Transgender activism in Russia

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by Yana Sitnikova

LGBT issues in Russia receive a lot of attention from the media worldwide. However not all groups that are included in LGBT, or even broader LGBTQI, abbreviation are covered equally. While problems faced by Russian lesbian and gay people are considered in detail, queer, bisexual, transgender and intersex issues remain almost invisible. This article is aimed at filling this gap by describing the situation that Russian trans* people live in and our struggle as trans* activists. I will start with the current trans* related legislation, then I will move to the history of Russian trans* movement. I will proceed to the current debates among trans* activists and within trans* community as a whole. Then I will look at possibilities of cooperation with other social movements, participation of trans* people in politics and separately standing trans* organizations. I will mention the attitude of people from trans* community to activism and the type of activism that I call non-political. I will conclude with discussing the participation of Russian trans* activists in the international trans* movement and explain why this article is one of the few that I write in English.

This review has two major limitations. First, despite my attempt to make it objective and introduce different points of view, I know that I hopelessly failed. Being an active participant of the movement, I cannot abstain from expressing my personal opinion on the issues under consideration. Moreover, it touches mainly the events and discussions that I personally was part of, while giving the others less attention. The second problem is associated with vagueness of what we mean by activism. I mainly described public activism like street actions and lectures, while giving less focus on those activities that are less often associated with activism like the work within trans* community, creating various services for trans* people, etc. However this article happened to be long enough even without detailed consideration of all the forms of activism and I might raise more specific issues in other articles.


Transgender issues gain little recognition in Russian legislation. The federal law “On the acts of Civil Status” (article 70) states that “Conclusion on making amendments or changes to the statement of the act of civil status is made by the civil registry in case if … a document of the established form about the change of sex issued by a medical organization is submitted”. Despite the Decree of the Government №709 of 1988 “On the measures of implementation of the Federal Law “On the acts of civil status”, which ruled that the Ministry of Health must establish the “document of the established form”, this never happened. The form that is required does not exist.. This creates a gap in the legislation and this is the reason for arbitrary requirements made by civil registry authorities in order to change the gender marker. Russian lawyer Kseniya Kirichenko analyzed the practice of changing gender marker in different regions of Russia. Kseniya sent inquiries to 83 regional Civil Registries about the requirements they set for changing gender marker [1].  Sixty of them responded. Their answers fall into five categories: 1) no concrete information, 2) surgery is required, 3) court decision is required, 4) individual decision of the Registry or medical examination, 5) any document issued by a medical organization is sufficient, it shall mention the diagnosis “Transsexualism” but no surgery is required.

In 2013, the “Standard of primary medical care in case of sexual identity disorders” was introduced by the Ministry of Health (Order №1221), which defines the following steps for diagnosing “Transsexualism” and related states (ICD-10 codes F64.0, F64.8, F64.9): examination by a psychotherapist, psychiatrist, sexologist, endocrinologist and medical psychologist. The Standard also defines the list of hormonal drugs used for “treatment”.

When speaking about the change of name, the Law “On the acts of Civil Status” rules that “Any person of age more than 14 years has the right to change her/his name, including the surname” (Article 58). The law doesn’t mention any special requirements for changing names, neither does it contain a list of names that the petitioner can take. However, in practice the procedure for transgender people is usually not that straightforward. According to Kirichenko’s study, some regional Civil Registries have separate procedures for changing different parts of the name (first name, surname and patronymic), while others have a special procedure for changing names of transgender people. The procedures mentioned above are applied to the cases where the person has changed the gender marker before changing the name. Recently the Civil Registry refused to officially change my name with the district court supporting the decision.

