Some of you may have seen this AllOut.org petition against anti-gay legislation in Russia. It’s a great petition to sign, but the text on All Out’s page is a little lacking in details. The English-language internet doesn’t have much good information on the legislation – it’s being reported in LGBT outlets more than Russia-focused outlets, and a lot of the available information seems to be poorly reported or conflicting. So I was pleased to see this morning that Igor Volsky has a pretty good summary of the situation on the ThinkProgress LGBT channel.
The proposed legislation, introduced by a faction of the United Russia party, is at the municipal level, affecting only St. Petersburg. But Moscow is allegedly considering a similar measure. Stirrings about federal legislation (mentioned by Volsky) reflect, I think, a justified nervousness on the part of the LGBT activist community, but not a serious threat (yet). The issue is that the head of the State Duma’s Legislative Committee, Pavel Krasheninnikov, says he supports the legislation and would like to see a federal version. But a similar federal bill has been introduced in the Duma four times, in 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2009, and has failed each time.
But this is obviously still a really big deal. The legislation is attempting to introduce fines for the dissemination of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and pedophilic “propaganda” aimed at minors (the inclusion of pedophilia is not a coincidence – in the mainstream Russian cultural consciousness, it’s all the same); the concern, besides the inherent human-rights-violating nature of the bill, is that the law could be applied to basically anything mentioning these topics that kids could see, effectively placing a taboo on talking about any sort of queerness. Ever.
Homophobia is totally acceptable in Russia – to legislators and to the majority of ordinary people – and I think it would be great to send a powerful message that millions of people both in Russia and abroad think this attitude is backward and cruel. About 117,000 have signed the All Out petition as of press time – if you feel inclined to add your signature before tomorrow, when the bill goes to its third reading, I, and all the queer activists and allies in Russia, would be grateful!
Before we go, let’s lighten things up a bit: the one bright side of a culture where most people’s conception of homosexuality is purely theoretical and “gaydar” isn’t even a thing is that it gives you pop stars like the glamorous middle-aged Boris Moiseyev, who reads as flamboyantly gay to Americans, but whose not-traditionally-masculine gender performance is mostly ignored by the mainstream Russian media. (Although when he came to Taganrog for a concert – which, yes, I attended – the local Cossacks protested his “moral deviance.” Really.) Also, you can have flyers for a “drag party” posted all over the campus of Far Eastern State University, which are very exciting to the young Americans studying there who think Russian drag queens sound like the most fun time ever – but turn out to be advertising a drag racing party. Wah-waaah.
Then again, you also get the perennially duck-faced hair-stylist-turned-superstar, Sergey Zverev, who also reads as flamboyantly gay, but has been “caught” by “paparazzi” “having sex” with starlets. (I don’t recommend Googling that, or even him, at work.) Oh, Russia.