Gay Bashing Inside the Garden Ring

Published: August 5, 2013

 MOSCOW — After she got home at 5 a.m. Vera Kichanova wrote on Facebook,“I thought all those awful homophobia stories happened outside the Garden Ring,” referring to the avenue that circles central Moscow. “Inside the Garden Ring” is a geographic and social appellation: With its overpriced designer apartments, luxury boutiques and at least a couple of coffee shops on every block, the area is generally considered a world onto itself. Some use the term pejoratively, to indicate rich people who are out of touch with reality; others use it to denote a perceived protected space inside an increasingly reactionary country.

Kichanova, a 22-year-old journalist and municipal council member of a remote Moscow neighborhood, meant that she had felt safe inside the Garden Ring. Not that she had reason to think she needed protection against antigay violence: Although she has been an outspoken supporter of L.G.B.T. rights, she is married to a man and neither of them identifies as gay. In fact, most of the young people who went out to a trendy bar in central Moscow Saturday night did not identify as gay. Still, they got gay-bashed.
The men in the group were wearing plaid shirts and oversized glasses. Kichanova, the only woman, was dressed in a skirt, white knee-highs, and oversized glasses. “We weren’t the only people in that place who looked like hipsters,” she told me the next day. They were celebrating a friend’s birthday. They danced, they drank, they chatted. Kichanova and her husband, 22-year-old Pavel Gnilorybov, went upstairs to get some air on a terrace, and two of their friends, both male, stayed behind at the bar talking. A few minutes later, a woman screaming “Faggots!” ran up to the two men and started hitting them. As they tried to calm her down, she was joined by another woman and three men, who also began hitting the two young men they perceived as gay. Finally, the club’s security intervened — by escorting the two victims out of the bar. The attackers proceeded upstairs to the terrace, where they continued screaming antigay epithets and attacked Kichanova and Gnilorybov. Security intervened again, escorting the couple down to the bar area and again taking no action against the attackers. Kichanova asked them to call the police, but they ignored her.
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