Eight years ago, on June 30, 2013, a law on “gay propaganda” came into force in Russia, prohibiting the “promotion of non-traditional sexual relations” among minors. Contrary to the law, LGBT people in Russian society have become noticeably more noticeable over the years, and much more information about the problems and life of the community has appeared in the public space. However, government-backed homophobia has intensified. Non-heterosexual Russians regularly become targets of aggression, to which the authorities actually incite. Here are some examples of the consequences of homophobia, which has become part of the state ideology.
Legal prosecution of LGBT activists, bloggers and journalists.
It is still dangerous to openly declare oneself as an LGBT person in the public space of Russia and to cover the life of queer people. In addition, it is impossible to predict which actions can attract the attention of security officials – and what, on the contrary, can protect them from this.
For example, a criminal case was opened against activist Yulia Tsvetkova (she is accused of distributing pornography) because of harmless drawings on the topic of body positive. Tsvetkova has already received several administrative fines under the article on “promoting non-traditional sexual relations among minors”. In March 2021, the Ostankino District Court banned the distribution of a video by journalist Karen Shahinyan about LGBT parenting (although it is still available on YouTube).
Complaining about “propaganda” is a convenient formal excuse for canceling cultural events and lectures. So, in April 2021, a charity evening in support of LGBT people “Show me love” was disrupted: the police and activists of the pro-Kremlin radical movements NOD and SERB came there. They also disrupted the St. Petersburg Artdokfest, after which Moscow canceled the screening of the film A Quiet Voice, which was in the festival’s competition program (a documentary film about a homosexual refugee from Chechnya – an MMA fighter).
Sometimes, in order to be detained, it is enough to pull the rainbow flag out of the bag, as happened with the teenagers in the St. Petersburg loft “Etazhi” (in June 2021, the prosecutor’s office declared the detention illegal). The main offense of LGBT + in the eyes of the state is not “propaganda”, but simply the appearance and very existence of queer people; in fact, they have no right to declare themselves openly. In the official discourse, they are given the place of marginality, cartoons, and any attempt to change this status quo is persecuted.
Crystallization of the enemy image. News about LGBT people is not journalism, but hate speech.
Most media outside the independent sector write about LGBT + people outside of most ethical and professional standards. For example, here is how Izvestia explains what Pride Month is (in the news about the rainbow flag hung on the British Embassy in Moscow): there are parades of sexual minorities, during which representatives of gay people propagandize tolerance towards members of their community and the ideas of LGBT people. “
In addition to deliberate emotional coloring, which helps to present queer people in a negative light (“promote tolerance”), this text is full of outdated incorrect terms: “sexual minorities”, “non-traditional orientation”. However, the language that journalists of the pro-government media use to write about LGBT people actually replicates the manner in which the head of state speaks. A year ago, Vladimir Putin commented on the rainbow flag hung at the US Embassy in honor of Pride Month: “Yes, they showed something about who works there. Not scary”.
In fact, this is nothing more than hate speech; from news sites, this vocabulary wanders into everyday life and becomes the language of conversation in the kitchen. Even people who position themselves as allies, that is, those who support the struggle for the rights of LGBT people, often allow themselves controversial actions. For example, the singer Lolita, who for many years was considered a gay icon in Russia (it was she who sang the unofficial LGBT anthem “Stop the Earth, I’ll Get Down,” sounded in Felix Mikhailov’s film Veselchaki, 2009), has been consistently defending the protective initiatives of the State Duma deputies for many years. and now Senator Elena Mizulina, including the law on “gay propaganda”. The singer does not consider him discriminatory; it adopts and retransmits the idea that this is a legal norm aimed exclusively at protecting the interests of children.
Language largely determines our attitude to phenomena: if we constantly hear about “LGBT ideas” (mentioned in the Izvestia article quoted above), then we will really perceive LGBT people not as ordinary people, but as carriers of an aggressive ideology, among which have no other goals than the desire to obtain new channels for the dissemination of their views.
One of the objectively existing difficulties in covering LGBT issues is that specialized vocabulary is updated too quickly. Fortunately, there are many guides out there on how to properly write about LGBT +. For example, Takie Dela has prepared a short thesaurus of words that describe different gender identities. Sasha Kazantseva – journalist, blogger, editor of the queer-zine “Otkrytye” – together with the trans-initiative group “T-Action” published the book “How to write about transgender and not screw it up”; it, by the way, is in the free public domain.
