Use Your Words: On Activists Inside Russia
“It’s also no surprise that Russian deputies continue to reintroduce the question of recriminalizing LGBT people, since society still widely regards homosexuals as mentally ill, perverted pedophiles. Any homophobe trying to isolate them can always count on the support of the Russian people. Even the legislation that outlaws the stirring of national or religious hatreds is silent about us. The young generation will need a lot of time to begin speaking openly about their rights and finding the courage to come out.”
- Vdova, Co-Founder of Lesbiru.com
Founded in 2001, Lesbiru.com is a lifeline for lesbians and LGBTQIA folks in Russia and worldwide, advocating for human rights from within Russia and speaking for lesbians in-country. They also create content for–and host a myriad of–sister sites and social media pages. On perusing its latest English language updates, you can’t help but to reflect on the perilous fate of Russian activists at this time.
As Vdova’s words indicate above, LGBTQIA persons of experience in Post-Perestroika Russia were at least somewhat tolerated. Now, with Putin’s anti-gay about face instituted by the government, the fate of LGBTQIA activists and allies in Russia is under serious question. Many activists are being fined, jailed (see Pussy Riot and others), pressured to disassociate from the community and work for the government, and otherwise penalized. This is taking place in addition to the festering climate advocating anti-LGBTQ bullying and violence.
We’ve recently lost Nikolay Alexeyev from our ranks, a prominent Russian gay activist, journalist and filmmaker, as Russian authorities raided his home and confiscated his effects. Shortly thereafter, he publicly denounced the LGBTQIA civil rights movement. It isn’t hard to guess why he too has had to make a sudden about face and “change” his philosophies and decades-long solid track record of human rights activism in a matter of days.
The hobbling of Pussy Riot and other Russian queer activists, celebrities, journalists, people and groups in addition to the Sochi controversy makes the fate of in-country activists seemingly uncertain. However, the endgame, according to Russian officials, is certain. The aim is to silence anything or anyone LGBTQ or affiliated—this includes people or organizations who seem queer or who advocate LGBTQ persons, period.
Use Your Outside Voice: How We Can Help
“These laws aim to force LGBT people into lives of secrecy. They will especially have a devastating impact on young LGBT people who will be left unable to be open about themselves and unable to access relevant services, with all the potential physical and mental health issues which may arise from this. In addition, it sends a green light to extremists that LGBT people are legitimate targets. This is reflected in the rising violence against LGBT people in recent times in Russia. These new laws represent a serious attack on human rights in Europe. They send out the clear message from the Russian government and parliament that intolerance of others is acceptable and that human rights are not inviolable but rather are political notions which can be rowed back when it is politically advantageous to do so.”
With its official event launch on Red Tuesday (9/3/13), The Speak Out for Russia campaign includes performances, artistic and activist projects, and public speaking and forums all around the globe, expressing solidarity with the Russian LGBTQ community. We’re still speaking out.
We can help our Russian allies by joining this campaign or starting our own. Too, the GLEN recently published a few suggestions of ways you can help:
What Can People Do As Individuals?
Let the LGBT communities in Russia know you are standing in solidarity.
Use the Internet and social media to let them know that they are not alone. Ireland is an amazing example of a country which has come a long way in quite a short period of time. The Irish story is a profound message of hope and of what is possible, even at times when it appears progress is impossible.
Be a political/ethical consumer. Buy products from companies that have come out in support of LGBT equality, regardless of what country they are made in.
If you plan to travel to Russia then make sure you check with [your] Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for safety updates.
Finally and most importantly, be committed for the long haul. The sad truth is that these laws will probably not be rescinded in the short term. This is the beginning of a long campaign to change laws, hearts and minds.
Real-Time Support, Moving Forward
The more we make our quest for human rights known, the more the world responds. Don’t believe it? You can believe it: per the prodding of GLEN, their sister organizations in Ireland and many activists worldwide, the Irish government has now publicly condemned the anti-gay actions of the Russian government. Governments are imperfect to be sure–but when they set precedents like this, it indicts them to advocate for its own citizens’ human rights that much more, and to advocate for human rights worldwide that much more.
We simply must keep hope alive.
There’s so much more that you can do: support independent thinkers and bloggers around the world. Make your voice heard. Perform at, attend or donate money to benefits supporting LGBTQ culture and causes.
Follow the #Russia4Love hashtag on Twitter or visit AllOut to find events near you, and please connect with us or comment to share more ideas and support.