What is “QueerFest”?
The 8th international festival “QueerFest” will take place in St. Petersburg September 15 - 25. This is a human rights event against xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, which is organised in a pride-festival format: ten autumn days will bring a variety of events — different in their format but united by their theme.
What is OpenSpace?
OpenSpace events is a special type of festival life, with “QueerFest” providing space for various initiatives, groups and organisations. Everyone can become a part of OpenSpace, organise a discussion, a masterclass, a workshop or any other activity, that is within the theme of the festival.
The theme of “QueerFest” 2016
“To see the Invisible” is the theme of “QueerFest” in 2016. This time we want to talk about the groups within the society and the identities within LGBT-communities, whose problems are unseen. Silence, depreciation and inattention make these people invisible. We would like to give guests of the festival the opportunity to see the invisible. Guests will learn more about LGBT living with HIV or disabilities and neurologically atypical LGBT, problems of lesbophobia and transphobia in feminists movements across Russia, LGBT people, who face violence on the streets or in their own families (domestic violence), LGBT families, stigmatisation of certain groups, hierarchy or sexism inside the LGBT community, transgender people and people with non-binary identities, and those who go beyond the accepted norms of society and are considered marginal. We will talk about the exclusion of these people from the community and how to overcome it.
How to apply to be a part of OpenSpace?
Do you want to take part in OpenSpace? Simply complete the form via this link. The application process is open from May 13 – June 15, 2016. The main selection criteria is the quality of the application. Authors of the interesting and well-described activities will be invited to participate in the OpenSpace.
Who can apply?
We are inviting LGBT activists from everywhere across the Russian Federation (not only St. Petersburg and Moscow) as well as the activists from post-soviet countries. We will cover transportation and accommodation costs for the participants of this event.
We hope to see you at QueerFest 2016!
We are going to keep sharing with you the feedback we have been getting about the festival. Today, that is a letter from LGBT activists in Samara.
"Friends and colleagues, the team at "Avers" congratulates you for organizing QueerFest, and we are attentively following your events. Thank you for creating an event of this scale in this country at this time. Mikhail Tumasov was at the QueerFest opening night, and brought some souvenirs and postcards back to Samara - the "Artifacts" project in particular. We decided to create a small exhibit in our community center, putting up the "Artifacts" cards, a photo, and the story behind the project underneath that. We are very pleased to have here in Samara a small part of the celebration you were able to organize in Saint Petersburg, and we'd like to leave the exhibit up for a while.
With much respect, the Avers team, Samara"
The Unstraight Museum works to document stories from the LGBTQI community all over the world and we would like to invite you to participate by sharing a story from your life.
The most spectacular stories often not the most interesting but the private, ordinary stories about, life, family, love and friends can be the ones that effect us the most and goes to our hearts.
Every person has the right to be heard and by sharing a story from your life you contribute to creating an archive with stories that never have been told before. The stories can give courage to others and create understanding that all persons are equal and share the same feelings and dreams.
You can bring pictures or objects or just tell your story that could be recorded on video or sound, if you want.
After the talk, if you don’t want to share, we can delete the story. You decide how or if you want to use your name or identity.
It is such honor for me to listen to your story and hopefully, you foresee how important it will be for all of us to share our voices and stories as we are only recognized when we are visible.
I hope these stories will be historically placed in museums and sites where the legacy of the LGBTQI life will be shared, assessed and learnt.
All the best, Nhung
Five days of QueerFest have already gone by in one blink. We were meeting each other, listening and speaking with each other. Each passing day of the festival brought its own unique mood and atmosphere... And now, with half of the festival already behind us, we’d like to share with readers some feedback our guests have shared about QueerFest events.
Here is what our guests have said...:
Sergey Golubok, lawyer: "QueerFest is the most important human rights event in Saint Petersburg demonstrating a creative approach. A vulnerable and oppressed minority offers up a creative agenda, and does so very professionally and on a world-class level! It is a contemporary art, socially relevant and making each of us better."
Evgenia (on vk.com): QueerFest is my ten-day carnival of freedom. It's a territory of respect and acceptance for the uniqueness in each of us. Being able to be yourself and to get to know each person as an individual is so exciting! The right to be yourself, the right not to bend under others' perceptions of "duty" -- those are the reasons for a Festival of Queer Culture. I am smiling happily because I am once again part of this spectacular celebration!
