The decriminalization of homosexuality had a manifestly positive impact on lives of Russian lesbians and gays and offered them an opportunity to shed the pall of invisibility. On one hand, this new visibility provoked a backlash and a wave of hostilities and homophobia; on the other hand, Russians are slowly getting used to share their social space with their fellow citizens who happen to be lesbian or gay.
Changes can also be seen in everyday life of lesbians and gays. While some ten years ago the opportunities to meet 'their kind' were limited to furtive cruising in public areas and WCs, now there are openly gay venues in Moscow and St. Petersburg, no less willingly frequented by 'progressive' straight youth. Gay infrastructure gradually builds up. A gay paging company successfully operates in St. Petersburg, several travel agencies offer Russian gays visits to Western 'gay Meccas'.
Despite of a marginal increase in public awareness of gay issues and a slight rise of social tolerance, the position of lesbians and gays has not improved much over the recent years. Nowadays, Russian lesbians and gays are still not visible in the society; their legal status remains precarious; they are often subjected to abuse and harassment both by government official and fellow citizens.
Photo by Seva Galkin (from cover of the book "69. Russian Gays, Lesbians, Bisexual and Transsexual" (2005)