Being different in Russia is not celebrated, it is prosecuted. The country's LGBT community lives in constant fear. Until recently, there were only random attacks by religious zealots, but this year it became a government-led war.
An amendment to Russia's Child Protection law passed in June now criminalizes what it calls “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors.” Its ambiguity and selective use effectively make it illegal for any kind of gay event to take place or to even mention acceptance of homosexuality in public.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia 20 years ago, but it remained classified as a mental disorder until 1999. This did not help to improve public tolerance: according to a recent poll, 43 percent of Russians think gays and lesbians are immoral, 77 percent are against gay marriage, 40 percent support discrimination based on sexual orientation and 82 percent are against gay pride parades.
The new amendment is widely seen as a populist measure aimed at bolstering dwindling public support for President Vladimir Putin's government, and it has already led to a significant increase in hate crimes. Gay activists are routinely attacked; there have been reports of murders—and the police turn a blind eye.
Photographer Misha Friedman documents how members of the LGBT community live under these conditions, how they interact with the hostile world around them and whether they have any hope left.