After the entry in the Civil Registry is changed, the person can apply for a new passport. Governmental Order №828 “On the approval of the Regulations about the passport of the citizen of the Russian Federation” states that “The passport is replaced subject to the following reasons: … surname, name, patronymic changed in established order; information on the date and/or place of birth changed; sex changed …”. When the passport is reissued, all other documents can be replaced. However, the problem arises with the replacement of the employment records , as the procedure established by the Order No.69 of the Ministry of Labor requires that a new name is specified by crossing out previous name, which in the case of transgender people leads to disclosure of their transgender status. Alternative option is to start a new employment record without a reference to previous occupations.

The procedure of changing one’s gender marker is expensive and takes long time. Several years pass from the first time a person starts taking hormones till s/he eventually gets the new documents. This is the time during which transgender people are particularly exposed to violence and human rights violations.

However, in comparison to other countries of the post-soviet area, the procedure for changing the gender marker in Russia (or better to say, lack of procedure) is not the worst one. For example,  Order No. 60 of the Ministry of Health in Ukraine requires transgender people to stay for a period of 30 to 45 days in a psychiatric institution to be diagnosed with “transsexualism”, be unmarried, have no children under 18 and agree with the volume of surgeries prescribed by a committee that “evaluates” them. In Kazakhstan, the procedure consists of two coherent stages that are the hormonal treatment and genital surgeries with failure to pass one of them leading to inability to move to the next and to pass the whole procedure.

In the context of recent Russian legislation on the prohibition of propaganda, “transgenderism” is mentioned in the regional laws of Saint-Petersburg, Samara oblast and Bashkortostan. However, it is not included in the federal version of the law. Nevertheless, the police and courts in Russia do not understand the difference between homosexuality and transgenderism, that’s why trans* activists are subject to the law as well.

Brief history of Russian trans* movement

First transgender-related Russian-language internet forums appeared in the early 2000s, providing information on transition and procedures of legal gender recognition. These were followed by the creation of first Russian-language website on transgenderism Gathering of trans* community online then led to creation of trans* support groups offline.

The first public action where trans* issues were raised in Russia was Moscow Pride of 2010 where Anno Komarov, the former member of GayRussia, appeared with his slogan “My gender is my choice”. Later in 2010 the same slogan was used at LGBT Pride in St.Petersburg. On November 20th, 2010 A.Komarov raised a banner against transphobic violence during the LGBTQI Rights Demonstration in St.Petersburg. The next year during Slavic Pride in St.Petersburg he went out with a slogan “Trans rights are human rights”. In 2011 Russian activists participated in the international campaign for trans* depathologization, which seems to be the first street action devoted to transgenderism in Russia. On October 22nd five activists were detained by police while picketing the Ministry of Healthcare with banners “Remove “gender dysphoria” and “gender identity disorders” from the list of diagnoses” and “Trans* people don’t need psychiatrists, trans* people need surgeons and endocrinologists”.

The winter of 2011/2012 saw the largest civil protest in the last 20 years in the history of Russia that were the result of falsifications on the elections to the State Duma. From the very beginning, LGBTQI movement participated in the protests with banners and rainbow flags. Trans* flag appeared for the first time during the demonstration on Bolotnaya Square on February 4th, 2012 and that was my flag. At the same demonstration, queer activist Seroe Fioletovoe brought a genderqueer flag. This was the first appearance of this flag at a public event in the world. Later I used my trans* flag at several demonstrations in Moscow and once in St.Petersburg. Trans* activists participated in the protests against the law banning “homosexual” propaganda, on January 25th, 2013, two of us were detained after the street performance in front of the State Duma. On March 8th, 2013 I spoke about transfeminism on the feminist rally, while Seroe Fioletovoe was detained with an anarcho-rainbow flag. In September 2013 I was pelted with eggs by ultra-right demonstrators while taking part in a feminist rally for reproductive rights with a banner “Down with compulsory sterilization of trans* women”. In October, transgender lawyer Masha Bast held a picket on Red Square to memorialize trans* woman Dasha Shtern who committed suicide several days before.