Censorship is being tightened (including self-censorship).
A direct consequence of the 2013 law is censorship and self-censorship, when a person tries to protect himself from voluntaristic law enforcement, removing any hints about a sensitive topic, according to the authorities. This includes the actions of film distributors: from the film “Rocketman” (a biopic about Elton John) they cut scenes of intimacy between men, from the film “Supernova” – three “extra” minutes of gay sex, without which the film begins to look like a parable about strong male friendship , not a story about a couple of older gay men.
At the Docker Festival in June 2021, for example, the main competition showed films about queer people – Her Moms and Prince of Dreams. From the descriptions of the feeds on the site, it was not clear that we were talking about queer people. “Her Moms” is like a film about fleeing the country and adopting a child from an orphanage, while the English-language page of the film clearly states that this is a documentary about two women who are raising an adopted child together, and their emigration is a consequence of the toughening of homophobic rhetoric in Hungary.
Brands also resort to self-censorship: for example, Adidas brought a part of the 2021 Love Unites pride collection to Russia, but on the main page of adidas.ru, unlike the English version, there is no information about this. If you enter the name of the collection (Love Unites) in the search box, you can see a list of things available in the Russian online store: the description says that summer is “a time of bright colors and spectacular images”. But not Pride Month.
Employees of Adidas stores were instructed not to tell customers about the essence of the collection, but to answer only “on the details of the product itself”: an internal mailing list for employees (available to Meduza) said what Pride Month is and how the abbreviation LGBT + stands. However, in addition to information and infographics, there was an urgent request “not to post photos of the Pride Month celebration on external social networks.”
Nike also released the Be True pride collection in 2021, but there is no information about it on the Russian-language website. The paradox is that the Russian media write about the pride collections of global brands, but the brands themselves, if they bring some of the things to Russia, try not to advertise this fact.
Homophobic and transphobic violence continues in Russia.
In 2017, Novaya Gazeta reported on the mass arrest of “Chechen gays”. American documentary filmmaker David France’s film Welcome to Chechnya (2021 won a BAFTA) is dedicated to this.
But the persecution of LGBT people in the Caucasus did not end at all: in June 2021, Khalimat Taramova, a girl from Chechnya who ran away from home, was abducted – she was subjected to violence there because of her sexual orientation. Despite international publicity and calls from activists to pay attention to the persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya and Dagestan, the very existence of such a problem is denied by the Russian authorities.
In Russia, there are no official statistics on crimes motivated by homophobia, but even recorded cases say that violence against LGBT + people is state-sponsored behavior, for which in most cases there will be no responsibility. But not always: in March 2021, the Frunzensky Court of St. Petersburg passed a verdict in the case of extortion from homosexual men, in which 18 people were injured. The old scheme is fake dates. The Russian LGBT network received information that local police officers are organizing fake dates in the Krasnodar Territory. But often the criminals only pretend to be police officers – they threaten with physical harm or plant drugs. The most common mechanism for finding victims is fake profiles on gay dating sites.
LGBT parents are also attacked by the authorities: in 2019, for the first time, a criminal case was opened against employees of the social protection department, who allowed the adoption of children by a homosexual couple in Moscow. In September 2020, the Investigative Committee opened a case for “trafficking in newborn children” and announced that it was going to arrest gay fathers who had resorted to the services of surrogate mothers.
“The most vulnerable are LGBT families with children,” says Olga Baranova, an LGBT activist and project manager at the Moscow Community Center for LGBT + Initiatives. – According to this law, if you are a lesbian, gay or transgender and you have a child, then you have already broken the law. That is, you simply live constantly outside the law in fear that your child may be taken away from you. In history, unfortunately, there are examples of similar persecutions against a certain group of people. It would seem that these are all relics of the past, but no, in Russia now, with respect to the LGBT community, they operate according to the same scheme. They are not yet burnt, but, apparently, because it is impossible to burn fires in our streets. “
There are no effective legal remedies for LGBT parents. If the state decides to purposefully destroy such a family, it will be impossible to prevent it, and emigration remains the only way to ensure safety for itself and its family. And for those for whom such an option is unacceptable, it remains to live as unnoticed as possible – for the state and professional fighters against LGBT +.