From Russia with LGBT Love

This past summer, President Vladimir V. Putin passed a law that banned “propaganda on nontraditional sexual relationships” officially meant to protect children but known to be an anti-LGBT law. The New York Times asked Russians to send in their stories of being LGBT in Russia and several of those stories were published yesterday. The New York Times received over 400 stories from Russians and Russian-Americans and published 9 accounts from LGBT Russians of different ages, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Many of the accounts said that the psychological affects on their lives the law has caused has led many to strongly consider leaving the country. Many of the younger Russians spoke of the importance of the Internet in finding other LGBT individuals in Russia and feeling less isolated.

A few of the accounts spoke of coming out to friends and family and the mixed reactions; some positive and supportive, others homophobic. One account from a gay man in a relationship spoke of a false marriage with a lesbian friend in order to hide their true relationships with other people of the same sex. One woman said she and her partner had decided to wait to have children given the political climate. One account spoke of St. Petersburg becoming less tolerant.

Given all this negative press about the new law and the upcoming Sochi Olympics, is it likely more LGBT Russians will have no alternative but to leave their country if the political climate doesn’t improve? What can the US and other countries do to show their support of LGBT individuals around the world?


Charges Reduced in Greenpeace Case

Yesterday, Russian investigators reduced the charges against the crew members of the Greenpeace ship who held a protest against exploitation of natural resources at an oil rig in the Arctic Ocean from piracy to hooliganism.  Piracy charges could have resulted in a prison sentence of 15 years while the penalty for hooliganism is 7 years. Russia’s Investigative Committee has presumably lowered these charges in order to avoid any more diplomatic confrontation over the fate of the crew members, who hail from over 18 nations. Members of Greenpeace Russia believe that even the charges of hooliganism should be dropped, as it was a peaceful protest.

After the protest on September 19th, the ship was towed to Murmansk, where everyone on board was charged with piracy and denied bail. President Putin remarked a month ago that piracy was not an appropriate charge but agreed that Russia’s border guards had the right to cut the scaling cables of the activists and fire warning shots. These remarks made have helped reduce the charges, but why not earlier? Why are possible charges of violence against authorities being mentioned if none of the crew members nor activists were armed or resisted upon arrest?


LGBT Rights Activists Protest Metropolitan Opera Opening Night

On September 23rd, The Metropolitan Opera held its Russian-themed opening gala. The opening was for a piece by Tchaikovsky entitled, “Eugene Onegin”. The activists who protested the opening night gala deplored the recent antigay laws in Russia signed by President Vladimir Putin. The protest against the Met begin when a openly gay composer, Andrew Rudin started an online petition for the Met to dedicate it’s Russian-themed performance to gay rights and the LGBT community in Russia. The petition has been signed by over 9,000 people and spoke of the irony that the work of Tchaikovsky, who was also a gay composer, was being performed by artists who supported a government that had passed anti- LGBT laws.

More interviews with the principal artists and the general manager of the Met can be found in this article:

Does the Metropolitan have the right to perform a Russian piece without any political undertones? Is it ethical to perform the works of a gay Russian composer without acknowledging the suffering of the Russian LGBT community? Russia is not only denying the evidence that one of its greatest artists was a homosexual but also denying human rights to Russian citizens who identify as homosexual or transgender. Should the Met use its cultural significance to denounce antigay legislation? Can culture and politics be truly separate when human rights are at stake?