After being turned away from a Russian counseling hotline for being gay, a man was outed on social media by counselors who said they refused to “work with f*ggotry.”
Last week, the young man called the FROG center in St. Petersburg. After being put through to an operator, he explained that he was gay and in need of some counseling. The operator then told him, “This line isn’t for f*ggots” and promptly hung up.
The man later tracked down FROG’s director Alexander Bronshtein on social media and complained about his employee’s behavior. Bronshtein answered, “You were told [we] don’t work with f*ggotry and then you were wished all the best. What was rude about this?”
It became clear to the young caller that an anti-LGBT sentiment was shared by all at the center, so he reached out to Lena Klimova, a Russian LGBT rights activist who famously founded the “Children 404” support group for young queer Russians.
Upon hearing the news, Klimova took to Facebook and pointed out the hypocrisy of FROG’s “statement of trust,” which reads: “If you’re sad, lonely, and in pain, call us! We will help everyone!”
She went on to warn LGBT Russians to avoid the service, sharing screenshots of the young man’s conversation with Bronshtein. She blurred out the caller’s name, but left Bronshtein’s fully intact.
The FROG director responded on the social media platform Vkontakte, defending his center’s anti-LGBT stance with Soviet-era psychological research that said homosexuality is a disease that requires treatment. He then shared a link to the young man’s Vkontakte account, effectively outing him publicly.
“We really don’t treat people for f*ggotry and this caller was informed of that, and wished all the best. Except you [Lena Klimova] erased his information for some reason, and left mine. If you’re taking screenshots, then do a full screenshot. You don’t need to hide your friend’s name,” he wrote.
Russian social media users have since debated whether or not FROG has the legal right to deny services to LGBT people. Some are even saying that Bronshtein may have committed a hate crime by outing the young man against his wishes.
Despite the backlash, FROG is remaining committed to its homophobic stance. Just hours after the explosive interaction between himself and Klimova, Bronshtein shared a video on the center’s website of Vladimir Putin defending Russia’s ban on gay propaganda.