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Like you I grew up believing I was hated by God.

That was in the 1950s and 1960s in Canada in the days before the internet when we had no way of reaching other people. We also had no access to information.

From 14 to 18 I lived in Hell.

Finally, at 18, I read a particularly powerful translation of THE NEW TESTAMENT. I have since read that book through cover to cover several hundred times.

As a result of reading that book and familiarizing myself with what Jesus taught I find it impossible to be a Christian.

I can be myself and that more fully than I ever imagined.

The word “Christian” was first used in Antioch as an insult. Contemporary Christians have made their use of the word an insult to the man they claim to revere.

In Mark 16 we read, “17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

I have handled deadly serpents (lieing people) and drank dry the poison cups they have presented me. I have laid my hands on sick cats, dogs and people. They have gotten well.

In 2013 a young man from India asked to live with me. His name was Aditya Shankar. He was the head of Gay Youth India. He fought the fight between homosexuality and religion in India from my home.

Ian McKellen, an extremely celebrated and famous person, had to travel with bodyguards to protect himself from Russian officials ready to attack him because he is openly homosexual.

I hope you are able to get citizenship in Canada or The United States because, frankly, a return to Russia could very well mean the end of your life.

On top of that you have a mother and father who are Pentecostal Ministers. That, in itself, is a horrendous cross to bear.

The first time I got drunk was on a Sunday when a friend and I found three bottles of wine behind the back door of the Pentecostal Church in Chipman, New Brunswick.

We saved someone (several someones) from sinning that day. We took their sin upon ourselves.

In 1981 everyone I knew turned against me. As they walked away I opened my NEW TESTAMENT to see it fall to Jesus saying, “If you walk with me your father, your mother, your brothers, your sisters, everyone you know will turn against you. If you continue with me you will possess yourself.”

Because you are now living the truth about yourself your father, mother, brothers, sisters and friends have turned against you (as Jesus they would).

Continue on this path. It is the right one.

Peter learned that we are to call no person common or unclean. The best way you can help those who call you unclean is to live the truth. God’s grace they will come to understand it.

–Reg Hartt 3/2/2019.



News News Columnists Mary Schmich


In Chicago, gay Russian violinist finds freedom, family

Violinist and Roosevelt University graduate student Artem Kolesov talks about his concerns stemming from the creation of a video he made to share views on homophobia in his native Russia. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)

Mary SchmichContact Reporter

One day this spring, Artem Kolesov set up a video camera in the Chicago townhouse where he lives, sat down in a chair and started talking to the young gay people of Russia.

“Yesterday I turned 23 years old,” he began.

He went on, in Russian, to tell the story of growing up as the fourth of six brothers in a small town, an hour’s drive from Moscow, where his father was a deacon and his mother was a youth pastor at the Pentecostal church.

“In my family,” he said on the video, “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.”


He spoke for 15 minutes, dressed in a plain white pullover shirt, his voice occasionally shaky as he talked of his suicidal thoughts and his search for courage.

“I never thought I would live to be 23,” he said into the camera, not knowing who, if anyone, would watch. “I think about everything I would have missed if I took my life.”

Frankly, Kolesov hadn’t been sure the world needed another coming-out video. But he told himself that if anyone did, it was kids in Russia, where being openly gay can be dangerous and discrimination is common and condoned.

The response to the video has proved him right.

Violinist Artem Kolesov, a graduate student at Roosevelt University, poses for a photograph outside the school’s Auditorium Theatre on Aug. 9, 2017, in Chicago.

(John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)

“My heart has been breaking for the five months since I posted this video,” he said one day this week, sitting at Cafecito, a Cuban coffee shop near Roosevelt University, where he is a master’s student studying violin.

He’s a slender man with sharp, bright eyes. The left side of his face droops slightly, which, as he explained in the video, is the consequence of nerves damaged when he was born. His English is impeccable.

Almost every day brings Kolesov new messages from Russian kids trapped in a culture where they’re shamed and threatened. He spends hours communicating with them, grateful that he has made it to Chicago, where he doesn’t have to hide.

He came to the city two years ago, after attending college in Canada, to work with the renowned violinist Almita Vamos, who calls him “a very natural player, with a natural, beautiful sound.”

“When he started studying with me, he told the kids, ‘Don’t tell her I’m gay,'” Vamos said. “He was afraid I might not react well.”

Eventually, he opened up to her about the conflict that being gay had created between him and his family, especially his mother, whom he loves deeply and has always wanted to please.

