Hate Speech in «Vecherniy Mogilev»: Transsexual detained in Belarus for the first time in history

This piece of journalism originally published in the official Belarusian media. The following article created the wave of discussions and critical responses in Belarusian online journalist groups and in social media. Please, feel free to re-publish and post on FB and LGBTQ communities’ sites. So here it is…

Sasha Padziarei

How can I turn into a positive experience something that in my mind is verbal violence, bordering in terms of its impact on one human life, with Nazi and Stalinist repressions and propaganda?

I have translated the article below from Russian, because I couldn’t let it go unnoticed. The article, originally taken from the official newspaper Vecherniy Mogilev[1], is about extreme transphobia, homophobia towards and violation of privacy and human rights of Igor Trusnev[2] a transgender person detained in Belarus for committing an unspecified crime. His destiny as well as the nature of his crime, and his sentence remain unknown, but based on the comments of the judge of his case and on how he was mis-gendered, mis-represented and stigmatised by the official media, he wasn’t treated any better in the penal institution in Mogilev. I am from Belarus and I identify as trans*, I am a queer transgender person, and that’s why I feel I want to get involved.

The article was “re-published by Gaypress[3] as an example of extreme unprofessionalism, unethical and prejudiced writing of journalists, when they are writing about LGBT topics. The hate speech used in the article could have served as an example in the textbook “How Not to Write”. The text is given in full”.[4]

I translated this article to give this person and their story a voice, to bring attention to discrimination and hate speech in the representation of a trans* person in this particular newspaper, which points to a bigger issue of stigmatisation of LGBTQ communities in Belarusian culture. Also to create an opportunity to discuss trans* issues in Belarus, to put this story into the West vs. Post-soviet perspective in a geographical and political location Europe, and to give an opportunity to reflect and comment to my queer, trans* and non-trans* friends and collegues, and their friends – everyone who might be interested in the issues in focus from different angles: from self love and healing to putting down the law and writing history.

I’d be interested to know what people see in this article and in this short introduction and what resonates with them. For example, there is a discussion happening right now in a closed online forum “LGBT Belarusian Journalist Group”[5] in Belarus about whether or not Vecherniy Mogilev could be taken to court and on what grounds, since there doesn’t seem to be an appropriate article in Belarusian legislation to provide grounds for a law suit or an investigation. Discussions and reflections are welcome here. They could be shared with colleagues and friends from the “Journalists for Tolerance”.

The positive experience I was talking about in the beginning doesn’t come alone for me from celebrating the recent additions to the law, like the protection of LGBT people against hate speech. I am not trying to undermine the significance and the positivity of these changes in legislation. The laws and the UN Convention of Human Rights do play an important role in protecting people from violence and discrimination. And while Belarus, the totalitarian state, is infamous for breaching human rights and charging LGBTQ and human rights advocates with non-existing tax crimes or the misappropriation of foreign funds, the UK presumably has a more democratic and sensitive law system. Or has it?

I am not saying anything new when I say that in the UK the legislation protects property and investment, not equality and diversity. Hate speech and discrimination towards people of colour, LGBT, but not Q, and people with mental and physical challenges are punishable by law in the UK. There are some groups who didn’t make the list, like immigrants, sex workers and others. Legislation ignores the fact that a large proportion of those people are the underprivileged. Prison populations consist mostly of the underprivileged. I draw from this that being protected by the law is a luxury not everyone can afford or qualify for — if you are a non-binary trans* or queer, for example. I see how people fall through the loop holes in legislation and remain vulnerable to violence, poverty and stigmatisation.

I am saying all this to explain that instead of the criminalisation of the underprivileged, and adding vulnerable groups one by one to the legislation, it seems more productive to organise support and continue the healing process for individuals, communities and society in general. How to do it — is a massive question. The more I chip away at it, the bigger it becomes, because I get to know more, and to know the context and the details of every case I encounter. When I am doing this kind of work of love and support; this includes self love and support, as a volunteer for Gendered Intelligence and as an active member of trans* queer communities, it is extremely important to feed myself on positive thoughts and see in perspective how far I’ve come on my journey.

Reading the article about a trans* person in Belarus, the country I emigrated from in 1999, I got such perspective. It showed me that at this moment in time as a member of queer communities in London, thanks to other people’s and my own work, I am much safer and happier than I have ever been before. I have to say – what a privilege it is to occupy this position, and what an amazing source of power this realisation is for me. However, reading this article was a painful experience.

Special thanks to Chryssy Hunter for her comments on the draft and translation.

