Hunted: Why My Book Would Be Banned in Russia

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.

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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”),[20][21][2]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.

(image by Lanphear Design)

(image by Lanphear Design)

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…