Russia’s only lesbian glossy magazine goes on sale – but homophobes call it ‘filth’

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The pilot issue of the only glossy magazine for lesbians in Russia has gone on sale this month, in a launch that publishers hope will reach out to the country’s embattled LGBT community.

RIA Novosti reports that the magazine Agens, which takes its title from a Latin word meaning “driving force”, has gone on its first print run of 999 copies. As of now it is only sold in four LGBT-friendly locations and online.

Editor-in-Chief Milena Chernyavskaya said she hoped the magazine would combat the lack of information that gay men and women in Russia have to deal with on a day-to-day basis.

“The LGBT community has to deal with an information blackout,” she said. “Russian gay men and lesbians don’t know each other and think that they cannot be happy, because everyone around abuses them,”

She added that she did not want the magazine to be seen as an attempt to provoke Russia’s conservative lawmakers, who are currently considering a law banning “homosexual propaganda”.

The anti-propaganda bill passed its first reading in January, and will go to a second on 25 May. Lawmakers say they hope the bill will protect minors and the straight conservative majority, but critics worry the LGBT community will face increased persecution because of the bill.

“We are aiming at a dialogue both with the readers and the authorities,” Ms Chernyavskaya said. “If the deputies are unhappy with the magazine, I would like to talk to each of them face to face.”

Agens’ first issue includes stories about coming out in the workplace, studying abroad, film-making, and a fashion shoot featuring men’s clothes that fit women.

Olgerta Kharitonova, publisher of online feminist magazine Ostrov said: “If a glossy lesbian magazine survives on Russian soil, it will be the best present for the LGBT community in 2013.”

“If Agens manages to reflect lesbian life in the format of a glossy magazine without attracting the ire of the outraged Orthodox community, then we can only wish them luck and keep our fingers crossed.”

Vitaly Milonov, the lawmaker responsible for St Petersburg’s anti-gay ban on which the homosexual propaganda bill is modelled, was unenthusiastic about Agens’ first issue, stating he “would be happier if someone started a magazine about cats.”

Mr Milonov said to RIA by telephone that, although he admitted the magazine was legal, “we should watch that this filth does not fall into the hands of minors.”

There have been two previous attempts to launch similar publications for lesbians in Russia, but neither managed to run for more than five years. A magazine for gay men, Kvir (a Russian take on “queer”), has survived longer, but switched from print to online publication this year.