Yelena Goltsman (she/her) is a Kyiv-born human rights and LGBTQ activist. In 2008 she founded RUSA LGBTQ+, a network for the Russian-speaking LGBTQ community in the U.S.A. The organization increases acceptance and inclusion of LGBTQ people within the greater Russian-speaking immigrant community and provides support to those who seek asylum in the U.S. as a result of anti-gay laws and increased homophobia in their countries. Yelena is an outspoken supporter of LGBTQ rights in the post-Soviet realm who organizes protests and campaigns that target LGBTQ rights violations in these countries.
What is your favorite Pride Month event or celebration?
I enjoy celebrating the diversity of our LGBT communities during Pride Month. My favorite event is the Brighton Beach Pride, which RUSA LGBTQ+ has been organizing every year since 2017. The idea emerged at the time of horrific incidents of torture and killing of gay people in Chechnya. We decided that going out on the streets of Brighton Beach with rainbow flags is the work we should do to expand visibility of our community among those who are uncomfortable with our representation. This year we organized it in support of Ukraine to show our solidarity with the resistance against oppression.
What LGBTQ+ icons or activists have inspired you?
Edith Windsor is my queer icon. She was a trailblazer; as a mathematician, she opened the profession for other women and she was one of the first women to hold a senior position at IBM. She is a true inspiration for me both as a professional and women’s and LGBTQ rights activist. She lived her life to the fullest till her last day and she would always say: «Don’t postpone joy.» When her partner died she became the lead plaintiff of the Supreme Court case for gay marriages. She was always very concerned with the fate of Russian LGBT people.
What can people and corporations do to support the LGBTQ+ community year-round, not just during Pride Month?
Companies should provide diversity training throughout the year. This is especially important for global companies in countries where LGBT rights are not recognized. Corporations should connect their employees with the international community, and organize international meetings with people interested in the subject to answer their questions. These efforts should be embedded in the company policy and provided with much more frequency than once a year. The LGBT movement is not separate from other equality movements such as race equality, women’s equality, and wage equality — it is just one of many. The emphasis should be on queer women and their empowerment.
How can businesses create more inclusive environments for their employees and patrons?
The attention has to be given on a consistent basis. It has to be a matter of policy. The experience should be shared in global companies in countries where there are no open Pride events. People are behind in their understanding of tolerance in those countries. They should know that the LGBT community isn’t trying to separate themselves, they are being separated and oppressed by others. This is the conversation we have to have.