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Here Are Some Of The Photos From An Exhibit On Russian LGBT Teens Shut Down By Police

The exhibit, called "Be Yourself," features LGBT teens' stories in their own words. This post contains an image of self-harm.

Posted on June 14, 2015, at 9:04 a.m. ET

Russian authorities shut down a photo exhibit featuring LGBT teens that was due to open Friday at a Moscow gallery.

Mary Gelman

Officers first showed up at the venue Wednesday looking for an exhibit about "homosexuals and pedophilia," Taria Polyakova, one of the organizers, told Kommersant. The exhibit was called off after police interrogated the person who was renting out the space to the gallery.

Polyakova told BuzzFeed News that police also came to her mother's home Wednesday and kept watch at the gallery Friday even after the organizers announced the cancellation. She said one of the teens featured in the photographs was attacked while walking with his boyfriend and suffered a concussion. The police thwarted an attempt by organizers Saturday to display the photos in open air on a Moscow street.

The pictures, taken by Mary Gelman and a photographer who requested anonymity due to security concerns, feature young LGBT people from Moscow and St. Petersburg. The accompanying text, provided by Polyakova, was condensed and translated from Russian by BuzzFeed News.

In 2013 Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a ban on "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors," and has said the legislation is intended to protect children. Advocates say the rule makes it more difficult for LGBT teens to access accurate, affirming information about their sexual orientation or gender identity.

"This exhibit is first of all an opportunity for everyone to see and hear those who do not exist for politicians, social services or the wider society — but who are nonetheless every second still breathing, thinking and trying to find their place in the world," the organizers said in a press release. "Now they are speaking, not being spoken about."

Galya, 17, St. Petersburg

Mary Gelman

"I have many friends who are ready to stand up for me and even go to LGBT protests with me, knowing what societal reaction awaits them. However, two years ago something happened that made me understand that not everything is so rosy. My coming out turned into an outing. For about half an hour, in front of the teacher, I heard a series of insults directed at me."

Sofia, 17, St. Petersburg

Mary Gelman

"My dad started to go on about guys that I would supposedly be bringing home to his house... Not wanting to hear it, I cut him off: 'I'm not interested in guys.' And I told him about my love at that moment for one wonderful girl ... he hugged me and said only, 'You are my daughter and I will love you forever in spite of anything,' and I started to cry. I got unbelievably lucky with my parents. It's too bad that not all kids with a non-traditional sexual orientation can brag about this."

Anton, 15, Moscow


"One fine day I told my 'friends' about my orientation. They beat me and told me that I was a mistake of this world. I closed up into myself, and that summer I didn’t leave the house once. The first month I just cut my arms. When the wounds healed I would cut again, until there was no living space left on my arms. My parents cannot accept the fact that I’m not straight. I don’t care. I understand that this is not so important. The most important thing is to be myself."

Kit, 17, St. Petersburg

Mary Gelman

"In my family there are quite patriarchal views on the fact that I'm gay — they simply did not believe it. So we're stuck in a position of peaceful neutrality: nobody starts a conversation about it, everyone is silent and pretends that nothing is going on. With my teachers it's harder... more than once I've heard things like 'You are not a man' or 'I know that you know the material well, but I don't like you as a person.'"

Eva, 18, Moscow


"It's staggering to meet face to face with a society that not only doesn’t recognize me, but instead diligently tries to pretend that I do not exist. I simply dream of being myself, hiding nothing and fearing nothing, in the country I love."

Elya, 17, St. Petersburg

Mary Gelman

"There is homophobia in our country, though it's changing. In St. Petersburg, at least. The demonstrations in 2013 and the recent May 1st march were completely different. Then [in 2013] I wasn't afraid to walk underneath rainbow flags. And now it's even simpler — the police don't drag you into the paddy wagon, they go and guard the column of marchers from attacks by religious believers, Cossacks, and other shady characters."

Matvei, 14, St. Petersburg

Mary Gelman

"My mom said that she would accept me however I am and that she loves me. But after about two weeks, she went through my entire room under the pretense of 'cleaning' and found leaflets from the Day of Silence, ripped them up and threw them out. Some people have accepted me as I am. Others are still trying to change me and don't understand that I am just me, the same guy. I dream that everyone will be equal and that nobody will discriminate against anyone."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.