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The Ukraine War Is Transforming the LGBTQ+ Rights Landscape in Europe

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existential threat to both the sovereignty of Ukraine and the rights of LGBTQ+ people.In his Feb. 24 speech, President Vladimir Putin used LGBTQ+ rights as a justification for his military operation, arguing that the West sought to destroy Russian “traditional values” with their “false values.”For some LGBTQ+ Ukrainians, the war is a call to arms — both in support of their homeland and in support of their rights.

For others, the threat of persecution is prompting them to flee.But because of powers conferred by martial law, some LGBTQ+ refugees have been pushed back at the border while others are taking dangerous routes out.According to Polish LGBTQ+ activists we spoke with in Warsaw in April 2022, one trans man was pushed back at the border by a Ukrainian border guard and told: “if you want to be a real man, prove it — stay and fight.”The imperative for LGBTQ+ people to fight is also reflected in the advocacy of LGBTQ+ rights groups like Kyiv Pride, Ukraine Pride and LGBTIQ Military.

They have positioned LGBTQ+ participation in the military as fundamental to Ukraine’s survival.Posts on Instagram introduce audiences to the gay Ukrainian men fighting for their country, while photos show drag artists donning military attire with the caption “Ukrainian drag queens destroy Moscovian [sic] occupiers!.”But for LGBTQ+ Ukrainians who have fled, these posts and messaging can bring feelings of shame.A narrative is emerging in western media that frames the war as a battle for LGBTQ+ rights against a backward, conservative and intolerant Russia.

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