The story of a transgender person in an occupied city in Ukraine

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09/04/2023

Maksym Chernov, 22, describes himself on Instagram as a queer punk and vegan abolitionist who advocates for the abolition of slavery, both formal and informal. For nine months, he lived in the then-Russian-occupied Kherson and survived because he barely went outside. Some other members of the LGBTQ+ community there were less lucky: during their occupation, Russian forces kidnapped several LGBTQ+ activists, took a lesbian woman to a forest and threatened her, and shot a gay man in the leg after finding the Hornet app (a queer social network) on his smartphone. Maksym Chernov is a non-binary transgender person (he uses the pronouns he/him) who has repeatedly heard offensive and unfair stereotypes about his gender identity, which often emerge through a lack of knowledge or awareness. Once, before a lecture by a Ukrainian feminist LGBTQ+ charity, Insha (the feminine form of the word “other” in Ukrainian), one of the guests derided transgender people as merely “those who wear latex.” Maksym was outraged by this state of affairs, so he joined Insha to help educate their community. “I want society not only to know about the existence of transgender people but also understand who they are, that they are normal people,” he said.

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