Once, at the age of 7, as he tells the story, he overheard her friends lamenting to her that she had no daughters.

He put a pair of leggings on his head, like braids, and went to her and said, “I will be your daughter and help you around the house.”

If she suspected the truth about her son’s sexuality, it was never spoken of, not until this March, after she’d made a strained visit to Chicago, when he wrote her a long coming-out letter and read it to her over the phone.

“I was afraid if I did it on Skype, I would chicken out,” he said.

By his account, she didn’t respond well. She told him it was unnatural, that he was just trying to be cool, hadn’t found the right girl, should keep it to himself, needed an MRI, should come back to Russia to be cured.

Her censure motivated him to make the video, but also made him hesitate.

“People like to put out positive things,” he said. “A boy comes out, his parents accept him and everyone cries. No one wants to see a video where people are disowned.”

Apparently, they do. The video went viral.

Kolesov’s decision to come out was also eased by his relationship with Carol and Rob Schickel, a couple he met while playing violin at Chicago’s Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. Last summer, when they heard he had no money and nowhere to stay, they invited him to live with them in their South Loop townhouse. He made the video in their living room.

“I don’t think it was until he got to Chicago that he could really publicly be out,” said Carol Schickel, a psychotherapist. “His coming out has been not only about his sexuality. It’s about him being in life. What’s being revealed, even to him, is his deep inner strength.”

Because of the video, many of Kolesov’s old Russian friends deleted him from their social media accounts. He says the Russian church he once attended, aware of his video, is planning a youth course on why being gay is wrong.

Even if he wanted to go home for a visit, he wouldn’t feel safe. With the video, he has broken the so-called “gay propaganda” law, which bans the distribution of information on “nontraditional sexual relationships” to minors.

But if making the video has cost Kolesov relationships he cherishes, it has also led him to new friends.

“I saw that video on Facebook,” said Bruce Koff, a longtime Chicago gay activist, “and I wept. I went to my husband and said, ‘You have to watch this,’ and he wept.”

They and some friends got in touch with Kolesov, and as a result have organized a benefit concert on Saturday, Aug. 26, at the Center on Halsted. Kolesov will perform, along with the well-known violinist Rachel Barton Pine. Some of the money raised will help him pay legal fees involved in getting a green card, and some will go to organizations that help LGBT people fleeing persecution in other countries.

Soon after that, Kolesov will leave Chicago for California. In May, he got married to a man who is enrolling in a Ph.D. program at UCLA. The Schickels, whom he calls “my American parents,” came to the wedding in San Francisco.

His only regret was that his mother wasn’t there.

“I hope her love for me is bigger than these misconceptions,” he said.

One thing he has learned in his 23 years is that you never know what’s going to happen next.


After Coming Out As Gay, A Russian Violinist’s New Reality

  • · ·  April 17, 201712:26 PM ET

Anastasia Tsioulcas

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Artem Kolesov YouTube

A 23-year-old, Russian-born violinist named Artem Kolesov is capturing international attention after posting a YouTube video in which he comes out as gay.

The son of two Pentecostal pastors in a small town an hour away from Moscow, Kolesov says that he has struggled for most of his life to reconcile his sexual orientation with his Christian beliefs and his family’s views. “In my family,” Kolesov says in his video, “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.”

In the video, Kolesov also recounts wrenching episodes from throughout his life. At age seven, he prayed that he would die before his mother found out that he liked boys. He also endured physical and sexual abuse from one of his brothers, who threatened to out him to his parents if Kolesov told anyone about the abuse, and later attempted suicide several times.

Growing up, he says, “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.”

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The violinist made his video as part of the Russian “Children-404” project, which invites teenagers to share their stories and discuss LGBT issues in Russia. In most of their photos and videos, participants shield their identities by holding up a “Children-404” sign in front of their faces.

Instead of creating an anonymous contribution, Kolesov chose to share his name and face, to let fellow LGBT youth in Russia feel less isolated. He recorded the video in Russian, but also provided English subtitles. “We don’t come out for heterosexual people to know,” he says in his video, which he published on March 29. “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.”

Formerly based in Canada, Kolesov now lives in Chicago, where he is first violinist in the Yas Quartet, which is in residence at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts. Last summer, his ensemble took third prize in the Chamber Division at the Schoenfeld International String Competition which was held in Harbin, China.

Schoenfeld Competition YouTube

In his video, Kolesov contrasts his family’s pleasure in his musical accomplishments with their reaction to his coming out. “They are ashamed to have a gay son and brother,” he says. “They wish that this part of my identity didn’t exist. Interesting that my family is proud of me for being a violinist, and is so ashamed of me for being gay, though both of these are parts of my identity.”

