk, said that her ordeal began when she commented in a social media post that she was an LGBT teacher.
This statement was used to target her on the social networking site. Anti-gay groups threatened to ruin her life if she didn’t resign and conducted a three month campaign through the media and official channels to have her fired.
She was warned by the school that if she made any comments on social media in support of the LGBT community she would be dismissed. She was eventually pressured to resign, which she did.
“You see, I cannot sit around idly and be fearful as a mouse. I wouldn’t be able to look at myself in the mirror without disgust if I caved in. I had stopped writing about LGBT issues on my page, I only wrote about politics. It turned out I wasn’t allowed to write about politics either. Kittens yes, politics no,” said Bakhaeva.
Alexander Yermoshkin (38) taught geography at School no. 32, in Khabarovsk for ten years. He said that he’d never hidden his sexuality but things changed when Russia’s anti-gay law was passed in April.
After organising events against homophobia and taking part in other LGBT events he was attacked on his way home on 26 August by individuals who accused him of “propaganda of sexual perversion”.
Yermoshkin said that neo-Nazi, Christian and other anti-gay groups also organised a campaign against him. Around 700 people signed a petition to have him dismissed, which was sent to the regional Ministry of Education.
The school was then pressured by the local Education Department to fire him. Eventually Yermoshkin was told by a colleague that the school had ordered other teachers to replace him in his classes.
He was soon after also fired from the Far East State University for the Humanities, where he had been teaching in the department of biology and geography.
“…the most terrible thing is that I have actually been banned from my profession,” said Yermoshkin.
“That’s like forcing an artist to stop painting. As recently as last spring there was a school that was trying to get me to work there, but now there’s no school anywhere that will take me.”
He added: “I shall, of course, fight for my right to teach, but I don’t know how long I’ll manage to keep fighting.”
Despite going on to sign two anti-gay laws, President Vladimir Putin insisted in April that gay people are not discriminated against in Russia.
“In the Russian Federation – so that it is clear to everybody – there is no infringement on the rights of sexual minorities,” he said at press conference in Amsterdam, adding that “These people…enjoy all the same rights and freedoms as everyone else”.
LGBT activists say that the recently enacted “gay propaganda” law has emboldened homophobic groups to increasingly target gay and lesbian people.