TRANSSEXUAL DETAINED IN BELARUS FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HISTORY

This took place in a Jail №4 of city of Mogilev, where, by the decree of the Mogilev District Court, Mr. Igor Trusnev […] was delivered. The ordinary crime came out of the category of banal when Igor was taken into the search room and ordered to get undressed. Trusnev, shy and blushing, refused.

They say, that when the search was conducted forcefully, even experienced guards ran out of the search room in horror. Because, where every normal guy would have his “dignity”[6]there was a female triangle. A more detailed investigation of the detainees’ body showed that Igor is missing such typical male attributes as an Adam’s apple, and that on his flattened chest there are typically female nipples with scars around them.

What presented itself before the eyes of the dumbfounded employees of the correctional facility has became clear after the horrific details of the story of the transformation of a woman into a man were revealed.

Based on the information provided by the court, in 1995 in the urban settlement Borovlyany of Minskiy District, Igor Trusnev had undergone the sex reassignment surgery. Originally “it” was a girl and even had the name Natalya. However, after the fall of the USSR, on a wave of mass licentiousness, when powerful influences from the West flooded us with pederastic elements, Natalya, not being able to resist the temptation decided to change from the weaker to the stronger sex and went under the knife…

Today’s result – a weepy and hermaphroditic being, who as the case materials reveal, doesn’t get off the glass[7]steals from the fellow villagers like a hardened criminal, and to add to this, manages to cohabit with its own kind. Although, in all fairness, it is not able to have children.

After this metamorphoses of her sex when Natasha was 23, her papers were changed at the Registry Office. Natalya perfectly legally became Igor having kept her surname and having changed the ending of the middle name from female to male.[8]

The first thing “It” did in the 90s was find a female life partner, with whom it tied a Hymen’s knot.[9] To avoid finger pointing from relatives and her wife’s female friends regarding the couple’s childlessness, they adopted a child.

At present, the destiny of the girl who was born in 1995 is unknown to us. It is thought that a thorough investigation would be made by law enforcement agencies pertaining to this case. Because still echoing, is the scandalous story of the homosexual from Slavgorod, who in 2006 was granted permission by the court to adopt two boys, and who later made his own daughter marry his sexual partner.

At the same time, it is positively known that the first married couple with a transsexual partner in Belarus failed the test of time – the marriage broke up. As it should be, the “father” was legally obliged to pay child maintenance. The debt for this arrangement up to date is 50 million Belarusian roubles, although the child is now eighteen.[10]

The judge of Mogilev District Court S.V. Levchenko dealt with this criminal case, which was based on the investigation into the co-habiting of the mother of three with a transsexual. The judge explained to the editorial team that the information about this case has been sent to the governmental departments of education, sport and tourism of Mogilev City Council. This was for the appropriate actions to be taken towards arranging of the State protection of the girls, who were the dependants of the person with a non-traditional sexual orientation.

Indeed, what kind of members of society could a transsexual bring up? In the countries of Western Europe within the juvenile justice system it is legal for pederasts to adopt children. Those children simply become hostages in the hands of perverts, who sexually abuse and bully the little ones every god given day in the ways only known to them. In the Republic of Belarus the “blue lobby”[11] are controlled by the government.[12] They are made aware that, because of their status of homosexuality, they shouldn’t meddle in the affairs of the highest echelons of power or in the government’s child custody decision-making institutions for innocent victims.

Naturally, we asked the representative of Femida[13] what kind of punishment would be given to the transsexual. S.V. Levchenko clarified that this question is a secret matter of the closed discussion room but added that special penal colonies for “these” individuals don’t exist in Belarus yet. In the Jail №4 of city of Mogilev, Igor Trusnev is kept in solitary confinement to avoid trouble.

When asked over the phone, the special department of the jail in Mogilev refrained from any comments regarding the case.

However, from our point of view, keeping the transsexual in a separate cage is perfectly justified. He couldn’t be put with men who have the right orientation. Because, regardless of his short haircut and the regular administration of hormones, Trusnev as a woman still has the so-called primary and secondary sexual characteristics.

Forgive the intimate details, but changing clothes and going to the toilet would still have to happen in front of everyone.

You couldn’t too, put a person who according to passport is a man into the female jail. Though, considering Igor’s amorous adventures, maybe he secretly hoped that this would happen.

The famous film by Arkady Mamontov Sodom[14] shows a scene of male gay marriage taking place in a present-day registry office in Germany. The “doves”[15], having modestly lowered their gaze, are putting wedding rings on fingers of each other’s calloused hands, and sealing the sanctity of their pederastic love with a kiss. Normal guys would spit from seeing such a scene. Nevertheless, is there a need to go to Berlin nowadays to witness this sort of curiosity?

