LGBT people in the Ukrainian Armed Forces: russia’s manipulation game
According to the results of a major study on LGBT disinformation in the pro-russian community conducted by the Detector Media team, “pro-russian users claimed that the Ukrainian military was allegedly suffering defeat precisely because of the presence of LGBT people in the army.” Of course, it should be borne in mind that the concepts of “defeat” and “victory” in the new russian new language have completely different meanings.
There are no official statistics on how many LGBT people serve in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. However, during the national leadership and expert LGBTI consultation “Ukrainian LGBTI: War and Life”, Andriy Chernyshev, Head of the External Relations and Advocacy Department of the Alliance.Global NGO, stated that up to 10% of adult members of the community were drafted or joined the Ukrainian Armed Forces as volunteers. At the same panel, another activist, Maksym Kasianchuk, spoke about his experience of interviewing LGBT people who serve in the Ukrainian army. Some of them talk openly about their sexual orientation, because their brothers- and sisters-in-arms don’t interfere in other people’s lives, while others hide it, because they don’t know how their comrades will react to such information.
At the same time, according to Maksym Kasianchuk, more than 200 military personnel openly wear a unicorn chevron, a symbol of the LGBT community in the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
As a matter of fact, this chevron has also been used by russian propaganda. Let’s go back to the DM study. The analysts found a message stating that such chevrons are intended to scare russian soldiers, so that they “will flee the sodomites” (sorry, this is a quote).
“Propagandists need such messages in order to justify the war in Ukraine in the eyes of russian society, or rather, to explain its expediency. They say that Ukraine and Ukrainians, whom the russians call a fraternal people, are being dragged into the despicable LGBT-NATO circle, from which the country must be saved, no matter the cost.” DM explains.
At this point, it’s also worth mentioning the Russian fake about a “memo” allegedly distributed to the Ukrainian military, because “given the increasing number of foreign soldiers with non-traditional sexual orientation in the Ukrainian Armed Forces, fighters may be subjected to sexual violence.”
Russian propagandists also disseminate the information that LGBT people serve in the Armed Forces because “there are no more normal people left, so there will be no one else to fight the war”. The same arguments are used to create the myth of a weak Ukrainian army. In this way, they promote the myth that only “real” men are warriors and defenders, synonymous with strength, while gay men are not. Similar narratives can be seen in the comments made by Ukrainians. After all, stereotypes about what men should be like and what women should be like don’t change very easily.
Meanwhile, a survey was conducted among over 500 Ukrainian adult social media users, who wrote negative posts or comments about LGBT people after February 24. According to the results, 84.3% said they agreed with the President of Ukraine’s response to the petition to legalize same-sex marriage. Only 1.6% categorically stated that it should have been immediately refused.
As a reminder, in his response, Volodymyr Zelenskyy explained that the Constitution of Ukraine cannot be changed under martial law. Specifically, it states that marriage is a voluntary agreement between a man and a woman.
“However, the Government has been working on options for legalizing registered civil partnerships in Ukraine as part of its efforts to promote and ensure human rights and freedoms,” the response reads. In fact, more than 420 people out of 503 who condemn LGBT people support civil same-sex partnerships.
There’s another interesting indicator in this survey: out of 503 people who agreed to answer the question, 1.4% personally signed a petition to legalize same-sex marriage in Ukraine, while almost 11% said that they didn’t care about this initiative. But, 53.1% of respondents recognize that LGBT people serve in the Ukrainian Armed Forces on an equal footing with the others