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Rainbow parades attacked by thugs, police in riot gear beating gay activists with batons, young gay Russians with bloodied faces and black eyes: these are the images of modern Russia. But Russia’s relationship to the gays is long and complicated and hasn’t always been so hostile.
Maxim Neverov, 16, out and proud as an LGBTIQ activist in homophobic Russia.

In August this year, Maxim Neverov became the youngest person ever charged under Russia’s so-called gay propaganda laws.

The 16-year-old first came to the attention of the authorities when he took part in a performance art piece called, Gays Or Putin in which activists in Biysk (a city near Russia’s southern border with Kazakhstan), tried to highlight Russia’s suppression of LGBTIQ people’s right to gather publicly.

“The essence of the performance was to submit 12 notifications to the local authorities for holding rallies on mutually exclusive topics (for Putin or against Putin and for gays or against gays and so on),” Neverov tells DNA. “This performance was discussed for several weeks by the media and residents of Biysk.”

However, that’s not why young Neverov was prosecuted; it was because of photos he posted to Vkontakte, the Russian equivalent of Facebook.

“These were images of two embracing guys without T-shirts,” says Maxim, “The authorities considered that this propagandized non-traditional sexual relations.”

Neverov says he has developed a thick skin as a young LGBT person in Russia since first realising he was gay at the age of 11 or 12.

“For many, it’s hell, but for me it’s a routine. Homophobic comments do not hurt me,” says the stoic teen.

His lawyers are appealing his case, which has become emblematic of the attitude of the state towards sexual minorities in a country that has been ranked by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association as the second most homophobic country in Europe.

However, history suggests that this hostility towards homosexuality is a relatively new phenomena in Russia. So, where did it come from, and why now?

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About DNA Magazine

Who’s that guy? We welcome hot new find, Mario Rossi, shot by Antony Kozz, to the cover of DNA #226. The 20-year-old Californian makes his debut in a sizzling 8-page spread. And if you like your men rougher, furrier and musclier you won’t want to miss Johnny by Russell Fleming, also featured inside. If you’re after some solid reads we have a bunch of great feature articles this month. We explore what it’s like to be young, queer and Russian… not great! But a new generation of activists are making a difference, plus we explore Russia’s gayer-than-advertised history! Meet Australia’s first openly gay Aussie Rules player… well, the actor who plays the character on TV. That’s delicious Ethan Panizza (Rusty from Playing For Keeps). Finding The Way back is part two of our series on addictions within the LGBT community, we review Boy Erased, and remember how much we were in love with River Phoenix before his untimely passing (and still are). Discover how music is helping break down barriers to LGBT equality in Uganda with the revolutionary Rainbow Riots movement and catch up with Professor Brian Cox – he’s Our Straight Mate this month and discusses the power of staring at the stars. Photographer Paul Freeman shares some of his sexy new Larrikin shots with us and declares the hairy bloke is an endangered species! And the Warwick Rowers give us the low down on stripping off to raise cash for their initiative to combat homophobia in sports. This, with all our regular features, makes DNA #226 one packed issue. Get it now.