Russian activists raise funds for LGBT family conference: ‘We want to be a part of the discussion’

A group of activists in Russia is looking to raise €12,000 (£10,600) to finance an annual conference aimed at supporting the LGBT+ community and same-sex families in particular.

The LGBTQIA Family Conference, now in its fifth year, is due to take place in Moscow for three days starting November 9. Last year, the event gathered around 400 participants and 35 speakers, including psychologists, therapists, educators and health professionals who would not otherwise have the possibility to receive information as to how to best support the LGBT+ community.

This year, the conference’s main theme is “The value of family and partnership. Ethics and politics,” focusing on those “traditional family values” that the Russian government and the influential Orthodox Church normally claim to be the realm of heterosexual couples.

“We want to be a part of the discussion and that is what the conference will be about,” Nadeshda Aronchik, fundraiser and co-organiser of the conference, tells PinkNews.

Same-sex parenting is not banned in Russia, but LGBT+ parents face discrimination and the threat of a 2013 law banning the spread of “propaganda for non-traditional sexual relations” to minors. If they look for support on parenting or in their relationship, they have “nowhere to turn,” the organisers said.

“You’d face discrimination and misunderstanding,” Aronchik said.

At the opening of the 4th family conference last year. (Supplied)

Even since its first, self-funded edition, the event has received financial support from a grant earmarked for human rights organisation. The grant was however abruptly cancelled a few months ago, leaving organisers at the Resurs LGBT+ group with no option but to collect funds from supporters and the general audience, both in Russia and abroad, to ensure the event can take place.

Besides the crowdfunding page, the organisers have also set up fundraising events in Russia, like a charity concert that gathered €150 donations (£130)—a good number for Russia, Aronchik said.

Part of the money collected will also fund the publication of a book including a summary from the conference’s seminars, so that knowledge can be preserved and accessed by a wider audience—but the main concern is about ensuring safety for all participants.

“The most important thing is security,” Aronchik said. The organisers have set aside at least €1,000 (£880) to guarantee round-the-clock security, since some of the conference attendees and organisers were targeted by the members of a nationalist group as they were leaving the venue last year, on November 11.

“Some of the guests and volunteers, including myself, were attacked by a group of four men and we had to postpone the third day because the place was not safe anymore,” Aronchik recalled.

The charity concert organised to raise funds in October.  (Supplied)

A case into the assault—which was considered to be homophobic, a virtually unprecedented step in Russia as Aronchik said—was only opened in August, but the attackers were apprehended and are awaiting trial.

While the organisers to do not necessarily fear a retaliatory attack, they will still bulk up security measures this year. “[The event] is not only for the LGBT community, it’s for anyone interested in the equality of every family,” Aronchik said, adding that the conference is the only event of its kind in Russia.

As the organisers discuss in a video on their crowdfunding page on IndieGogo, the event provides a platform for professionals “to share best practices, discuss issues that arise from discrimination, to meet LGBT+ families in real life, see them and hear their voices.” As for the LGBT+ community, “it’s an opportunity to meet in a supportive and respectful environment. It’s an opportunity to receive psychological and legal help, to find specialists who are supportive and accepting.”