Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law that bans transgender individuals from receiving gender-affirming care, changing their gender in official documents and public records, fostering or adopting children, and having a legal marriage. Marriages involving at least one trans person will be annulled.
Legislators who promoted the new law said it is necessary to protect Russia’s “traditional values” against “Western anti-family ideology,” including the “pure satanism” of transitioning, The Guardian reported. Similar rhetoric has been used to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a deadly ongoing attack now entering its 516th day.
“There will be suicides in the trans community, no doubt because [the law] will make some people feel really hopeless and trapped,” one trans Russian told the BBC. The law may also create a dangerous black market for hormones that are unregulated by medical authorities, an expert told the Bangkok Post.
Between 2016 and 2022, 2,990 Russians legally changed gender, the Post reports. Russia also granted gender marker updates on ID starting in 1997. But anti-LGBTQ+ authoritarianism has grown in the country since Putin rose to power in 1999.
ILGA-Europe, a continental LGBTQ+ rights advocacy group, said that the new law “flagrantly violates fundamental human rights standards and principles.”
“The trans and gender diverse community in Russia [and their] rights and wellbeing are under attack,” the group added. “Everyone has the right to self-determination, privacy, and the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”
The group also noted that denying trans people healthcare will worsen their mental health. Furthermore, denying trans people the rights to correct gender markers on documents, to marriage, and to raise children will place them “in legal” limbo, ILGA-Europe noted, reinforcing negative stereotypes about trans people harming children and creating “unnecessary burdens on trans people, forcing them to disclose their private and medical history and exposing them to discrimination, harassment, and violence.”
Yan Dvorkin — a 32-year-old psychologist who works with the non-governmental trans advocacy organization Russian Centre T — called the law “fascist” and said it will be “difficult for people to hear that the state thinks of them as ‘enemies of the people,’ takes away their rights… and puts them beyond the law.”
The law is just part of Russia’s ongoing and years-long crackdown against LGBTQ+ individuals. Putin first signed a law banning so-called “gay propaganda” in Russia in June 2013. The law ostensibly sought to “protect children” from any “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships,” as stated in the law’s text.
The law has mostly been used to silence LGBTQ+ activist organizations, events, websites, and media, as well as to break up families and harass teachers. It has also been roundly condemned by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as civil rights activists around the world.
Last December, Putin signed a law expanding the country’s prohibition on LGBTQ+ “propaganda.” The newly signed law effectively outlaws any public expression of LGBTQ+ life in Russia by banning “any action or the spreading of any information that is considered an attempt to promote homosexuality in public, online, or in films, books or advertising,” Reuters reported.
Critics say the updated law will further endanger the lives of Russia’s LGBTQ+ population, which has already suffered increased harassment, violence, and hostility in recent years. It has been used to prosecute a 40-year-old German teacher for sexually propositioning another adult man and also to prosecute a same-sex couple for sharing their relationship on social media.
Anti-LGBTQ+ religious leaders and right-wing political figures in the U.S. have praised Putin for his law. Indeed, Republican legislators, so-called “parents’ rights groups,” and right-wing pundits have increasingly moved to ban American kids from accessing any LGBTQ+ content, gender-affirming healthcare, or drag shows over untrue claims that these “sexualize” and “groom” children.
In 2013, Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) President Austin Ruse said Russia’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws were a “good thing” that “most of the people in the United States” would support. In 2014, anti-LGBTQ+ evangelical leader Franklin Graham also defended the law.
If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org. The Trans Lifeline (1-877-565-8860) is staffed by trans people and will not contact law enforcement. The Trevor Project provides a safe, judgment-free place to talk for youth via chat, text (678-678), or phone (1-866-488-7386). Help is available at all three resources in English and Spanish.