And finally

In the book of the lives of orthodox saints of the fourth to the seven’s centuries it’s said that the sin of sodomy is so disgusting before the Lord that even demons, seeing the copulating pederasts, turn away clamping their noses, to avoid the stench coming from them.

Today, inside the beautiful packaging called the sexual minorities, which is promoted and actively forced upon us by the European Union, Satan is hiding and observing, not without pleasure, people on earth creating the second Sodom for themselves.

Viktoria Karpova

Vasiliy Stasov

 The name and the surname of the transsexual are changed based on an ethical judgement.

[1] In English – Evening Mogilev, an official newspaper of the city of Mogilev in Belarus.

[2] This name is made up, the real identity of the person was not revealed in the article. Later, in response to the article in Vecherniy Mogilev, Belarusian independent online source Nasha Niva published an adequate professionally written article – a real journalistic investigation into the story of inhuman treatment of Igor, exposing lies surrounding his arrest and unfounded charges. Igor’s real name is Dimitry (44) and he told his story to journalists of Nasha Niva. Read in Belarussian here http://nn.by/?c=ar&i=142015. Unfortunately the article is not available in English, but you can follow the link for the images.

[3] Gaypress is an independent group of Belarusian journalists who share one thing in common – they all thrive to “make our society more tolerant”. They believe that the “media play a major role in shaping public opinion” and aim to “contribute to reducing homophobic manifestations in society”. They want journalists “not to be afraid to mentioning words like “gay” or “lesbian”, not to be afraid of writing about LGBT, [and] […] LGBT materials to be of good quality as far as journalist ethics is concerned”. Read more in English at http://gaypress.eu/2014/11/05/about-us/#more-1058 . Find article in Russian athttp://gaypress.eu/2014/12/28/v-belarusi-vpervy-e-v-istorii-pod-strazhu-vzyat-transseksual/.

[4] The text of the article is published on Gaypress under the section “Press-review” with the subheading “Discrimination”. The original article is published in Vecherniy Mogilevnewspaper on 28 December 2014. Authors: Viktoria Karpova and Vasiliy Stasov. The text is translated as close as possible to the original and without editing. Original source in Russian is here http://vecherniy-mogilev.by/2014/136/trans.html . Also the reader’s comment in Russian here http://vecherniy-mogilev.by/2014/142/sms.html.

[5] In Belarusian — “Журналісты за талерантнасць”.

[6] “Dignity” — Russian word dostoinstvo, is commonly used in speech as a name for a penis.

[7] This means heavy drinking.

[8] In former USSR republics all people usually have a middle name, which is their father’s name. For example Igor’s full name is Igor Petrovich Trusnev, because his father is Petr. With the female ending it would be Petrovna. Vna – and vich – are respectively the female and male endings of the Russian middle names.

[9] This means — got married. Hymen is a Greek god of marriage celebrations.

[10] The latest investigation of the journalists from Nasha Niva revealed that Dimitry (Igor) refused to pay child maintenance because he was trying to prove in court that he wasn’t a biological father of the child, which, of course, he couldn’t have been. But his statement wasn’t supported by the clinic where he had his surgery at, so Dimitry spent 35 days in jail and was made to pay child support. At the time of the trial, the fact that Dimitry was a trans* parent didn’t seem to bother the representatives of law. 50mln BYR is approximately 2400 GBP depending on currency exchange rates. Minimal wage is Belarus is 2.1mln BYR, which is around 100GBP, see http://finance.tut.by/news427406.html.

[11] By the “blue lobby” what’s possibly meant here are organisations or individuals who advocate for the human rights of LGBT. “Blue” is a word used in common language to signify homosexual identities. It is my opinion that the inverted commas are used to undermine the power of such lobbying and to underline their existence as superficial.

[12] This statement doesn’t make sense since there isn’t the “blue lobby”, and the authors are referring to LGBTQ rights advocates and supporters. It is not clear what are the authors saying, who in the government controls this “lobby”?

[13] Femida is a law firm in Belarus, here mentioned in connection with judge Levchenko, who presumably works there. The law firm predominantly deals with anti-crisis solutions in terms of finance: tax, debt and bankruptcy. “Femida” is also Russian for Themis – an ancient Greek Titaness, who is a personification of law and order.

[14] Watch extracts with English subtitles here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYMzW8mu5RQ (17min). The full film in English with Serbian subtitles is herehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeJl6gM7eTs (57 min). It is an anti-LGBT propaganda film made by the Russian director Mamontov.

[15] There is a word-play here. The authors are calling the gay couple “doves”. In Russian a dove is golub and the common word for male gay is “goluboj”, which means colour blue. By calling the couple “doves” the authors put in a belittling way an extra emphasis on couple’s gayness.