Russian-born violinist Artem Kolesov has been making news globally for doing something that people of all ages do every year: The 23-year-old officially came out of the closet as gay.
However, it is Kolesov's background that makes his story incredible.
In a YouTube video that he made as part of his the "Children-404" project ( based in his country of origin ), Kolesov not only dared to show his face, but he also officially came out and detailed horrors he endured along the wayincluding being physically and sexually abused by a brother ( who now currently resides in the United States ) and the difficulties he had to deal with growing up as the son of two ministers. The video is likely to take the viewer on an emotional journey as well.
Kolesov is currently a Chicago resident and plays with the Yas Quartet, which is in residence at Roosevelt University. Prior to moving here, Kolesov was in Canada ( Halifax, Nova Scotia, to be specific ), getting a full scholarship at 16. "Here I was, unable to speak English," Kolesov told Windy City Times. "So, I learned how to speak English, how to do business, how to do math. I took three years of courses in nine months. It was hell," he said with a laugh.
However, before making it to North America, Kolesov endured a different kind of personal hell in Russiaso much so that he said that still would not feel safe if he returned to that country right now. "It was never good [regarding being gay]; homosexual is seen as a major sin," Kolesov said.
Kolesov also said one of his brothers even said things to their mother, such as the teen allegedly being a drug addict and engaging in orgies. "I told my mom that the only orgy I was involved in was the orchestra and that the strongest drug I had taken was ibuprofen," Kolesov said, laughing.
Asked when he first encountered a positive gay role model, Kolesov responded that it was in Canada in 2010. "There was a lesbian couple, and it was even more complicated because one was transgender," he said. "I later discovered that Halifax is very gay; I compare it to San Francisco."
Kolesov connected with Children-404 via VK, "which is like a Russian Facebook," he said. "I had to use a fake account because [Children-404] had a rainbow flag. This is how bad it was with my family and friends in Russia: One time, after we became a quartet, I liked [an openly gay friend's] Instagram pics. All of my friends started messaging me, saying, 'How can you like a picture of a gay person?'
"It's very rare when someone shows his face when coming out. The idea behind Children-404 is cool because 404 is a mistake [when surfing on the internet]. I thought about it for a long time. Yes, it's a coming-out video; I wanted to share my story and someday I hope my mom is coming aroundalthough my hope is dying slowly. Right now, we're not talking."
Contrary to what some outlets have said, Kolesov's video was not spurred by the alleged goings-on in Chechnya involving gay men being tortured, killed and even kept in concentration camps, although he added that he's "shocked, but not surprised" by the reports. ( "It's not that we don't have LGBT peopleit's just that we're not allowed to talk about it," Kolesov added. ) "Those things happened after I posted the video [on March 29]," Kolesov said. "It was just timing.
"I had been planning on the video for about a year, so mental preparedness was very important. However, several things that happened this past yearincluding watching the movie Arrival, which taught me about choices we can make in the present even if we know the future[affected] my thinking.
"I also wrote a letter to my mom that I read to her [before posting the video]. I told her, 'I'm not reading you this because I want you to find a cure; I'm telling you this because I want you to be in my life. I want you in my life 100 percent.' This is something my mom doesn't understand: She thinks I'm brokenand maybe I am, but not that way."
As for the future, Kolesov is moving to California in the falland is getting married very soon to a man he's dated for two and a half years. "He's the first guy I kissed," Kolesov said with a smile. "I don't need to look for anyone else; he's perfect for me."
For those on their own journey, Kolesov does have a message. "The problem with saying things to people on their journey [involves religion]," he said. "What about someone who's a conservative versus someone who's not? I used to be a Christian but I consider myself a humanist now. What if there's nothing after you die? I've lived 23 years without happiness. That changed my thinking a lot.
"Life is so precious. This combination of our physicality will never happen again. I don't want to live in the closet anymore; we only have one life. Start living nowmake the most of what you have."
Kolesov's coming-out video ( which has English subtitles ) is at www.youtube.com/watch .