Monday, 24 February 2014

In Sochi We Have No Gays

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В Сочи У Нас Нет Голубов
(In Sochi, We Have No Gays)

by Chris Park

Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, insists that some of his best friends are gay. And having seen countless photos of him shirtless and being ever so butch, you can see that there might be something to that… or possibly not.

In almost the same breath, he reassures us that the recent legislation banning the spreading of "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" among minors is not anti-gay.

The law was passed last June in the Duma, Russia’s parliament, by 436 votes to 0, with only a single abstention. (1)

Despite Putin’s rather hollow reassurances, it has become clear that the rest of Russia, and indeed the world, see it for what it is. How else can you interpret ‘nontraditional sexual relations’, particularly in such a conservative country as Russia, than as meaning ‘non-heterosexual’?

When Putin says that gay people will be welcome in Sochi, providing they “just leave the children alone”, he reveals precisely the thinking behind his country's legislation. (2) In any case, the fallout from this pernicious piece of legislation has been utterly negative for the LGBT communities in Russia. And there has been an international impact too.

This is just the tip of the iceberg:

  • local Russian gay pride organisers have been arrested
  • Russian landlords have launched witchhunts for LGBT tenants
  • LGBT teachers have been expelled from their jobs
  • in at least one case, the parents of a young gay man denounced him to the police
  • four tourists filming a gay-related documentary were arrested in North Russia
  • the possibility of LGBT athletes participating in the Sochi Winter Olympics has sparked international outrage
  • and international athletes have faced reprimands for protesting the anti-gay laws, with the International Olympic Committee not exactly covering themselves in glory with their reaction
However, much worse is the license given by this law, with some people feeling empowered to kidnap (usually young) men suspected of being gay, and torturing them. These thugs are so confident in what they are doing that they recently allowed a Channel 4 documentary crew to film them, without asking for their faces to be disguised. (3)

The mayor of Sochi’s claim that there are no gays in his town was a surprise to BBC Panorama reporter John Sweeney, who had visited a gay bar in Sochi the night before he interviewed the mayor. (4) A Russian ex-pat living in New York is also unconvinced; Gleb Vakrushev says, "Back home you expect people will attack you every day." (2)

One effect of the law is that LGBT History month could not happen in Russia, being aimed at schools as it is in the main. And Russian school children will not learn of their country’s rich LGBT heritage.

But you can…


UPDATE - 2nd April 2014
From Gay Star News, a list of 14 ways the world marked its opposition to Russia's anti-gay laws:
I think my favourite is the last one - there were only seven out LGBT athletes at Sochi but between them they won more medals than countries like Finland, Great Britain and Australia.

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