Lesbian Activist Speaks about Russia’s Continued Defiance with worsening New Laws Against Gays and asylum being the only answer
By Melanie Nathan, September 06, 2013.
A Russian lawmaker has proposed a bill that would deny gay parents custody over their children. The draft bill, published on parliament’s website on Thursday, would make the “fact of nontraditional sexual orientation” a basis for denying custody. Other grounds include alcoholism, drug use, and abuse. The proposal follows heightened anti-gay sentiment in Russia and the the June 30 legislation banning homosexual “propaganda” among minors. The motive behind the bill is the myth that gays are harmful to children, and the justification is that it is aimed at so called protection of children, rather than the oppression of the LGBT community. Alexei Zhuravlev, the author of the bill, referred to the earlier law and said that homosexual “propaganda” had to be banned not only in the public space “but also in the family.”
Michelangelo Signorile wrote an article today featuring his interview with lesbian activist, Masha Gessen, who was a Moscow-based writer journalist, and has been speaking out in recent months on Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law. An American citizen, Gessen who has lived in Russia for many years, and is raising three children with her lesbian partner, a Russian citizen, reacted to the new Bill.
The article notes that “Gessen hoped Western pressure in recent months would help change the course of Russia’s crackdown on its LGBT citizens, but now she believes that that’s not going to happen, and that it’s time to for LGBT Russians to flee the country to escape what she says has now become “all-out war” against LGBT people in Russia. And she’s calling on the United States to allow political asylum for LGBT Russians, and for LGBT activists here to focus on making that happen.”
This newer Bill indicates that the Russians are becoming more aggressive in their anti-gay stance.
Important factors to elucidate:-
1. Gessen’s call for such should extend to all LGBT asylum seekers around the world,to include those who live in countries that criminalize homosexuality, making it a crime, which is not the case in Russia. This call should also be a wake up scream for imperative changes that must occur in our asylum laws – the subject of another article; and
2. We cannot sit back in silence. The only worthy big noise, whether successful or not, will be one where we call even louder for the boycotts of all things Russian, whether it be vodka, or the removal of the Winter Olympics from Sochi.
Gessen told Signoreli that the crackdown on gays in Russia has intensified, despite international outcry, and that LGBT people are “living through an all-out hatred campaign that’s been unleashed by the Kremlin.”
Gessen speaks of this all out war against gays, by referring to the heightened violence where gays are kidnapped, beaten and police do not intervene. She sets the blame squarely on the Kremlin and hence Putin and refers to old familiar tactics used in this war against gays, where even LGBT activists have been compromised:
“It’s a situation in which even longtime gay activists may be corrupted or coerced through old Soviet tactics designed to destroy their reputations and diminish their influence. In recent weeks activists in Russia and the West have been discussing the bizarre behavior of the well-known Russian gay activist Nikolai Alexeyev, who had what was called a Twitter meltdown, sending out tweets attacking other activists and making ugly anti-Semitic remarks, among other strange pronouncements (including that he was quitting activism). At the same time, his home had been raided by the police.”
“I have great respect for some of the work Nikolai Alexeyev has done in the past,” Gessen said, offering her beliefs on what might have happened to him. “And I have had disagreements with him on many occasions in the past. What I do know is that he’s given every sign of working for the Kremlin right now. Whether he was coerced or blackmailed into doing that through threat of arrest, which exists, through the search of his apartment, which occurred, or seduced by money, at this point he’s being used as a spokesperson for the Kremlin.”
SIgnoreli notes that Alexeyev, who recently went on a Nationalistic, Anti-Asylee, Anti-semitic rant, declined a request for an interview. Some sources ,however, report that Alekseev’s meltdown can be attributed merely to drug use. Who knows – he is compromised and any way one looks at that such compromise serves Putin and not the LGBT community.
Gessen was extremely negative about anything changing for the better for LGBTI people in Russia and suggested the only option is that of asylum:
“At this point, with the fact that they’re proposing this law during the G20 Summit, it shows that no Western pressure is going to keep Russia from passing anti-gay laws, from endangering the lives of lesbian and gay people, from endangering our families,” she said. Gessen is fortunate that, as an American citizen, with the Defense of Marriage Act now struck down, she can move to the U.S. with her partner, whom she can sponsor for a green card. But she knows that that’s not the case for the vast majority of LGBT Russians. “It’s high time to talk about asylum,” she said. “The only way at this point that the U.S. can help Russian gays and lesbians is get us the hell out of here.”
I would agree on the necessity of asylum, but not the exclusion of boycotts. I still believe, regardless of immediate impact, that it is imperative we do not let up on worldwide boycotts of vodka, the call for removal of the Winter Olympic Games from Sochi, the call to move Donald Trump’s Miss Universe from Russia, and also an outright ban of Russian Arts, Culture and sport from international soil. Even if it takes years and years for the Russians to get it, that is the only way to drive the message home. I still believe that the South African boycotts eventually brought the self-righteous Afrikaner Government to its knees. Perhaps the Russians need similar punitive measures as 88% of them agree with the idea that their LGBT neighbors should not be afforded very basic human rights.
It is important to note that until the asylum laws change in the U.S.A. ( and other countries) and we start advocating for a special VISA to the USA for persecuted and criminalized LGBT people, who cannot afford to get here on the pretense of being a visitor, a student, a conference attendee, or ‘other business’ so they can seek asylum once in the USA, we are doing very little to help this cause.
By Melanie Nathan
PLEASE JOIN ME at 7:00 PM at the San Francisco Opening of Opera Season for a Vigil for LGBT Russians:
Press Release: Contact Melanie Nathan: Dated: September 05, 2013. https://www.facebook.com/events/433652160084761/ Tomorrow night, Friday, September 6 at 7:00 pm, the coalition, including members of Gays Without Borders, BoycottRussianVodka.com and PCI-Justice, will stage an informational vigil, outside the San Francisco Opera’s gala opening night at the War Memorial Opera House, located at Van Ness and Grove. […]
By Melanie Nathan, September 04, 2013. A group of LGBT activists will stage an informational vigil including members of Gays Without Borders, BoycottRussianVodka.com will be holding a fun informational vigil on Friday, September 6 at 7:00 pm outside the San Francisco Opera’s gala opening night at the War Memorial Opera House, located at Van Ness […]