Masha Bast, a well-respected Russian lawyer, serves as the chairwoman for the Association of Russian Lawyers for Human RIghts.
This week, in a press release from her spouse, she came out as a trans and bisexual in the wake of Russia's anti-gay laws.
In an interview with the Moscow Times she explained the timing of her coming out:
There were three reasons for my decision. First, it would have been very difficult for me personally not to come out. Second, having represented people in the Manezh Square, Primorsky partisans, and Bolotnaya cases, when those finished up I finally had the opportunity to come out. Third, my coming out was a protest against what is going on in Russia today. I couldn't just sit there and do nothing.
Bast says the law banning propaganda among minors is "completely wrong."
Growing up, she had no information readily available to her regarding the trans community:
I remember being 10 and wanting to be a girl and putting on girl's clothes. I didn't understand what was happening to me. This was in the Soviet Union and there was no information to explain what was happening to me. I went to dances dressed as a girl back when I looked more feminine. I also started taking hormone pills on my own, but they made me sick, and once an ambulance had to be called for me. I had to stop taking the pills, and for five or six years after that I couldn't take any pills at all. You have to understand the complete lack of information on this subject.
Now, with the help of her partner Yulia Guseinova, she has begun raising awareness about the transgender community in Russia.
With her personal YouTube vlog, she discusses transphobia and answers questions regarding the LGBT community:
She also shares personal stories and difficult experiences she had growing up:
Her advice to the LGBT youth in Russia: "Come out. The sooner, the better."
Don't be afraid of your parents. Too many trans people worry about how society sees them and think they're a problem for society. Don't think that. It is your right. If it makes someone uncomfortable, that's their problem. And especially for young trans women, don't be afraid to go to a doctor.