If you’ve been paying the slightest attention, you would know that Russia is not a good place to be gay right now. If you have any doubts, Ben Steele’s documentary, Hunted: The War on Gays in Russia, clears those doubts right up.
I’m not going to post the trailer of that film here. It’s too disturbing. Go to the official website to see for yourself. But here is the synopsis:
In modern-day Russia, where it is estimated that just 1% of the LGBT population lives completely openly, a recent anti-gay amendment to a “propaganda” law has triggered a rising number of assaults on gay men and women by vigilantes who, more often than not, go unpunished for their crimes.
Directed by Ben Steele, the startling expose HUNTED: THE WAR AGAINST GAYS IN RUSSIA looks at this climate of hostility. Matt Bomer (Emmy® nominee for HBO’s “The Normal Heart”) narrates.
Homosexuality was legalized in Russia 21 years ago, but gay people in the country have yet to win mainstream acceptance. In fact, attitudes in Russia appear to be moving backwards. With jobs and relationships at risk if their sexual orientation is exposed, most gay Russians remain closeted. As one gay man who lost sight in one eye during a recent unprovoked attack says ruefully, “Hunting season is open…and we are the hunted.”
HUNTED: THE WAR AGAINST GAYS IN RUSSIA features disturbing insider footage of homophobic Russians who, in the name of morality or religion, beat and torment gay people, posting graphic videos of their encounters online with few or no legal repercussions. These vigilantes see homosexuality as related to pedophilia, stating publicly that their justification for violence is protecting Russia’s children.
Mainstream US media like MSNBC agree with me, reporting on this phenomenon while choosing not to show the worst images from the documentary. Mainstream US media!
The original law in Russia focused on “practices.” But, according to Wikipedia’s unusually well-documented article on this subject, “The 2013 amendment, which added “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” as a class of harmful content under the law was, according to the Government of Russia, intended to protect children from being exposed to content that portrays homosexuality as being a “behavioral norm”. Emphasis was placed upon a goal to protect “traditional”family values; bill author Yelena Mizulina (the chair of the Duma’s Committee on Family, Women, and Children, who has been described by some as a “moral crusader”),argued that “traditional” relations between a man and a woman required special protection under Russian law.”
Headwinds is not a book about gays. But two side characters are gay, and this author makes it very clear that sexual orientation, like flying, is a personal characteristic that others have no business trying to stifle.
That would be enough for Putin. Homosexuality a “behavioral norm”??!! I am officially “promoting” the “pedophile lifestyle.” Headwinds would be banned. I could be arrested.
That makes me feel equally proud and sick to my stomach.
Not sure what to do about this, other than what people are doing: keep talking. Keep the lines open. Listen to those on the front lines for their advice on what people who care about their Russian (or, for that matter, Arab, or African, or Asian, or American) neighbors can do to remind people that love is not a crime.
And go see that documentary. Maybe that will give you your own source of inspiration.
Thoughts? I don’t have a specific question here, but I’d like to hear what you have to say at this point, so I’ll stop. Sigh…
Makes me really sad.
Me too. I have faith in Russian activists, at least in Moscow, to be tough and brave and rise to the challenge…but they have a great deal of suffering in their future.
I’m wondering how this law is intended to protect the gay children living in Russia….how will it help them with what already must be a difficult journey in life, to think that they might grow to be beaten for simply being who they are? When has it ever helped anyone to be punished for characteristics that are natural to them?
I’m also wondering how strong the Russians behind the law feel “traditional” hetero marriages are, if they need the “special protection” of a law to shore them up…
I’ve had family members tell me that marriage equality (they didn’t call it that, but that’s what it is, and I get to choose the frame I use) devalues their straight marriages. I’ve never understood that reasoning. I’m married to a man; have been for over 17 years, and I love being married to him almost every minute…but I am waaay on the straight side of the sexuality spectrum. Why should those on other points need to live according to the “prevailing” orientation, which isn’t theirs?
And what does anyone else’s marriage have to do with mine? A marriage is an internal contract between people, and it requires commitment and strength from those living it.
I think trying to deny another happiness based on one’s own values devalues the one who commits that offense – far more than ANY other marriage could devalue what I have with my Accomplice in Mischief.
Incidentally, one of the people who was certain that if gay folks were allowed to get married, straight marriages would be devalued is now divorced. However, that happened a few years before New York woke up and guaranteed marriage equality, so I guess there must have been some other type of devaluation there….
I’m not going to watch the dcocumentary, because I know it would cast a pall of ugliness in my mind, and I have happy, accepting children living with me. I don’t want that pall rubbing off on them…
Another very thought-provoking post, and a comment I’m dding to my “turn this into a blog post” file….
I, too, wonder about that “gay marriage devalues straight marriage” statement. I want to understand it better. Until I do, though, I will continue to believe that it comes from deep insecurity and/or a kind of revulsion that borders on hate.
Anyway, SJ, your response, especially the part about denying another’s happiness working to devalue one’s self…that is a blog post in itself. Have at it. And thanks.
I’m letting the idea simmer for a while, but I saved it to my comment source file, with the link to your post, and I will get to it at some point (and give you a little extra visibility, too!).
I think you’re right about the insecurity, and nearness to hate. I think people tend to look outside of themselves for something or someone to blame when they feel powerless within themselves…
Several of my characters are other than heterosexual. One is a fairly major POV character.But, in her world, no mention at all is made of her preferences; the focus is on her relationship with the PERSON she’s with.
If only it were more often that way in our reality. We’re getting there, but there is a long way left to go.
And this post helps get us there! =D
At least it feels like the US is moving in the right direction, even if Russia isn’t. My own home state of NC is now marriage-equal! In the SOUTH! Wow.