Although I was unable to determine the first time a lecture/workshop on transgenderism took place in Russia, it appears that such events started long before the street actions. During the first LGBT festival “Side by side” in 2008 a trans* related documentary “The alien body” was shown with a subsequent discussion. In 2009, a workshop “From transsexualism to transsexuality” and a discussion “Transsexuals have right” was conducted by “FtM-Phoenix” group. In November 2009, Anno Komarov gave a lecture on queer theory after the screening of the film “Harvey Milk”, that was the first time when the theme of non-binary gender identities was raised in Russia. In 2011, during the press conference of the Moscow gay-pride trans* issues were raised by Anno Komarov. Later this year Seroe Fioletovoe gave a lecture on transgenderism in different cultural contexts during a forum on civil activism “Last autumn”.

In 2012, I conducted a lecture and discussion on transgenderism during the “Week against homophobia” in Moscow. Later this year, trans* poet and writer Ashe Garrido gave a lecture on transgenderism at the the Festival of Queer Culture (“QueerFest”) in St.Petersburg, while I raised the theme of transfeminism for the first time in Russia. This year Moscow trans* activists participated in the campaign for depathologization by organizing a lecture and a film screening. The events devoted to Transgender Day of Remembrance in 2012 took place in around 10 Russian cities including lectures, discussions, screenings and street actions. In December 2012, Moscow Feminist Group organized my lecture and discussion on transfeminism.

In 2013, lectures organized by the radical art-project “Political propaganda” were banned from Academy of Art and Industrial Design in St.Petersburg after the participation of Seroe Fioletovoe  and me. The same year, Transgender Week of Visibility was carried by LGBT-organization “Coming Out” (St.Petersburg), with lectures and workshops. The picketing that was planned to be held on Transgender Day of Visibility (March, 31th) was prohibited by the government on the grounds of the regional law on propaganda (unlike the later adopted federal law, the regional law in St.Petersburg includes the notion of transgenderism). In spring 2013 annual “Week against homophobia” was renamed to include “transphobia” by some regional organizations, however, Russian LGBT Network, the country’s largest LGBT organization, refused to use the new name, some activists claiming that transphobia is not a separate type of discrimination from homophobia. In August 2013, my lecture called “Propaganda of transgenderism and transfeminism” scheduled as a part of “School of gender studies” in Moscow, was banned by the organizers who were afraid that it would fall under the new law on “homosexual” propaganda (even though the law doesn’t mention neither transgenderism, nor feminism). However, I managed to give a lecture with the same name during the festival “MediaUdar”, despite the protests of ultra-right demonstrators. Later in November, a medical conference “CIS Trans* Health” was hosted by “FtM-Phoenix” group, however it used highly pathologizing medical discourse and had many transphobic medical experts invited to speak.

Contemporary debates within trans* activism

At the top level, I would distinguish two main ideological perspectives among Russian trans* activists and trans* community as a whole. The first I would call a conformist approach that is based on the idea that changes must be achieved step by step. The second group of activists share a contrary point of view, which is called radicalism. The main idea of radicalism is that we refuse to tolerate transphobia and other social injustice, and demand our rights “here and now”. Given this division, I certainly identify myself as a radicalist. These major ideologies define the methods that activists use to archive their goals as well as the goals themselves.

Advocacy vs. direct action

While the first tactic suggests reaching politicians and lobbying for the better laws, the second is aimed at raising visibility of trans* issues, educating people and crashing cisnormativity. My personal opinion is that advocacy will not work in Russian current political climate, which is authoritarian and officially xenophobic. I find that advocacy falls into the conformist ideology and is often a waste of time. Even if we achieve a better law on changing gender marker (which is virtually impossible), it still won’t lower the level of transphobia in the society. In my opinion, a far more promising strategy is to spread ideas of gender non-conformism and fight cisnormativity at a lower level.

Do we need a “document issued by a medical organization”?

