US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refuses to meet with LGBT activists in Ukraine

Mike Pompeo

Donald Trump’s anti-LGBT+ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Ukraine this week, but refused to meet with LGBT+ community leaders.

Pompeo made the trip to show America’s commitment to defending Ukraine against aggression from Russia, in the middle president’s impeachment trial which centres on his alleged abuse of power over Ukraine.

According to The New York Times, Pompeo said at a news conference after meeting with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky: “Today I’m here with a clear message: The United States sees that the Ukrainian struggle for freedom, democracy and prosperity is a valiant one.

“Our commitment to support it will not waver.”

But when Pompeo met with Ukrainian civic society leaders in the country’s capital, Kyiv, on Friday January 31, LGBT+ leaders were distinctly absent.

LGBT+ activist Anna Sharyhina told The Daily Beast that support is exactly what the LGBT+ community in Ukraine needs.

She said she wishes she could have spoken with him about the increasing violence against her community, and about the lack of support from her own government in stopping it.

She said that their community centre in the middle of Kharkiv, PrideHub, was facing repeated attacks.

A few weeks ago, far-right activists poured animal blood on the centre’s door. In December, on the same door, they scrawled the words “death to LGBT”.

Sharyhina said: “We complained to police, after the most recent incidents we collected about 1,000 letters addressed to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, but unfortunately nobody has been punished so far.

“The attacks provoke further actions by aggressive groups, first a flash bomb flies at you in our space, where we watch films, have roundtable discussions and trainings, next thing we know, that some thugs collected animal blood to terrify us.”

In September 2019 Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, held its first Pride parade. However, anti-LGBT+ protesters showed up to what should have been a joyous occasion, throwing eggs at the march and ever pepper spraying police. 

Nadia and Vera are twin sisters who are both part of the Kharkiv LGBT+ community.

They told The Daily Beast that although Pompeo doesn’t want to hear from them, they hold out hope for other Western leaders and even their own president.

Vera said: “Our President Zelensky might be a homophobe, but we believe he is a democrat, so sooner or later he should recognize our rights.”

Mike Pompeo has a long history of opposing LGBT+ rights

Mike Pompeo has a long anti-LGBT+ record, and once described being gay as a “perversion”. 

Before its repeal, he fought desperately to keep ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, the policy which prevented openly gay people from serving in the military.

He said at the time: “We cannot use military to promote social ideas that do not reflect the values of our nation.”

When the US Supreme Court found that gay couples had a constitutional right to get married, Pompeo said he was “deeply saddened” by the ruling, branding it a “shocking abuse of power.”