Ukraine’s LGBT+ war veterans boost battle for equality

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02/17/2020

Ukraine army veteran Viktor Pylypenko kept his sexuality a secret for years, worried that the men he had fought alongside would turn against him if they knew he was gay. When he finally came out publicly in 2018, two years after leaving the volunteer Donbas Battalion he had served with, Pylypenko realized his fears were unfounded. “When you take part in combat and then people find out that you’re gay, in principle, the majority of your fellow service members don’t have any problems because they saw you were effective in combat,” said Pylypenko. The 33-year-old was one of the first military veterans to come out in Ukraine, where a separatist conflict has raged since 2014 in the mainly Russian-speaking Donbass region. In doing so, he inspired a movement of LGBT+ veterans who want to use their public profile to change attitudes in Ukraine, where discrimination against gay people in the workplace was only banned in 2015.

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