Dinner Date in Russia
Before arriving in Russia, I wasn't sure if it was okay to even use Tinder to try to meet local women in XXXX. Part of me wasn't sure if authorities use it to entrap queers. I wouldn't be surprised, honestly, as it happens in other countries with different apps (see Brazil and Grindr). The other part of me was too curious to worry too much. And considering my otherwise very boring tendencies to work, read, work out, nap, and eat, I'm pretty low key. I don't go to parties. I don't stay out super late. I don't drink and vomit in the streets considering I can barely handle half a beer or half a glass of wine (Asian flush is awesome). Drugs are not my thing, unless I need some diazepam to help me with sporadic bouts of insomnia.
With that said, I finally met up with YYY, an XX-something-year old woman who lives in XXXX. Of course sometimes meeting locals can be hard if there is a language barrier. Since I speak zero Russian and can basically only read Russian words like restaurant, cafe, bank, supermarket, mini market, and a few names, it limits the pool of potential dates. But she's a curious type, open to meeting people from all over the world and she's got the travel bug as well.
We met at a public spot and tried to go to a local restaurant that she recommended. Because it was full, we had to go to another location, which was great because it wasn't as packed and it was easier to chat. We had dinner and talked about life, work, travel, the very few people in life who get to do what they love for work, and future plans. As in what she would like to do next after her current business venture and what I would like to do if I didn't work in my industry. I said I just wanted to hide in a hut on a mountain in front of a fireplace with books, some dogs, and workout equipment. And we agreed that mountain life is a different kind of life - something beyond and something peaceful and profound. It's hard to describe if it's not your thing but for those of you who like those environments, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
After that we got tea and took a leisurely stroll around the city. For me, it was interesting hearing about her experiences growing up queer in Russia. She didn't grow up in XXXX. She grew up in a smaller city. So she had never met anyone who was queer. When she finally understood that she was attracted to women, she still had a belief that she had to marry a man, because it's what society and family dictates. YYY also felt like she was the only person who was queer and it was only when she moved to a larger city that she met other queers. But even then, in her daily life, there are large aspects of her life that she can't speak about or feels like she doesn't want to be part of. She brought up an example of the Eurovision contest winner, Conchita Wurst, and how typical conversations are basically hate-filled diatribes about what Conchita Wurst being an abomination, from hell, the devil, and how homosexuals are disgusting. YYY's attitude is who cares. This performer isn't hurting anyone. But her opinion is definitely the outlier so her approach is to avoid participating in these conversations.
Another example is when she used to be a teacher of sorts. However, due to the "gay propaganda law" in Russia, she had to be extra careful and silent about her personal life, which at the time, involved a partner. While her students could ask her coworker if they were going home to their family and kids, my date had to give a completely different answer. And in her current business endeavor, none of her staff knows about this aspect of her life. Her attitude was that at this point, the people that she still has in her life will stay there and the ones who wouldn't be supportive have already left.
And while she has queer friends who have more accepting, or perhaps more tolerating, families, she said her family doesn't know and she would probably never tell them because her mother is very religious and homophobic. In a conversation with her sister, the topic of considering moving to Europe was brought up and one of the responses her sister had was, why would I want to move to Europe where being homosexual is okay and homosexuality is disgusting, evil, a sin, etc. And she has to listen to her family saying this. To her face. Without them thinking twice that their daughter or sister might be one of these "disgusting" people who should be wiped out. That must hurt.
I think one of the most striking things during our conversation was her wondering what it would be like to live in a place where it's okay to be queer. Where you could be out at work or get married or raise a family or create a family of people who are accepting of who you are. For me, I don't know how people have the strength to be true to who they are and love in places where most of the population and the government would rather see you dead. It makes my heart hurt.