Antonina’s struggle for recognition

In Ukraine, many trans* people are fighting in the army. They are pushing back the aggressor who threatens their lives. But they are also campaigning for LGBTIQ* visibility and acceptance – like Antonina. This story was written due to the Transgender Day of Visibility by our correspondent Evgen Lesnoy.

They have been a couple for nine years now. They have also been working together in the territorial defence of the Ukrainian military for months. Antonina is a non-binary person and uses the pronoun “she”.

Before, Antonina (then still Anton) met Sasha. When, years later, she became aware of her identity, this did not frighten Sasha. He just had to get used to addressing his beloved partner in the female form.

Antonina (r.) and Sascha. Photo: private

Until the invasion, they both worked for the theatre. Together they developed conceptual pieces, performances. On the very third day after the Russian troops began invading Ukraine, they joined the Kyiv territorial defence unit. Antonina says there were not many choices: Sitting home shivering and hiding from the Russian missiles? Not for them.

Before 24th of February 2022, the start of the full-scale war, they could hardly have imagined ever picking up a weapon. They were often ridiculed by their neighbours and their environment for their open “non-traditional” love.

When they joined the territorial defence unit, they decided not to hide their gender identity and sexual orientation. Antonina’s dream came true: Her name ANTONINA was accepted. Her documents still say Anton, but she is convinced that this is only a matter of time.

First, they were stationed in Kyiv and trained the whole time. They learned how to handle weapons, dig trenches and hide from Russian drones. Then they were transferred to the Southern front. Antonina was trained on the grenade launcher.

The whole LGBTIQ* community supports the couple. They collected money for their uniforms, armoured waistcoats and other war essentials.

Antonina is very happy to be now on the southern front because she comes from Crimea. She had to leave her home after it was annexed by Russia in 2014. She dreams of returning to her beloved Crimea with the Ukrainian flag. Her great wish is that the Equality March can soon take place on the coast of the peninsula.

Both fear though that their beloved partner might be wounded or die. In that case, according to the law, the surviving party would not be entitled to any state aid, because so far there is no legal provision for them in Ukraine. So Antonina and Sasha expect a law on same-sex marriages to be passed in Ukraine soon. There are indeed two drafts discussed in the Ukrainian Parliament.

This is how you can help

INDIVIDUAL HELP Munich Kyiv Queer has its own fundraising campaign via to support people in Ukraine who need help and are not organised in the local LGBTIQ*-groups. We can help fast, directly and unbureaucratically.

HELP FOR LGBTIQ* ORGANISATIONS To support LGBTIQ* in Ukraine we have helped set up the Alliance Queer Emergency Aid Ukraine, in which around 40 German LGBTIQ* Human Rights organisations are involved. All these groups have access to very different Human Rights organisations in Ukraine and use funds for urgently needed care or evacuation of queer people. Every donation helps and is used 100 percent to benefit queer people in Ukraine. Donate here