My name is Vlad. I am Russian. And here is my life story full of permanent struggle, rejection, and endless hope for acceptance.
I was born on January 31st in a small and cozy Russian province called Tambov. It was early 90s when I grew up and started the process of socialization, so unfortunately but fortunately more information was available, then it had been during USSR period, so when I started to notice that I liked guys I didn’t think that anything was wrong with me. Generally speaking I never thought I was not okay until the moment when I faced hatred and homophobia. This happened rather early, when I entered school. I remember my first week there. You know, I think I always was kind of a rebel at heart. Of course I had a guess that being gay was not allright in this country (and by the way it still is not), but even at the age of seven I thought that being yourself was the most important thing in this life, and if you don’t accept yourself as you are then no one ever will. Unfortunately I had a long way till this theory was finally proved, and I met those, who really matter for me and who don’t give a sh*t whether I’m gay or whatever. ☺
Well, as you can easily guess such behavior instantly led to bulling, so every single day I remember those screams at my back like “are you a boy or a girl?!”, “fag” and all the words that I even didn’t know before. Definitely I always tried to be strong and never showed my emotions, even to my parents. My father was a military man, very conservative one, so subconsciously I always knew that he’d not understand me, and my mother seemed too weak to struggle with him, so I always kept all my pain deep inside and there was no single person to share it with.
I think these memories hurt me all the time. I still cannot forgive my father… Maybe I will one day, but right now it hurts too much to let it go.
One day my mother started to notice that I was always sad and even depressed. I didn’t talk too much and it seemed like something bothered me a lot. Of course she began to ask questions and it lasted for several years, till one summer day. It was a time when we were getting prepared to spend the holidays at the seashore and that evening I suddenly realized that it was time to come out from the closet. I started to talk hundreds of times but the words stuck in my mouth and eventually I decided it was better to write it on a sheet of paper and leave it for my mother to read. In the note I just said “I am gay”. I was 16. Since then everything changed and all my fears have become the reality.
I needed to fight not only at school but also at home. I was not accepted neither by my parents nor by society, but at the same time I saw those gay guys who are hiding every day because they were afraid. Gradually I began to understand, that what I want was to make life of gay people easier. I wanted to become a role model for those gays from small towns. I wanted to help them not to be afraid and see that even being gay you may achieve all your goals. Unfortunately, now I see that the dreams do not always come true.
This whole thing is not about you being gay, but it’s about people’s willingness to accept. But how could they become ready to accept anything new or different when government carries out a massive propaganda against everything that expresses different opinion or a different point of view? I’m not gonna talk about viral Pussy Riot, “gay propaganda” law, which passed in St. Petersburg, because it sounds so pathetic and you’ve heard it so many times, but anyway this is the issue. If we are living in a democracy, I can’t see it work, so am I blind?
I’m a model, and I know some of you may think fashion is not the way to solve problems, but I will say it is one of the most powerful ways to overcome homophobia in Russia and to attract international attention to that issue. I don’t have money, or any influential people among my friends or any other means to wage a fight. All I have is my appearance, my brain and a power to go on. This is my lifestory full of rejection and everlasting struggle, but even after everything I have to overcome every day, I believe that my hope for acceptance will become true one day, and to those people who still are afraid I wanna say always remember there are people in this world like you, and there definitely are those who will love you. So one day you’ll wake up in the arms of your beloved, you will remember your hard times and you will thank yourself for not giving up.