Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Izvinite Rossija

I stated earlier my opinion that I wouldn't recommend Russia to any trans-person. I have several very good Russian friends, and I've had several trips there, mainly St. Petersburg (which is considered to be more European than Russian city). All my experience has been that Russian state of mind is the most chauvinistic, heterosexual one can find. Forget latin machismo, the latin guys look after their appearance, try to impress women to win their hearts. They might even give a rose and read a poem. Okay, it is the way of many Russians too, but the majority seems to be content at drinking with buddies and then finding some pretty girls to spend some quality time with. Exceptions from this are often frowned upon or simply not understood.

The country has also dark history from communist era, when physically and mentally handicapped and sexual minorities were transported to Siberia (or plainly killed) to starve together with the political opposition. That has left the people without understanding or tolerance of sexual minorities. Together with recent rise of violent nationalism it has summoned events like the recent - if not officially supported, at least tolerated - public beating of the Gay Parade participants in Moscow.

All that might be just bollocks.

A TS friend of mine is right now on another larger-than-life expedition, this time to the East. She took a Trans-Siberia (sic!) train from Finland to China, and reported me back from Tokyo that my opinions were not true. She had good time in Russia, made lots of friends, and was drinking and partying with people with no problems ever, people were always charming. Unlike in Latin America where she was traveling last time. Generally Russians were always surprised and interested to meet a TS, sometimes unable to comprehend what it is about, but always positive.

Now I wait and hope she will be able to comment on this..


Anonymous said...

Hello Valerie,

All you wrote about Russia must be true in one way. And maybe if I had stayed there longer or lived there I would have become familiar with this side, too.

It is true that there are severe human rights violations in Russia and these violations concern also GLT people. It is also true that Russia is "wild east", where you can never rely on anything else but yourself. It is a country where justice is bought with a few hundreds dollars, where human rights activists and journalists are murdered (Anna Politkovskaya: rest in peace). But on a basic level, among the ordinary Russians, you don't meet these problems. What I learned of my journey through Russia is that Russia is a very difficult country to define and understand. And that's what makes it so fascinating.

I was scared before setting off to Russia. My parents were sure that I will be beaten up big time in Russia. But none of the fears came true. I didn't find hostility there. Ok, everybody knows the horror stories about bad service in the railway stations but they are a different story and have nothing to do with my identity I believe.

Sometimes I may have been protected from negative reactions because people simply didn't realise what I am. But even when they realised that I am TS it didn't make much of difference. Or if it did, in a positive way.

Now in North East Asia I have met quite a few Americans and they have completely different approach to me. They don't see me. They try their best NOT to see me as if I was something very disturbing to them. (The local people then again are as polite as to any one.) But Russians, they are different. Sometimes people asked me directly if I am man or woman and they never seemed to mean anything bad with it. Sometimes this question was actually a begining of a friendship.

The only explanation I have to this is that meeting a transgendered is something so extraordinary beyond Ural that the Russians didn't see it as a threat. They simply didn't have prejudges. And probably my ability to speak Russian helped a little bit as well. Siberians don't often have a chance to communicate with foreigners because of a language barrier. Not to forget that being positive yourself is often rewarded with positivity.

But so far when travelling around the world I have found that the countries I have most feared in advance have turned to be the best. Russia and Middle East for example. In both places the official approach to GTL people is among the worst in the world but nevertheless I have had more fun in these places than in many parts of Europe, where I am clearly pointed that I am inferior and often treated with prejudges (thief, drug user and prostitute = completely unreliable).

So, my advice is to go with open mind to Russia and enjoy it!

Mila (now in Tokyo)

Anonymous said...

Fascinating blog post, and reply!

Valerie S said...

"Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma"
-Winston Churchill