A 23-year-old from Russia has come out as gay on YouTube and his story is incredibly inspiring.
Artem Kolesov grew up surrounded by homophobia, his parents were pastors in a Christian church in rural Russia and they constantly pushed the message that “gays should be destroyed”.
Kolesov realised he was gay at the ripe age of five, and struggled for years praying for God to take away the homosexuality.
“During my entire childhood I heard from my parents and the church that homosexuality is a huge sin,” he said in a video uploaded to YouTube.
“So I started praying in secret to God so that he would make me ‘normal’. In my family I often heard that all gays should be destroyed, that they should be bombed, and that if anyone in our family turns out to be gay, my family should kill them with their bare hands.”
Kolesov, who grew up just an hour away from Moscow, explained that he was taught to “hate” gay people.
In an exclusive with BuzzFeed news, he explained: “I never heard anything good about gay people. All I knew was that gays are the people who everyone should hate.
“I was scared because I knew that I was gay. I didn’t know anyone who I could talk to about it. It seemed that I was the only gay person in Russia.”
As he grew older the internal conflict grew, he failed to understand how he could be “Christian and gay at the same time”. The self-hatred and internalised homophobia eventually caused him to have depression.
The only thought that stopped him from taking his life was his mother’s grief.
However, things took a turn for the better when he won a scholarship to study music in Canada. Once at the university he began to meet more people of the LGBT community.
“The first time I met an openly gay person I started shaking because I know that I am just like him. I loathed myself and every LGBT person around me.”
Kolesov’s confidence grew and he began to accept himself – which is when he decided to make the video.
He was motivated to send a message to other LGBT youth in the country, but before making the video he decided to come out to his mother.
“We don’t come out for heterosexual people to know,” he said. “We don’t come out for the ones who hate us to know. We shout and make as much noise as possible just so other people like us who are scared and can’t be themselves would know that they are not a mistake and they are not alone.”
“When I was growing up I was isolated from the LGBT community.
“Just hearing anything about LGBT people I realised that maybe if the Russian kids hear about my story maybe they could know that a lot of people are going through the same struggles.”