I could give you a long and sordid explanation of what is going on right now in Russia, but I am going to make this very simple and tell it to you straight: Gay bashing is legal there. Right now. In 2013. Gay bashing.
In June, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the “Gay Propaganda Bill,” essentially making it illegal to rally publicly in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights and causes. Additionally, gay adoption and same-sex marriage were also on the chopping block – exterminated before they even began to fight.
In a bold statement sent Monday to civil rights group Queer Nation, 23 leading LGBT Russian activists and their supporters called for a broad boycott of Russian products and the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
The statement read, in part: “We speak out in favor of boycotting Russian goods and companies and the Olympic Games in Sochi. International support is essential for the survival of Russia’s LGBT community right now. We appreciate and support all attempts to let the Russian authorities know that homophobic and inhumane laws will not go unnoticed and that Vladimir Putin’s regime will not get away with anti-gay violence.”
But the violence in Russia will not dissipate because we stop drinking Russian vodka. It will not cease because we opt to boycott the Olympic Games. Will a boycott cause economic impact on Russia and its people? Almost certainly. But will it stop Putin from beating our anti-gay brothers and sisters to a pulp for the simple act of being gay? Not a chance. Still, it is one small thing that we can do as Americans to stand up and protest a barbaric law that can only bring about pain, violence and shame to our brothers and sisters there.
Economic impact has a way of getting a point across. Imagine what would happen if the United States, Canada and all of Europe stopped buying Russian products. Again, would it solve the issue at hand? Not so much, but would it put pressure on Putin? You bet.
In Russia, if you walk down the street holding hands or kissing your partner – you are subject to arrest, physical, mental, verbal, and other such inhumane abuses. Last week, images were released to the world when a kiss-in occurred and the participants were beaten within inches of their lives – by the authorities. Because, did we mention…gay bashing is legal in Russia?
At a rally on Friday in Seattle, Washington, I spoke to a crowd of about 40 people who just wanted to find a way to get involved. During this peaceful demonstration, a man toward the back in a bright yellow shirt started speaking in protest – in Russian. I had no idea what he was saying. We continued to speak and when the rally was over, that same gentleman paraded over to King 5, KOMO 4 and KIRO 7 to state his case.
Paraphrasing here, but it went something like: “Russians did not protest in opposition when Americans legalized gay marriage. We are not physically hurting our people. Stay out of our business and mind your own.”
When the cameras turned to me for a rebuttal, I looked squarely into the camera and said, “If you think for even one second that we are not being violated and assaulted in Russia just for being gay, Google it. I dare you. The evidence does not lie and this man is insane for trying to convince us otherwise.”
I went on to speak a bit more about the reports coming into The Seattle Lesbian email box out of Russia. About two seconds of the speech landed on those three networks mentioned previously, but at least there was a mention.
Imagine what it would be like to hold hands with your boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, wife, or husband in the company of your own home with a friend or two sitting nearby. Now, imagine that friend is 17 and you and your partner are 20, 21…etc. When the Russian authorities discover that you and your partner were participating in gay propaganda in front of a minor, you are immediately hauled off in handcuffs, beaten and absolutely horrified because you are poisoning a young person’s mind displaying your homosexuality. This really happened…and continues to happen.
Being gay publicly in any way, shape or form is illegal. Period.
So, what can you do about this violence? What can you do to stop the attacks on innocent people in a country Sarah Palin can see from her house? You stand up and you fight. You boycott if that is what you are able to do. But you have to do something.