Concerns for the safety of many trans Ukrainians trying to flee Russian forces has been raised by LGBTQ+ rights groups after reports of passport issues inhibiting their ability to cross the border to safety.
With invading Russian forces moving closer to major cities in Ukraine, many citizens have chosen to flee ahead of more destruction and fighting; however, many transgender Ukrainians have been forced to stay.
Speaking with CBS News, Zi Faámelu, a musician – best-known in Ukraine for competing in the competition show Star Factory, has been hiding in her Kyiv apartment as the fighting, shelling, and airstrikes get closer.
“Sometimes we think it’s just all a dream, that we’re stuck inside some kind of a video game. Because you just live in a quiet society, and then you hear bombings, and you wake up to the sound of bombings,” she said. “…A few hours ago I heard bombings and my windows were shaking. … I’m literally scared for my life.”
Faámelu, who says she is confused and unsure what to do, explains that she fears that even if she doesn’t face violence on her way to the border, she has no idea whether she will be allowed to leave the country as her passport does not align with her gender.
“There’s no way Ukrainian border people can let me through,” she explains. “There’s no way.”
“Lives for trans people are very bleak,” Faámelu says. “If you have a male gender in your passport, they will not let you go abroad. They will not let you through.”
With her food and water supply quickly running out, Faámelu says that she has no support from her parents or family who still live in Crimea – which was annexed by Russia in 2014 and only receives news from official Russian sources.
“They are literally brainwashed. The world sees the picture, but they are simply blind in this case,” she said. “My parents think it’s all fake, that we bomb ourselves, that we try to create some drama.”
Faámelu and others in the LGBTQ+ community also fear what will happen if Russia succeeds in taking over Ukraine.
“In Russia, LGBTQ people are persecuted,” Iulia, an 18-year-law student in Kharkiv, told CBS.
“If we imagine that Russia occupies all of the Ukraine or just a big part of the country, they won’t allow us to exist peacefully and to fight for our rights as we are able to do that in Ukraine right now.”