It was previously discussed that the law in Russia requires a document of an established form issued by a medical organization in order to change one’s gender marker. However, no form has been established and this causes arbitrariness of the procedure. Therefore, a number of activists demand for a form to be established. This claim is subject to criticism from two points of view. First, provided that the government is authoritarian and xenophobic, by establishing the form it can require transgender people to undergo compulsory surgery or sterilization, that can be avoided in some cases right now due to lack of established procedure. From the other point of view, legal gender recognition must be based on Yogyakyarta principles and require no verification from medical organizations.


Being more an international issue, depathologization of trans* related issues in ICD (International Classification of Diseases) has its proponents and opponents among transgender people in Russia. While I find advantages of depathologization rather obvious, I would highlight two points (actually, many more) of the opponents that I constantly have to deal with. First, internalized transphobia is widespread among transgender people here. Many of them believe that transgenderism is an unhealthy state that needs to be treated. They internalize all the transphobic fears like “What happens if a man gives birth?”, “What happens if every person is able to change gender marker without being properly diagnosed with transsexualism?”, and so on. Second is a more practical issue, it is connected with the desire to be justify their existence. The supporters of this view state that while “transsexualism” stays as an illness, they are less likely to be condemned (in comparison, for example, with homosexuality, which after its removal from ICD, is regarded as misbehavior). They also believe that it would be easier to advocate for free surgeries and hormones if gender variability is treated as an illness. No matter which position we support, it is rather unlikely that our opinion as Russian trans* activists will play a crucial role in the decision of WHO (World Health Organization) about the next version of ICD, so the battle we fight is more in the minds than in the field of formal procedures. The questions are “Do we consider ourselves as ill people?” and “Do we want others to consider us to be that way?”.

“We were born this way” or “My gender is my choice”

While being a theoretical issue, and therefore unnecessary to argue about, according to some activists, the question about the origins of transgenderism has a very practical application to what we struggle for as activists. The question became highly disputed with regard to recently adopted laws against propaganda. “Being born this way” is the most widespread argument that LGB as well as trans* activists use to prove that no propaganda exists. Therefore, the two polar views formed, with homo- and transphobes claiming that homosexuality and transgenderism (usually they see no difference) is socially constructed by propaganda, while LGBT activists use biological arguments

In this context, the opinion of those LGBT people who support the ideas of social constructivism is usually ignored. While being rather unpopular among trans* community, it is shared by a number of trans* (for example, Anno Komarov with his famous “My gender is my choice” slogan, and myself, of course) and feminist (most members of “Feminist Initiative”) activists. As I previously mentioned, this is not only a theoretical feature, but also the slogans we use during the rallies, or even deeper, the rights that we fight for. As these are two rather different ideologies when we struggle for the rights of people who claim that “they are not to be blamed for the fact they were born this way”, and the other is the struggle for the right of any person to choose one’s gender. These are completely different ideologies when we say that propaganda doesn’t exist, or when we say “Yes, it does exist, and I have the right to propagate my point of view”.

Non-binary gender categories

Although considered as a part of trans* community, people with non-binary identities are subject to criticism by those who identify themselves as “real” women and men. They are often called “freaks” who discredit the trans* community. Those rejecting non-binaries believe that the more trans* people conform to the standards of ordinary female/male gender presentation, the less transphobia they will experience. Gender-binary usually correlates with apolitical, anti-activist and anti-feminist views. Conversely, non-binary identifying trans* activists criticize such views as conformist and deeply transphobic.

Trans* issues within LGBT, feminist and sex worker movements

Cooperation with cisgender people/activists remains a debated question among some Russian transgender activists. While some activists find cooperation with such movements like cis* LGB or feminists useful, others insist on complete separatism from cisgender activists. The reason for choosing the first strategy is the lack of resources that trans* activists possess and the need to unite with those who have them. The main point of those standing for separatism is that trans* issues are ignored by mainstream LGB(T) and feminist organizations.

