MOSCOW: Nicole spent nine months this year locked up at home, where his parents "beat and humiliated" him for wanting to transition to female, before escaping and seeking refuge in Russia's first LGBT shelter.
The sanctuary, in a guarded complex on the edge of Moscow, can take up to 14 people. It opened in April to house gay men fleeing Russia's Chechnya region after revelations of jailings and police torture there. Then in Oct, gay support group Moscow Community Center opened up the shelter to other LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people who are homeless or vulnerable.
The idea to create such a space in Russia had been long discussed but the crackdown on Chechen gays helped the Moscow Community Center to raise funds, said director Olga Baranova.
"We opened this shelter for all those LGBT people in Russia who are suffering."
These include people who are transitioning, those thrown out by their families and others who have lost jobs or been attacked, she said. The three occupants who spoke to AFP all come from the Caucasus region, where, they said, entrenched homophobia is rife.
Nicole, whose long dark hair is tied back in a ponytail, is from ex-Soviet Azerbaijan while the others are from Russia. Read more via AFP