Zhenya is a stylist, fashion connoisseur and cinematographer who shows by his own example that everyone has the right to stay themselves, even if it differs from the traditional gender-normative worldview.
For the past 10 years, I have been living in Kyiv where I moved after graduating from high school, and now I work as a stylist in Ukrainian fashion brands isle in the TSUM shopping centre. I’ve studied economics but at some point decided to work in the field of fashion - and I was completely carried away by it. In addition to fashion, I am keen on cinema - my friend founded a film club where we watch movies every week.
About moving to Kyiv and discovering myself
Until a certain age, I didn't even think about my own sexual orientation, because in a provincial town I didn't have access to the information I needed – I just didn’t know that there were alternatives. Moving to Kyiv opened my eyes to the world and to myself. I began to meet different people, and around the age of 18 I began to realize that I was different in a certain way. Coming out as such did not happen to me, my friends already know either way and the topic just never arose with my family. In the last 3-4 years, I simply became more open in my behavior. Before that, I felt free only surrounded by friends, and outside of it I behaved and even dressed differently. Now I don't hide the fact that I'm gay, but I don't talk about it directly either. If you look at my social media, without knowing me personally, it's hard not to understand who I am. I’m quite sure my family is aware of this. Maybe later I'll talk to them about it, but right now I don't know if I'll ever want to.
About social responsibility
I am not directly engaged in volunteering, I cannot say that I am an activist. However, I carry my message in other ways, I often talk about the LGBTQIA+ community in my social media profiles, tell how the world is changing, share news, and thus help my followers to understand it better. I show that the world has changed, has become more open and tolerant, and that a man with a manicure, for instance, is normal and there is nothing strange about it.
In my school years, there were some minimal comments in my direction, and I still hear those things now, but I don't pay attention to that. I dress non-typically for men, often looking quite daring, and people on the street may look at me, comment, but luckily, nothing more than that ever happens. Maybe it's because I live in a kind of a bubble, where I’ve gotten used to feeling free and comfortably expressing myself. Of course, I don't cross other people's boundaries, but I dress and act the way I feel, regardless of where I am. I can even go to Troyeshchyna [district of Kyiv known for higher criminal activity] wearing a pink bodysuit.
About what the wartime changes
My life has changed - as it did for all Ukrainians. Internally I have changed as well. I have always believed that we only have one life and there is no time to limit yourself in something, be afraid, stagnate. Now this feeling has become even stronger. The desire to be as I am, to behave and dress as I like, regardless of someone's comments and societal opinions. In fact, you never know when life might end, so you have to live it here and now. As for the surrounding society, I can definitely say that people in Kyiv have become more tolerant.
About Anoeses x KyivPride project
It is important for me to take part in such projects in order to show on my own example how to not be afraid to express yourself. I want to share this feeling, to help people accept themselves as they are, and others as themselves. I came to this unconditional acceptance of the world and myself in it gradually, and having a friendly community around helped me a lot in this. Also, before the beginning of the pandemic, I visited the Equality March organized by the NGO “KyivPride” and it was an incredible experience. Yes, we were guarded by the police, and many people were worried about us, but I was not afraid. Everything was very civilized, and what especially caught my eye was how so many different people, including traditional families with small children have come and joined us. Therefore, such projects are important to me, because it is an opportunity to tell the world about the LGBTQIA+ community.
Freedom is to go out wearing a look that I chose and behaving as I want. Not paying attention to side-eyes and negative attention, not being afraid of anything.
Courage is showing yourself to the world as you are.
Beauty - for me, all people are beautiful on the outside, but real beauty is on the inside. It is about accepting everything as it is and always doing everything with kindness.
Love is a manifestation of attention with looks and touches.