LGBT movement

Despite having “T” component in the names of most LGBT-organizations, cisgender LGB activists, with the exception of a few, are ignorant about the needs of transgender people and pay no attention to trans* issues. They suppose that the problems of transgender people are less important and urgent than those of cisgender LGB people. The widespread opinion is that trans* issues are an insignificant part of LGB issues and will be automatically solved after the solution of the latter. Furthermore, recent discussions revealed that they view transphobia as a variation of homophobia, not a separate type of discrimination. While LGB activists tend to ignore trans* issues, it is the LGB community that demonstrates high levels of transphobia. Writing my blog on the biggest online Russian-language LGBT platform I constantly receive transphobic comments that call me in the wrong gender.

A notable example of trans* inclusive LGBT organization is “Coming Out” (St.Petersburg) with their project “Transgender in Action” aiming at integration of trans* community into the city’s LGBT movement and reducing transphobia within the LGBT community. “Coming Out” also contributes to the project “Legal help for transgender people”, implemented by the charity fund “Rainbow”, which provides assistance in changing documents for trans* people. Other trans* friendly LGBT organizations to note are “Rakurs” (Arkhangelsk), “Avers” (Samara), the branch of Russian LGBT Network in Ekaterinburg and “Rainbow Association” (Moscow).

Feminist movement

While discussions of trans* issues last for more than 30 years in the US and European feminist movements, it is only the last one and a half years that saw the debates about this among Russian feminists. According to essentialist views of many feminists, a woman is a person born with XX chromosome and a vagina. In the opinion of others, trans* women are not women, because they lack female socialization and hold male privileges. According to others, only trans* women who underwent genital surgery can be treated as women. Besides being transphobic, these feminists usually stand against intersectional approach proposed by the third wave of feminism and refuse to reflect on their own privileges (cisgender status, class, etc.).

A smaller group of feminists are those who support transgender people and treat trans* women as women. Luckily, these are the most active feminists who take part in various public events, lectures and rallies. When speaking about trans* friendly feminist organizations, “Moscow Feminist Group” and “Feminist Initiative” should be mentioned first.

Unfortunately, transphobia in feminism is not just a matter of theoretical debate, but affects practical issues as well. In my research, I found that only 2 crisis centers for victims of domestic violence (namely, “Crisis Center for Women” in St.Petersburg and “Sisters” in Moscow) help trans* women in cases of violence. Taking into the account the fact that none of these centers has a shelter, trans* women simply have nowhere to go.

While mentioning transphobia among feminists, I cannot overlook antifeminist views of the majority of transgender people, especially trans* women. Most of them tend to support stereotypes about women (how a woman must look like, dress, gesture and so on) and believe that feminists are going to prohibit feminity. Only a small number of trans* women identify as feminists, and even fewer as transfeminists.

Sex worker movement

I suppose that cooperation between transgender and sex worker movements is an important goal due to the fact that a large amount of trans* people work as sex workers. However, sex worker movement in Russia seems to be as weak as the trans* movement, with only one organization, “Silver Rose” in St.Petersburg, struggling to get registered without success. On their website, they define themselves as a trans* inclusive organization. Unfortunately, I have no information on how trans* issues are perceived among other sex workers in Russia.

Politicians on transgenderism and trans* people in politics

In Russia, four parties have their representatives in the State Duma. Since transgenderism is not a popular theme, no official statements by these parties on trans* issues are known. However, these parties that supported laws against the propaganda of homosexuality (and in some regions, bisexuality and transgenderism as well) both on regional and federal levels. Xenophobic rhetoric is pushed forward by the Russia’s biggest party “United Russia”. The most famous fighter against “sexual perversions” is member of Parliament Elena Mizulina, a member of “Just Russia”. This party is a full member of “Socialist International”, whose Ethical Charter prohibits any discrimination including discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual orientation, however this international organization pays no attention to xenophobic statements of its member party. When speaking about other influential parties, an article appeared in 2013 on the official website of Communist Party, whose author claims that “alteration of natural, biological sex is even worse than the betrayal of the faith and God” [2].

