#DumpStoli: Russia’s Anti-Gay Bill Sparks Creative Boycott

When Keeping It Real Means Keeping Vigilant

Come on, let’s go
Back to Moscow
Irresolution doesn’t suit you or me or anybody…

– From “Moscow,” by Autoheart

Just as we celebrate progress with LGBT equal rights, another human rights breech rises up to spilling over, demanding more healing and attention in Russia.

Since 2006, a combination of anti-feminist and anti-LGBTQ fervor has been gaining momentum there. Russia continues to punish outspoken LGBT supporters, driving the point home by dragging out the fate of LGBT-feminist activist-allies Pussy Riot, denying yet another member of the group parole for its activism.

Within the last year, Russia has activated harsher legislation, banning gay pride parades while continuing to detain, arrest and prosecute LGBTQ people and allies for both public or private actions and speech.

Persecution and Prosecution

More strident legislative punishments have emerged as Russian lawmakers fight what they call “homosexual propaganda” or “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” passing the “Don’t Say Gay” Anti-Gay Bill.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also managed to sign a law banning all gay adoptions—signing three anti-gay bills into law total with no signs of stopping. Russian lawmakers now reinterpret LGBT outreach as “pornography,” intending to prosecute those who speak out against new laws, making them subject to the same detainment, arrest, prosecution or implied threats of violence as gay people experience.

It’s no surprise that hostility and vigilantism in Russia is becoming serious, with Russian skinheads among others attacking gay-identified persons including teens.

Separate and Not Equal

The upcoming Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia in 2014.

HRC (the U.S.’ largest gay rights organization) along with Dan Savage and others predict Russia’s new anti-gay activity will prove exacting for Olympic athletes, coaches, supporters, press and related attendees, whether or not they’re gay.

To illustrate the breadth of Russia’s definition, the HRC cited banned activities range from friends or couples holding hands, public displays of affection (kissing or hugging) to voicing solidarity in any form. The new laws equate LGBT activist outreach materials with pedophilia, forbidding by default any outreach to Russian gay or questioning teens struggling with coming out.

While the IOC says Olympic athletes, press and guests will be exempt from Russia’s anti-gay laws, how can this be guaranteed?

Johnny Weir told the press he’s unafraid, stating: “The fact that Russia is arresting my people, and openly hating a minority…is heartbreaking and a travesty of international proportions, but I still will compete.”

Activists continue to demand that LGBT athletes boycott the upcoming games. Russian tourism earnings are expected to dwindle, and meanwhile, activists in-country (namely Nikolai Alekseev and peers) say financial boycotts won’t even make a difference, encouraging international supporters to push for governmental change only. This echoes Pussy Riot’s push-back in the face of international support, which they’ve eventually warmed up to, somewhat.

Creativity Continues As Protests Spread

Regardless of the latest headlines, international creative collaborators continue to show solidarity. Such artsy projects aren’t mere flights of fancy. Passing anti-gay laws sends a clear signal to those who would commit hate crimes they’ll be given a free pass to act out violently, beyond reproach.

Remember the inexcusable violence at St. Petersburg Pride?

In an extension of this anti-gay law, Russian authorities are already arresting gay tourists who aren’t even from Russia. That’s how quickly discrimination affects us worldwide.

In the face of this chaos, Russia is facing an immediate and expansive vodka boycott. Gay-owned bars, consumers and businesses are kicking Stoli vodka to the curb. At the prompting of Dan Savage, the hashtags #DumpStoli and #DumpRussianVodka were created to fuel efforts, with Canadian and U.S.-based establishments as first responding boycotters and British clubs following suit. Canada has since issued warnings in a travel alert for LGBTQ persons visiting Russia.

Unfortunately, this puts Stoli North America in a tricky situation: Stoli Vodka CEO Val Mendeleev has expressed disagreement with new Russian laws, to which activists from Queer Nation replied, “A single open letter that was discreetly placed…will not help LGBT Russians nor will it have an impact on the… anti-gay campaign…. Marketing is not enough.”

Enter the London-based band, Autoheart, who penned the timely single, “Moscow.”

The new single greets the listener with maudlin, layered nostalgia for a love the singer knows is there. In the tune, there’s a heart that needs reminding.

On their YouTube page, Autoheart wrote: “Moscow is a song about the daft optimism of being in love,” continuing: “We are lucky in Britain to have laws that mean whether we are gay, straight, bisexual or anything in between, our relationships are recognized and our rights protected by law.”

“In our video, two gay Russian soldiers kiss in front of the Kremlin — yet just last month a group of same-sex couples in Moscow were violently attacked and then arrested for doing just this.”

If Autoheart were Russian, their very words alone would make them instant candidates for prosecution.

The band went on to encourage visitors to sign this petition, a callout to world leaders for equal rights: https://www.allout.org/en/actions/russia-attacks

Other creative solidarity projects are:

The #Virtual Pride launch
http://gayagenda.com/worldwide-pride-parades-offer-solutions-for-targeted-lgbt-individuals/

Stop Homophobia In Russia, a 2-video series

The Gay Women Channel’s “Putin Airlines Safety” video

Autoheart’s lyrics to “Moscow” conclude:

When in Moscow I just want to fold you up
And keep you warm, keep you warm.

To find out more about LGBT Russia, visit here or here –

Spectrum Human Rights Alliance (Eastern Europe) www.spectrumhr.org/?pli=1

Russian LGBT Network http://www.facebook.com/LGBT.Russia

Let’s keep talking about this: what kind of vodka is your corner bar serving? Where’s it manufactured? Is this boycott inspiring you to take action?

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