Metro Weekly

Anti-Trans Law Forces Russian Politician Out of Governor Race

Yulia Alyoshina, Russia's first out transgender politician, says she was forced to end her gubernatorial bid because of an anti-trans law.

Yulia Alyoshina – Photo: Yulia Alyoshina, via Telegram

Russia’s first openly transgender politician called off her gubernatorial bid, saying the country’s latest anti-transgender bill has intimidated her supporters into silence.

Yulia Alyoshina, a prominent leader in the opposition Civil Initiative party, sought to represent southern Siberia’s Altai region in September, when residents will elect a new governor. 

To get on the ballot, any local politician needs 502 signatures from local municipal council members. This requirement, called the “municipal filter,” has been condemned by civil rights groups who accuse the practice of letting state officials bar opposition candidates. 

“Many municipal deputies and village heads expressed their readiness to sign, but subsequently began to refuse, referring to the bill on a complete ban on gender reassignment, which is under consideration in the State Duma and has already been adopted in the first reading,” Alyoshina wrote in a Telegram post on July 9. 

The State Duma is the lower house of Russia’s bicameral legislature. 

Following the anti-transgender law’s introduction last month, only 19 unnamed municipal deputies were still willing to sign in support of Alyoshina’s candidacy, the lawmaker told The Moscow Times.

“I was told by municipal deputies and village heads that the [gender reassignment ban] bill was being considered and that they couldn’t give me their signatures,” she said.

“They told me: ‘How can we publicly support a transgender person if the State Duma prohibits transgender people in Russia? By putting our signatures in your support, we will go against the country’s policy, and we have families and children, we don’t want to fall under repression,’” Alyoshina added.

Reportedly, the officials worried that, by supporting Alyoshina, they would not only run afoul of the proposed law prohibiting information about or access to gender-affirming care, but a similar law banning LGBTQ “propaganda.” 

The anti-“propaganda” law, which initially applied only to minors when it passed in 2013, but was later updated last year to include adults, prohibits any positive or facially-neutral depictions of LGBTQ people, LGBTQ identities, or gender-nonconformity. That law also penalizes people for sharing LGBTQ-inclusive information about sex or sexual health, public displays or depictions of non-heterosexual identity, and advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ equality

Violations of the anti-“propaganda” law may be punished with a fine of 400,000 rubles, or about $4,415 U.S. dollars.

“This is a discriminatory law because any information and mention can be considered propaganda. The wording of the law is very vague,” Alyoshina, who is also a lawyer, told The Moscow Times.

The bill seeking banning transgender-related information would prohibit not only all surgical interventions designed to assist in a gender transition, but alterations or gender-marker changes on official documents and public records, according to the Associated Press.

The proposed law would also create a registry for those who change their gender without pursuing medical interventions, according to The Moscow Times.

The bill passed the first of three separate votes required to become law on June 14, and is expected to be approved on its second and third reading. At least 400 of the 450 members of the Duma have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, according to the AP.

Once approved by the Duma, the measure will then go to the Federal Council, the bicameral legislature’s upper house, where it will be read once. If it passes this chamber, it goes to the president to sign. Given President Vladimir Putin’s past behavior maligning or slandering the LGBTQ community, he is expected to sign the bill into law. 

According to senior lawmaker Pyotr Tolstoy, one of the bill’s sponsors, the measure is intended to “protect Russia with its cultural and family values and traditions and to stop the infiltration of the Western anti-family ideology.”

Despite her inability to qualify for the gubernatorial election, Alyoshina says is not done with politics. She has said she is weighing “various options” about her political future but will not divulge plans until she’s done fighting the anti-transgender legislation.

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