Another Russian party “Yabloko” is not represented in Duma. The party is a member of ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) and Liberal International, which both oppose the discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, however “Yabloko” does not have an official position on LGBT issues. I used to be a member of “Yabloko” for 2.5 years and was lobbying for the creation of an intra-party LGBT group, as well as the official position of the leaders of the party on this subject. However, I haven’t been able to achieve much success. In May 2013, I was expelled from “Yabloko” for writing an article called “I propagate transgenderism” [3]. In September 2013, a recently formed party “Western Choice” refused to accept trans* woman Masha Bast as a member. On the whole, trans* issues are ignored by major political organizations in Russia. When some representatives start talking about LGBT, it is usually about propaganda or same-gender marriages, but never on legal gender recognition or compulsory sterilization.

Several trans* activists participate in a broader political movement. Back in 2006, trans* woman Alexandra Selyaninova attempted to participate in the elections of a mayor of Berezniki, a city in Perm region but was not registered as a candidate due to insufficient  number of signatures in her support. She attempted again in 2010 with no result. In 2011, she submitted an application to the Central Election Commission of Russia, claiming her intention to take part in the presidential elections. In the same year, I was registered on the list of candidates of “Yabloko” party for the State Duma, however the party didn’t gain any seats due to falsification of election results. In 2013, Masha Bast announced her plans to participate in presidential elections of 2018. More activists participate in non-formal political movements.

Transgender organizations

Most of Russian trans* activists do not associate themselves with any organizations and prefer individual activism. Some are members of LGBT and other civil or political organizations. “FtM Phoenix” group was formed in 2008. It is part of a broader network “Trans-Commonwealth” on the post-soviet space. Phoenix’s main activities are working with medical experts, participating in international medical and human rights events, advocacy and translations. Although the group declares itself to oppose trans* pathologization, it is criticized for using medicalized discourse. Despite being known at the international level, the group is hardly visible in Russia. Another trans* organization that has its members in Russia (including myself) is “Trans* Coalition on post-soviet space”. The Coalition was formed in July 2013 and declares rather radical and feminist goals like deconstruction of patriarchy and cis* normativity, elimination of all intersectional types of discrimination, depathologization, etc. However, this newly formed organization hardly did anything besides organizing an expert meeting in Kiev in November 2013 and is unknown in Russia. Moreover, it seems to be turning from a rather radical project to an ordinary conformist organization which main method is advocacy.

Trans* community and activism

I would characterize the majority of transgender people in Russia as extremely apolitical and conformist. Not only that most of them do not take part in activities aimed at protecting their rights, but some actively oppose the whole idea of activism and spend their time criticizing trans* activists. Their main point is ‘we must stay as quiet as possible, otherwise the legislators will introduce a law against us or the situation will get worse in some other way’. They claim that the recent homophobic laws are the result of raising visibility about LGB people. Furthermore, they are afraid that it will be easier for other people to ‘read’ them as trans*, if trans* issues gain public attention. While I agree with both arguments in the short term, I find this kind of logic a dead-end in the longer run.

Besides being anti-activist, many trans* people uphold stereotypes about gender and support existing procedures of gender reassignment. They state that a woman is not supposed to have a penis, and thus support the procedures requiring compulsory surgery for legal gender recognition. They defend the ICD diagnosis of “transsexualism”and treat only those who fall into the diagnostic criteria as the ‘true transsexuals’, while bullying others  especially those who do not feel themselves in a ‘wrong body’ or didn’t feel themselves the ‘opposite sex’ from childhood as ‘not true’.

