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Hey Russia, We Are #DrivingWhileTrans

Hey Russia, We Are #DrivingWhileTrans


A new law could target transgender Russians and others deemed 'mentally ill' for the denial of driver's licenses. Here's what our trans readers think of that plan.

New rules from the Kremlin late last year purportedly aim to make roads "safer," but some Russian activists see another tool in the works for persecuting LGBT people.

The new decree, which can still be revised, denies driver's licenses to anyone deemed "mentally ill" -- a categorization so broad it could be used to discriminate against LGBT people, a Russian activist tells The Advocate.

"Even if, as it promised to us by Russian LGBT activists, no LGBT people are prevented from obtaining a license, [there is] one thing the 'no-LGBT-drivers' law will do," said Milena Chernyavskaya, the former editor-in-chief of Russian lesbian magazine Agens. "It's going to be another excuse to discriminate [against] LGBTs and create an environment that will [encourage] people to hate, bully, fire, kill LGBTs on their own, and mete out vigilante justice."

Some Russian activists note that the regulations specify that LGBT identity alone is not sufficient reason to deny someone a driver's license. And after internationaregl press picked up the story -- including The Advocate -- Russia's Health Minister claimed the new regulations would not prevent trans people from driving. The guidelines are intended to keep off the roads those suffering side effects from severe medication or who are trying to manage serious mental health conditions, according to Health Ministry spokesman Oleg Salagai. "The varying severity of mental disorders among patients -- as well as their need for psyhcotropic drugs that significantly alter their reactions -- make it impossible for [certain people] to drive," Salagai told Interfax news agency in January.

But while government officials and some activists contend that the new regulations won't be used to crack down on LGBT people, at least one activist whose livelihood fell victim to the ban on so-called gay propaganda isn't willing to take Kremlin officials at their word.

"I saw what impact the propaganda law had from the perspective of our magazine Agens, which we can't publish anymore for the reasons I'm afraid to speak aloud," Chernyavskaya tells The Advocate from her current residence in Los Angeles. "Two years ago they told us that 'Propaganda Law' will not affect the lives of LGBT people. And what happened to LGBTs after that law? LGBTs started being fired, bullied and killed much more than before. It is going to be exactly the same thing with this 'no-LGBT-drivers' law."

The decree, published on the Kremlin's website last month, lists numerous "conditions" and codes of "medical contraindications" that account for "medical restrictions to driving." Among the so-called illnesses listed are the World Health Organization's diagnostic codes for "transsexualism" and "sexual relationship disorder," which lists a heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual identity as an aspect of an "egodystonic sexual orientation." A note on those WHO guidelines does indicate that "sexual orientation by itself is not to be regarded as a disorder."

At best, the new regulations are problematic, as they rely on outdated mental health diagnoses that the WHO has already committed to reviewing in light of recent developments and pressure to depathologize LGBT identities. At worst, the new guidelines could provide officials one more legal tool to sanction and limit the freedom of LGBT Russians.

So as a cheeky response -- and to illustrate that transgender people pose no threat to public safety, behind the wheel of a vehicle or otherwise -- The Advocate asked some of our trans readers to send in a photo of themselves driving. Along with the hashtag #DrivingWhileTrans, we hope to send a not-so-subtle message to Russian President Vladimir Putin's administration that there's nothing "disordered" about being trans.

Join us by having a friend snap a photo of you behind the wheel, then tweet it at @TheAdvocateMag or @AdvoTrans, along with the hashtag #DrivingWhileTrans.

Driving-while-trans-01Lou Cutler, acupuncturist and the first out trans man crowned "Mr. Gay Philly"

Driving-while-trans-02Capt. Lana Moore, driving a truck for the City of Columbus Fire Department

Driving-while-trans-03Photographer Leon Mostovoy, with trans ally Frankie

Driving-while-trans-04Reformed street racer and parent of three, Rachel Regalado

Driving-while-trans-06Parent, grandparent, and University of Kentucky basketball fan Tuesday Meadows

Driving-while-trans-07Photographer Rhys Harper

Driving-while-trans-08The Advocate's media correspondent Dawn Ennis

Drivingwhiletrans-template-09Theologian and trans and intersex advocate Dr. Heath Adam Ackley

Drivingwhiletrans-template-10Advocate contributor Jake Anderson-Minshall, with co-pilot Roger.

Drivingwhiletrans-template-11_0Mac Brydum, driving the author of this piece to the couple's honeymoon in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

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