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Statement on the Killing of O'Shae Sibley

On Deep-Rooted Homophobia in Russian-Speaking Diaspora and Local Politicians' Silence on the Hate Crime

Statement on the Killing of O'Shae Sibley

RUSA LGBTQ+ has been mourning the loss of O'Shae Sibley, a 28 year old Black queer dancer murdered at a gas station in Midwood on July 29 —, a pain shared by the entire community. Recent reports indicate that behind this hate-crime is Dmitry Popov, a son of Russian immigrants. This underscores something that has been an ongoing problem- the pure hatred toward the LGBTQ+ community and racial bias that exist among the Russian-speaking diaspora, especially in Southern Brooklyn where the murder took place.

As the primary LGBTQ+ organization that works with immigrants from the post-Soviet countries who often settle in Brighton Beach and neighboring areas, we have witnessed just how unsafe those areas are for those like us. We have seen again and again that hate, bigotry and intolerance, that have been and are still a part of the political DNA of Imperial Russia, continue to plague our community even in New York City - a place considered safe for LGBTQIA+ folks. If one is looking for proof that this accident is indeed a hate crime, look no further than the comments from Popov’s grandmother, who has told The Daily News that “he [Popov] doesn’t understand gay or not gay”. Such blatant ignorance often leads to violence, as in this very case. 

Hosting an annual Brighton Beach Pride is our response to ignorance, lack of representation, discrimination, hostility, and violence against the LGBTQ+ community in Russian-speaking parts of Brooklyn. It's a show of our unity and resilience.  We've been organizing it for 7 years and the reasons for it haven't changed much.The problem is exacerbated by Russian-speaking Republican politicians who represent the area. Last month Assemblyman Alec Brook Krasny was making homophobic remarks that Pride parades “sexualize” children, as well as protesting a bill in the NY State Assembly that would have made New York a sanctuary state for trans youth.

Councilwoman Inna Vernikov has also used transphobic tropes such as “fairness in sports'' in her campaign materials that were mailed out to residents of Brighton Beach. Vernikov has made appalling comments to Gay City News, stating that the facts of the murder are “fluid” and refusing to issue follow-up statements regarding this incident. There have also been no comments on this incident from other Russian-speaking Republican politicians Ari Kagan and Michael Navakhov, who both represent Southern Brooklyn and campaign on the issue of crime and public safety.

The politicians who preach “law and order” are staying silent about a violent murder that happened in their district because not only are they complicit, they actually encourage intolerance against LGBTQIA+ people, as it helps them secure votes from a demographic that has been plagued with bigotry against queer people for generations. As a community of queer immigrants, RUSA LGBTQ+ calls on the Russian-speaking diaspora, and specifically elected officials Vernikov, Brook-Krasny, Kagan, Navakhov and others to unequivocally renounce homophobia and transphobia that is killing innocent queer people in the streets that we all call home.

We demand that our leaders use their platforms to advocate for peace, love and acceptance.We're committed to fighting and advocating for every individual to be confident and safe, as well as for their rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

We extend our deepest sympathies to all those who loved and knew O’Shae Sibley.

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