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."
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.