In the aftermath of releasing his video, Kolesov told BuzzFeed that he’s already begun to experience the impact of his decision to come out so publicly. He has received many positive messages from friends and strangers alike, but he said that he is afraid of being arrested if he returns to Russia, under enforcement of a vaguely worded but broad “anti-gay propaganda” law. Earlier this month, there were reports that more than 100 gay men in Chechnya were arrested and tortured, with some of them reportedly killed by police. (Authorities have denied both the arrests and the deaths.)

Kolesov is also not currently on speaking terms with his relatives, and told BuzzFeed, “Even if I go back to Russia, I’m not sure I would be feeling completely safe with my own family.”

Gay, Halifax-trained violinist seeks to ‘finally have a home’ in North America

By Adina Bresge The Canadian Press

Artem Kolesov is shown in a handout photo. The Dalhousie-trained violinist says he fears persecution in his native Russia after coming out as gay in a widely-circulated YouTube video. A Dalhousie-trained violinist who came out as gay in a widely circulated YouTube video says he hopes to stay in North America for fear of persecution if he returns to his Russian homeland.



A Dalhousie-trained violinist who came out as gay in a widely circulated YouTube video says he hopes to stay in North America for fear of persecution if he returns to his Russian homeland.

But Artem Kolesov says first getting Canada’s permission to cross the border for a classical concert is a struggle in itself.

Kolesov and the rest of the YAS string quartet were set to perform Beethoven’s “Serioso” at a concert hall in Halifax Sunday, but the show was cancelled because of his immigration issues.

Kolesov, 23, is currently studying in Chicago, having previously pursued a music degree at Halifax’s Dalhousie University, but the musical prodigy says he doesn’t feel fully welcome in any of the three countries in which he has lived.

Kolesov says he has known he is gay since he was five years old, but between his parents’ strict conservative beliefs at home in St. Petersburg and homophobic sentiment in Russia – sanctioned by a so-called anti-gay “propaganda” law – he says coming out meant risking family banishment or even violence.

“I truly believed that gay people were these horrible monsters that caused so many issues in the world, and you should really get rid of them,” says Kolesov. “I couldn’t think that I was one of them.”

Kolesov says he fuelled his energy into the violin, the vibration of the strings a means of both non-verbal expression and a source of escape.

“There was no one to talk to, so I guess I could only express what I was feeling through the violin,” says Kolesov. “Sometimes, I would go on these practice sprees and just kind of lock myself in a room.”

At 16, the budding violinist moved to Halifax with a full scholarship from Dalhousie and tenuous grasp of English. Kolesov says with years of grinding practice, he grew into himself as both as a musician and an individual.

Kolesov says Canada became a “second home” that allowed him space to grapple with his sexuality. Eventually, he gave himself a deadline: He would come out before his next birthday.

Looking directly into the camera, Kolesov told YouTube about growing up in Russia as the son of two Pentecostal pastors, being told as a child that gayness was a sin punishable by death and asking God to kill him before his mother discovered his sexual orientation.

Kolesov speaks in his native Russian as English subtitles play at the bottom of the screen.

“I know that since a lot of Russian kids are scared, I wanted to kind of be speaking in their language so they could relate to me better,” says Kolesov. “I thought I was alone, and I don’t want anyone else to feel that way.”

The video was filmed as part of the “Child-404” campaign for Russian teens struggling with issues of sexual orientation and identity.

Kolesov says his mother begged him to spare her the humiliation of having her son’s sexuality broadcast for the world to see, and he worries if he returns to Russia, he’ll be forced into conversion therapy.

“As much as I wish that I had that kind of acceptance from my family, I also know that there are children whose family who aren’t going to accept them right away, and maybe will never accept them,” says Kolesov.

Kolesov’s studies will soon wrap up, and he says he plans to seek citizenship in the U.S., where his boyfriend is, or Canada.

But he says the paths to immigration in both countries are riddled with bureaucratic tape; Sunday’s concert was the second time a Halifax appearance had been cancelled because of his immigration issues.

Kolesov says his visa application has been mixed up in the bureaucracy, with forms sent to the wrong office and slow processing times.

“(Citizenship) would mean that I finally have a home in North America,” says Kolesov. “As you can see, I can’t just apply for a visa and get it whenever I want. There’s always some kind of restraint.”

© 2017 The Canadian Press



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