Adm.Enot (on vk.com): "I am happy that we have such events in our country! Selfless and, probably, great people are trying to do something so that society and the government will see LGBT people and accept us as we are. They are trying to make life for LGBT people in this world better! Thank you to them!"
From our feedback surveys:
- "I wish for this festival to keep developing and to reach the widest audience possible. It is very important for LGBT people in Saint Petersburg to know that such events exist, as this gives them strength and hope. I hope that in a few years the situation in our country and in our city will allow for the festival to be conducted more publicly. Together we will win! Thank you too all those who are organizing QueerFest. It is very valuable and important for me to be present here."
- "I am feeling a warmth in my soul from being surrounded by good people, interesting photos, and in general a rainbow universe."
- "Everything is great! Hoping for development, globalization, and achievements!"
- "Everything is wonderful, the atmosphere is great."
Denis (on vk.com): "I went to QueerFest today. I'd like to share how pleasant it is to be in the presence of people who, despite all the hatred directed at them from our society, nevertheless remain so open and full of life. I am in awe of their courage to be themselves and to fight for their rights!"
Irina (on vk.com): "Yesterday I was at the meeting with Boris Dittrich. I liked it. He was a pleasant person with a very interesting biography."
From our feedback surveys:
- "I'd like festivals like this to happen more often."
- "The inspiring words from Boris are very valuable for me to continue by own work."
- "Thank you for organizing this festival. It is interesting and has a positive influence on LGBT people (in my opinion), as well as bringing positive emotions. Best of luck to you in your work. Thank you."
- "An excellent and inspiring meeting."
Nadezhda (on vk.com): "On September 19, the workshop "Women in the LGBTQ movement in Russia" was held by LBTQ space "Magma" in Saint Petersburg.
Men write history, and they write it in their own interests. With LGBT history, the same thing happens. It's enough to look at the news: gay movement, gay parade, gay, gay, gay.
The event was created in order to look at history from another perspective. The workshop was in three parts. First, we remembered those initiatives that came to mind without doing any research, and shared what we knew.
These initiatives were: the "Archive of lesbians and gays" in Moscow organized by Elena Gusyatinskaya, the lesbian-feminist magazine "Ostrov" organized by Olga Gert, the "Children 404" project organized by Elena Klimova, the direct actions organized by Elena Kostuchenko, and the parents' club in Saint Petersburg.
Then the organizers and participants of the event collaborated to remember the history of the LGBT movement starting with 1991 (the breakup of the USSR) and women's contributions to this cause.
We remembered Olga Zhuk ("Tchaikovsky's Fund"), and Masha Gessen (the first report to the United Nations Commission On Human Rights).
Some Saint Petersburg organizations and initiatives started by women include: "Coming Out", QueerFest, Side by Side film festival, a psychological support group, and a legal support group; Hana Kochetkova's research into "corrective" rape, which she has been conducting since 2014; also, of course, Internet resources starting with the VolgaVolga website (the first website for lesbians), all the way to the forum "Mir hardkornogo lesbotstva" (roughly: "World of hardcore lesbianism")
Among women we talked about were lesbians, bisexuals, and pansexuals. We also spoke about people who do not identify within the binary gender system.
The event wrapped up with a small discussion about people's impressions, experiences with sexism, and erasure or invisibility within activism."
From our feedback surveys:
- "This is a wonderful project. First of all, it gets at the heart of the festival's theme, and secondly it is a very, very important concept for Russia, where individuality is not valued or discussed. Let's further explore this topic! And promote this project!"
- "It is an enormous joy that Sarah is with us through these days. I haven't ever encountered a project in my life that touched me as much as "The Identity Project." Sarah is doing an enormous work for queer communities not only in the USA, but all over the world -- and her participation is QueerFest is proof of this. She is giving us love and inspiration! Thank you, QueerFest."
Illara: "I really liked the event, all of the presenters and the discussion afterwards. I heard many different and inescapably true opinions, and this diversity as well as the necessity for all of this discourse was both pleasant and impressive."
Bella Rapoport: "I am very glad that QueerFest exists, and I hopes that it lives on for a long time. I didn't expect an invitation from Asya to participate in this event, but I am was very glad to. I think it's awesome, and it's also a rare opportunity for me to express my identity (an opportunity I usually don't have, outside of maybe Facebook), and this is all very important. Today's event was helpful to me, as everyone who spoke after us gave me a lot of new information."