Non-political trans* activism

I use the term “activism” to describe a broader range of activities than participation in public events like lectures and rallies aimed at change of public opinion or adoption of some laws. That type of activism, which I would call non-political, includes various services, advice and help that transgender people give to each other. Among that, I would like to highlight the existence of several internet forums where a trans* person can find advice on which hormones to take, information about the legal gender recognition and peer-to-peer psychological support. The drawback of those forums is that they promote a large number of stereotypes about transgenderism, as well as gender roles of a woman and a man. The internet forums are the places where people get acquainted to meet in real life. Such forum-based meetings take place in Moscow, St.Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, Samara and maybe in some other cities.

Other types of activities that I would refer to as activism are more related to businesses. These include shops selling clothes for transgender people and hair removal centers. Recently a medical clinic providing services to trans* people was established in Moscow. These are usually run by transgender people, creating job opportunities for trans* people.

Russian trans* activism in the international context

Trans* activists from Russia are hardly visible at the international level. Besides rather technical problems like language barriers and visas, I would pay closer attention to the deeper issues. First, I would highlight the lack of resources that we have. I cannot estimate the number of trans* activists (taking into the consideration different types of activism), however there’re only a few. Not only do we have to struggle with the state and cisnormativity in the society, but with transphobia inside those communities that are supposed to be our allies – LGB and feminists. Next, we have to deal with anti-activist and transphobic views of trans* community itself. Those are exhausting tasks and most of us have no free time to visit international conferences or discuss international questions when we have those on the national level unsolved. Or better to say, this a question of priorities. Under the conditions of limited time I would think many times before I start writing an article in English, because there are many people who write articles on trans* issues in English, but I am the only person who develops transfeminist theory in Russian language. There are many people who are doing trans* activism in Europe and the US, but if I fail to do something for improving the situation in Russia, spending my time on international discussions, there’s a big chance that no one will do that.

Second, those discussions on the international level are hardly applicable to the Russian context. Because most of these discussions involve advocacy. And while advocacy works well enough in some countries, it is rather useless with Russian authoritarian government. The same can be said about international advocacy, as Russian government pays absolutely no attention to international human rights bodies, whether UN or Council of Europe, etc.

Third, there’s an issue of neocolonialism that is involved in the communications between Russian (and other post-soviet) and European/US activists. We are invited to get “educated” from those who already achieved some progressive laws. This discourse is totally wrong. On the one hand, those methods that worked for countries in Europe or Americas, will not work in Russia. On the other hand, the fact that there’s a progressive law in some country doesn’t make those activists better than those from the country where there’s no law. That discourse does not take into account the original difference in the political climate of the countries under discussion. I will take part in the international discussions as an equal partner not as a minor who needs to be educated. Moreover, I find that nowadays developing international cooperation between activists from the post-soviet region is a more urgent goal than communicating with activists from other countries.


As one can see, Russian trans* activism is rather young. Nevertheless, it’s a growing field. It is still not institutionalized, as it will probably become later, without steady positions and unquestioned leaders. We are still in the search of our political identities and the place among other social movements. However, despite the uncertainty and lack of resources, I believe that now we are witnessing the most interesting period a social movement can have.


I would like to express my gratitude to Anno Komarov and Seroe Fioletovoe  for the help that I received from them during the writing of this article, as well as for their outstanding activism that inspires me and many other trans* people in Russia to struggle and to live. Also I’d like to thank Anna Kirey for editing this text and momentous discussions that made me reflect on my privileges and amend some of my viewpoints.

*Transgender activism in Russia, by Yana Sitnikova,

[1] Кириченко, К. (2011). Аналитическая записка «Положение транссексуальных людей в регионах России: смена документов и доступ к специализированной медицинской помощи».
[2] Мишустин Н., руководитель рабочей группы Московской городской Думы по защите семей и детей от ювенальных технологий при фракции КПРФ. (26 февраля 2013). “России уготовлена участь цифрового Вавилона? Мнение независимого эксперта”.
[3] Ситникова Я. (9 апреля 2013). “Я пропагандирую трансгендерность”. // Блог на сайте “Эхо Москвы” Translation into English available at