Russian violinist Artem Kolesov has come out as gay in a YouTube video that has since gone viral.
The 23-year-old musician filmed the video as part of the Russian “Children-404” project, in which teenagers share their stories related to LGBT issues. In order to protect their anonymity, participants hold a “Children-404” sign in front of their faces.
However, Kolesov chose to show his face in his video. He says his decision to come out publicly came after reports of more than 100 gay men in Chechnya were arrested, tortured and, in some cases, killed by police. Authorities have denied these reports.
Kolesov says he grew up in St. Petersburg. Growing up in a Christian household with two Pentecostal ministers as parents, he was afraid his family would reject him.
“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,” Kolesov says in the video.
Kolesov continued on that he suffered from depression and had attempted suicide. He eventually received a scholarship to study music in Canada at the age of 16.
Now residing in Chicago, Kolesov is a violinist in the Yas Quartet at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts. He no longer speaks to his family.
Kolesov told BuzzFeed it was important to come out to share his experience with other Russian teens struggling with their sexuality.
“We don’t come out for heterosexual people to know,” Kolesov says. “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.”