Russia: Putin’s sweeping new trans ban is latest attack in global war on LGBTQ+ rights

Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has frequently attacked LGBTQ+ and trans rights, wears a suit and tie as he sits at a desk

Russia’s new law banning trans healthcare and legal gender recognition is part of Vladimir Putin’s drive to crackdown on LGBTQ+ people – and a symptom of the worldwide rollback on queer rights. 

Since the start of Russia’s invasion in February 2022, Putin has said Russia is not only fighting Ukraine but also so-called ‘Western’ values. 

He attacked the West’s “radical” denial of “family values” and acceptance of LGBTQ+ rights, calling them “pure Satanism”, during a speech marking the illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions in September.

On the home front, the Kremlin has pursued new legislation to further demonise and harm Russia’s already belaboured LGBTQ+ community.

This culminated in Putin signing legislation on Monday (24 July) that bans gender-affirming healthcare for trans people as well as changing one’s gender in official documents and public record. 

The hateful measure, approved unanimously by both houses of parliament, also annuls marriages in which one partner came out as trans and prevents trans people from adopting or fostering children. 

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A person holds up a picture of Russia's president Vladimir Putin with the rainbow colours of the LGBTQ+ pride flag during a protest in favour of the trans and queer communities
Countless LGBTQ+ activists have condemned Russian president Vladimir Putin’s attacks on trans and queer rights. (Getty)

Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the Duma (Russia’s lower house of parliament) said the legislation would “protect our citizens and our children”. He also described gender-affirming healthcare as a “path to the degeneration of the nation”. 

This is far from the first time Moscow has placed restrictions on Russia’s LGBTQ+ community

In 2013, the Kremlin adopted legislation that banned the “promotion” of queer identities among minors. A decade later, Putin extended the nation’s ban on so-called ‘LGBTQ+ propaganda’ to all citizens. 

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The legislation’s vague wording has given Russian authorities a powerful tool that can be applied arbitrarily to attack queer activists and LGBTQ+ organisations. 

The fear generated by the ‘LGBTQ+ propaganda’ law has led to the censorship of queer booksinclusive movies being banned and the state fining social media apps

Putin has said that teaching children about the trans community is “on the verge of a crime against humanity”. He also alleged that trans rights advocates were calling for an end to “basic things such as mother, father, family or gender differences”. 

In 2020, Putin pushed through constitutional reform that outlawed same-sex marriage – once again referencing how he was doing so to protect the ‘tradition family’

Yet, for all his words about he wants to ‘protect’ Russian citizens, he rules a country where trans people live in fear of persecution for simply existing, and there have been multiple reports of the torture and imprisonment of gay men

A group of people hold up signs condemning the persecution of LGBTQ+ and gay men in the Russian region of Chechnya
Putin talks about ‘protecting’ Russian citizens. Yet, gay men have faced torture and imprisonment in Chechnya. (Getty)

The increase in attacks against queer Russians has been accompanied by a growing global campaign against LGBTQ+ rights. 

Putin’s anti-LGBTQ+ hate echoed across Europe and the US

Hungary implemented its own ‘LGBTQ+ propaganda’ law in 2021, and politicians have repeatedly said the law was in place to “protect children” – not attack LGBTQ+ rights. Acivists have told PinkNews the legislation “really changed things” for the worse for LGBTQ+ people in the country. 

Italy’s far-right prime minister Giorgia Meloni has voiced her support of the “natural family” and said “no to the LGBT lobby” in the past. Now, as a result, lesbian couples fear they could be erased from their child’s birth records as the government encroaches on the rights of LGBTQ+ families. 

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In the US, 20 states have restricted access to gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth. Anti-LGBTQ+ lawmaker Marjorie Taylor Greene has claimed she’s in a “spiritual war” as she attempts to ban trans healthcare at a federal level, while other Republicans across the US wrongly (and repeatedly) equate the life-saving healthcare to “mutilation”

A person holds up a sign of Hungary's leader Viktor Orbán holding a rainbow scarf during an LGBTQ+ protest
Right-wing European leaders, like Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, have used anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric to fuel their political base similar to Vladimir Putin. (Getty)

The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh, a popular US pundit, has even praised the Russian ban on gender-affirming healthcare and said the legislation would “protect” kids from “evil”

The UK isn’t immune. Voices on the right have been calling for a rollback on trans rights, alleging that LGBTQ+ inclusivity is everything from being ‘woke’ to somehow ‘grooming’ young children. 

British prime minister Rishi Sunak has mocked a trans woman in the past and openly declared that he doesn’t think trans women are women. The government now appears poised to introduce new guidance that would make the lives of young trans people more difficult, by requiring schools to our them to their parents.

Although there has undoubtedly been LGBTQ+ progress in the last century, there remains a divergence in rights globally. As some countries become more tolerant and accepting, others like Russia are becoming more repressive, harming vulnerable groups and LGBTQ+ folks. 

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