Asya Hodyreva, "Crisis center for women": "I am very happy to finally be a participant in QueerFest, as I've already attended for four years as an audience member, but this year we were able to organize our own event. I am very glad that we can finally unite the feminist agenda and the LGBT agenda -- it is long overdue, as we are working in the same direction."
Daria: "Really, today's event raised a lot of questions that hadn't occurred to many people. Women are a unique community, in which there are its own rules. In reality, it's not as simple to live in this community as it may appear. And a big part of this event was dedicated to overcoming these difficulties, and helping us understand that an important part of our lives is fighting for our own rights, ideas and thoughts. In general, today's event had such an atmosphere of openness and trust, it was very nice to be able to hear thoughts that are often hidden, all in front of such a large number of people -- it can often be difficult to open up even to one person, even a person close to you. This aspect of QueerFest, this trust, is a key part of the events for me, allowing us to understand that everything is not as scary as it may seem."
Yulia: "It's my first time at QueerFest. I came here and, at a minimum, I will have food for thought. At a maximum, I have been inspired to read new things, to meet some people, and to think somewhat differently than before."
From our feedback surveys:
- "I really liked the brochures about complex and little-explored topics that are not studied enough (such as trans* people in Russia)."
- "I like that events such as this one give us a chance to be with people who are close to us in spirit and values, and to discuss shared problems."
- "I wish for QueerFest to grow and to develop. May more and more people become guests and participants in the festival! Also wishing you luck, patience, and strength!! God save us. =)"
Over this weekend, QueerFest guests have lived through a variety of emotions, but the lion's share of discoveries is still ahead. Don't forget to check our schedule and build your plans with us in mind.
Let's share the festival visitors' emotions and take a look at this past weekend at QueerFest through Instagram's lens.
Without further ado... #квирфест #квирфестспб #квирфест2015 #queerfestspb #queerfest2015
P.S. Thank you to all the photographers for capturing these moments.
The next photo project to be presented as part of the photo exhibition at QueerFest 2015 is “Activism as an identity” by German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans. Wolfgang Tillmans is a famous contemporary photographer, who in 2000 became the first non-British artist to receive the Turner Prize (a prestigious art award that could be considered the equivalent of an Oscar in the fine art world). In 2014, Tillmans visited Russia to create a series of interviews and portraits of activists in Russia’s LGBTQ movement.
The photographer discussed many issues with the protagonists of his project, including questions about the causes of institutional homophobia in Russia, the possibility or impossibility of conducting public direct action campaigns to address LGBTQ issues, and the increasing number of LGBTQ refugees within the last one or two years.
The first public event of the festival was the meeting with Boris Dittrich, the advocacy director of LGBT program for the international human rights organization Human Rights Watch, called "Personal and Professional".
In his characteristic style — simple, engaging, and witty - talked about his path to becoming a human rights defender, his process of self-acceptance as a gay man, his work in the Parliament of the Netherlands, and later the Human Rights Watch. After his presentation, Dittrich was swamped with many questions, ranging from whether the Netherlands ever experienced a similar situation as Russia today, to his opinion about probability of same-sex marriages in Russia, to whether he feels that the world is split between two opposing trends: "for" LGBT, and "against" LGBT rights.
Boris' full presentation can be seen and heard here.
The second day of QueerFest already met with challenges that are becoming too familiar. Two hours before the event, the owners of the art space "KvARTira", the venue of the previous day's successful opening, canceled their contract with QueerFest. According to the organizers' information, the venue was visited and pressured by the police.
Foto - Svetlana Kolosova.
This year at the photo exhibition at QueerFest presents a photo project that explores the labels the queer communities use to define their sexual orientations and gender identities. The author of “The Identity Project” is San Francisco-based photographer Sarah Deragon.
The project was born in January 2014, when Sarah posted a black-and-white photograph of herself on Facebook, with the label “queer femme.” It did not stop there: Sarah began to photograph queer people, originally planning to create a small project, but she ended up with 250 portraits in the first month alone.
Sarah believes that her project is very important in its ability to take apart widely accepted notions of what it means to be LGBTQ in today’s society. The project’s participants not only play with concepts that already exist, but also create new and unique ways of describing their identities, such as “transgenderqueer” or “lady-gay.” This is a way the participants can express pride in being themselves in today’s difficult and constantly changing conditions.
At the festival, Deragon’s project will be presented as a video installation, and Sarah herself will organize a photo session for the queer communities of Saint Petersburg on September 20. Please follow our announcements, and feel free to take this opportunity to reexamine your own identity. See you at QueerFest!