As a stateless person with a nullified belonging, his only diaspora is his queer diaspora.
The 2020 GALAS awards made a triumphant return to Dublin’s Mansion House last night. It was an opportunity for people, organisations and community groups from across the country to come together and recognise those who make our LGBT+ community great. Evgeny Shtorn was named GALAS Person of the Year.
The Kazakhstan born sociologist and LGBT+ activist was forced to leave Russia in 2018 and seek asylum in Ireland. He has been a vocal opponent of the Direct Provision system and in particular the treatment of LGBT+ people while in Direct Provision.
As Managing Editor of GCN, I had the honour of presenting Evgeny with the Award with the following speech.
“GCN (Gay Community News) is Ireland’s national LGBT+ press and has spent the last 31 years and counting reflecting LGBT & queer lives in Ireland. We reflect the community back to itself, out to the broader Irish community and in more recent years out to a global LGBT and diaspora community. We are proud to collaborate on the GALAS with the NXF and take the opportunity to honour those in our communities leading the charge and making things better for us all.
“The Person of the Year award exists to honour an LGBT+ individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the Irish LGBT+ community in the last 24 months. Their contribution has enhanced understanding, provoked thought and reflection about where we are as a community and has deepened our understanding of the experiences of LGBT+ people who have been forced to leave their own countries and claim asylum in Ireland.
“Shamefully when they reach our shores, they are forced into a coercive and dehumanising process called Direct Provision. People in this situation wait years for their asylum application to be processed while losing their professional skills and essentially being institutionalised, alienated and segregated from the rest of Irish society.
“Our Person of the Year this year is LGBT+ activist, organiser, and researcher from Russia. In 2018, he was forced to leave Russia and claim international protection here in Ireland. Before he was forced to leave, he worked at the Centre for Independent Social Research, a think tank which provides sociological research in areas that are not covered by official Russian academia, like LGBT+ studies or studies of racism.
“Since he arrived in Ireland 18 months ago, he has used his voice and lived experience in the Direct Provision system to shine a light on the degrading and shameful process calling for its abolition and highlighting the additional barriers that LGBT+ asylum seekers face.
“I’ve heard our Person of the Year describe to the New Yorker that as a stateless person with a nullified belonging, his only diaspora is his queer diaspora.
“Well, my friend, we welcome you to our Irish LGBT+ community and thank you for all you do to make the world better for queer people. I’m honoured and proud to announce Evgeny Shtorn as the GALAS Person of the Year.
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