Friday, August 23, 2013

Russia's Attack On LGBTQ Rights and the Olympics, Part One: What's Going On?

This photo from Australian news: "Gay rights activists hold a banner reading "Homophobia - the religion of bullies"in Moscow's Red Square" in July 2013.  The caption further reads, "Police detained several activists." (AP Photo/Evgeny Feldman)


We here in the U.S.A. have a complicated relationship with Russia - our ally during World War II, our nemesis during the Cold War, and a country we're quite engaged with right now.  They're an economic engine.  A market for American things.  A player on the world stage...

So much so, that the upcoming Winter Olympics will be held there starting February 7, 2014.  In Sochi, on the banks of the Black Sea.

But political tides in Russia are shifting, and human rights, especially for LGBTQ people, are going under.  Russia recently passed an "anti-gay propaganda law" that

"passed overwhelmingly in parliament [The vote was of 436 in favor, 0 against] and signed off by Putin, bans the public discussion of gay rights and relationships anywhere children might hear it. Those found in breach of it can be fined and, if they are foreign, deported.

Critics say the law is so vaguely defined that it can be used to prosecute someone just for wearing a rainbow T-shirt or holding hands with someone of the same sex in public. Amnesty International has condemned it as an "affront to freedom of expression and an attack on minority rights."
The New York Times explains that these anti-gay laws

...also contradict the charter of the International Olympic Committee, which calls sport a “human right” and states that “every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind.” With laws like these on the books, gay athletes, gay fans and others who speak their minds could put themselves in legal jeopardy by attending the 2014 Winter Olympics, which are in Sochi, Russia, in February.

In Michelangelo Signorile's recent interview with Moscow journalist Masha Gessen, a lesbian and a mother, she told him about "reports that Vladimir Putin may push for a law in the fall to remove adoptive and biological children from the homes of gay parents."

Why is Russia suddenly so anti-gay?

In this CNN article, Professor Dan Healey of Oxford University cites the anti-gay groundwork done by the anti-gay laws of Stalin and the Gulags of that era.  He suggests that "Official homophobia is being used by the Putin leadership as a way of distracting public attention away from the fact that the economy is actually slowing down drastically."

To learn more about what's going on, here are four musts to check out:

Harvey Fierstein's excellent op-ed piece in the New York Times

This New York Times Editorial, "Mr. Putin's War On Gays"

This excellent interview Michelangelo Signorile did with Harvey Fierstein on his radio show


This interview Dan Savage did about the Russian Vodka Boycott

Will Russia arrest gay, lesbian, bi and trans athletes and fans?  They're saying that their anti-LGBT law applies "equally to all persons, irrespective of their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, and cannot be regarded as discrimination based on sexual orientation."  So, no one should be worried.  Unless, of course, they're openly supportive of LGBTQ people.

As Sunnivie Brydum pointed out in an article in the Advocate yesterday,

"But whether LGBT athletes and spectators would be permitted to participate in the 2014 Winter Games was never in question. Rather, what remains unconfirmed is whether athletes and spectators who express support for LGBT communities by holding hands, kissing, or wearing or waving a rainbow flag could be in violation of the broadly defined law."

The first step is to get informed.

On Monday, we'll talk about what we can do.



ivanova said...

I'm so glad you wrote this great post!

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Thanks Nora. Come back on Monday for the discussion of what we can do (as individuals and collectively!)