In Russia, land of the criminalization of “gay propaganda,” gay marriage is obviously illegal. But two women have managed to register the country’s very first same sex marriage, a move that has already drawn the ire of lawmakers intent on finding a way to, at the very least, annul the union.
How is this possible, you are probably asking? One of the two women in this couple is trans, and still is legally listed as male, even though she is living life as a woman. Trans people, for many years, have been skirting these sorts of laws since many places either continue to legally recognize them as their sex assigned at birth even well into transition, or because the legal process for changing sex is too complicated/cost prohibitive to be worth it. I am reasonably confident that they are probably not even the first couple to have done this in Russia, but to do so in clear defiance of Russia’s wave of anti-LGBTQ laws is a bold and brave move.
Unsurprisingly some overzealous Russian authorities are outraged:
The event has started evolving into a scandal with St. Petersburg MP Vitaly Milonov, known for his anti-LGBT drive, vowing to launch a probe to check the legality of the marriage.
“I understood their [registry office workers’] unconvincing arguments; they formally approached the issue and saw passports, but not people. I told the head [of the wedding registry office] that it is criminal negligence,” he told NTV channel.
Milonov said he is going to get prosecutors involved to try to avoid such “ugly insults to millions of Russian families in the future.”
It will be interesting to see how the Russians try to handle this. If they simply sweep it under the rug, if they order a change to the gender on Irina’s passport to nullify the marriage (which would set an interesting precedent for gender changes in Russia), or if they simply void it on some technicality. In any case I hope the point has been made - Russia can pass all the laws they want, but you cannot keep the LGBTQ community down. Love finds its way.
Strangely enough, for all the discrimination and violence they often face, trans people have sometimes had some more legal standing than lesbian/gay individuals. For instance, Iran (which is rightly notorious for its views on LGBTQ individuals) allows for trans people to undergo gender reassignment surgery and live as their preferred gender, while still criminalizing crossdressing and homosexuality. The only catch is that if you are trans you must undergo surgery, and then behave properly in your new gender. That is not to say that trans people have it “easy” in Iran (or other countries that have similar requirements), but it is to say that the existence of trans people make for some interesting legal conundrums in socially conservative societies.
It is certainly my hope that Russia will come around and embrace LGBTQ people as valued, full members of society. That day is likely far off, but in the meantime, I am glad to see that there are still queer people willing to take a risk and push on the boundaries of the legal and social codes. That there are still Russians will to march in pride events in the face of daunting threats of arrests, fines, threats, and physical violence.
Congrats Irina & Alyona! Stay fabulous (and safe, please)