#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?

Don’t Call It A Comeback: Lady Gaga + TLC = “Posh Life”

                                                “The world says we’re not brave until we bleed.”

– From “Posh Life”

 

It’s official: Lady (Godiva) Gaga is back on her horse, naked as the day she was born, and raring to go. So much so, she’s let her “Posh” go leaking all over the Internet.

Sounds naughty, doesn’t it? It’s not—it’s just posh.

‘Shoutout to My Homos:’ New Divas Demo Collab Mentions “Family”

Post-hip surgery and past-hiatus (if lawsuit drama, full-on nude V. magazine spreads, “Machete Kills” and podcasting piercings counts), The Divine Ms. Lady Gaga’s back and collaborating with TLC to celebrate dual album debuts.

“Posh Life,” co-written by Gaga and Dallas Austin with Austin producing, is a demo that’s already a done deal.

Damn, it’s good to be Gaga! Lest we forget, Lady Gaga began as a successful songwriter. Her “Posh Life” demo leaked mere hours after TLC’s Chilli and T-Boz announced Gaga and Dallas Austin among collaborators on an upcoming TLC greatest hits release. Ne-Yo and J. Cole are additional features.

The highly-anticipated return of TLC is already being met with much acclaim and buzz as they hit the festival circuit, promoting their upcoming VH1 biopic “CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story” to drop alongside the album in October. Meanwhile, Gaga’s prepping for her new single release at this year’s  VMAs, with album-app combo ARTPOP scheduled for a November release.

TLC: First In Queer-Influenced Girl Power, Fashion & Fierceness

This divas’ collaboration makes sense. TLC had swag before Bieber and 90s Girl Power before Christina. Both acts earned multiple Grammys and other awards, clocking best-selling album records and highest-grossing tours.

TLC’s “No Scrubs,” “Waterfalls, “What About Your Friends” and” Red Light Special” empowered women to take charge from the bedroom to the boardroom. And Gaga? Scroll on back to

“Born This Way” in 2011 and her countless LGBTQ-empowerment speeches or publicity stunts for a  dose of self-love.

Too, they’re all hella fashion-forward women making sex-positive art.  TLC rocks a combination of R&B-influenced and queer-centric fashion (bespoke condom eye-wear promoting safe sex, butch-dyke hair tropes), pleather and light bondage fear, bold pattern combinations and tight, body-conscious glitter and glam). As for Gaga, we’ve got two more words for you: Jo Calderone.

 ‘Bout That Posh Life: Gaga Got Game

 Back to art-pop, R&B style: “Posh Life” takes the listener to church with soulful swagger. Gaga’s customary postmodern hat tip remains, as she plants shoutouts for queers and POC in the first verse:

“He just wanted something to eat /A place to love, a place to pray/In God we trust /And it’s okay/He said, “I’m black, Latin and gay/I went to them, they turned away.”

As Gaga growls and grinds through “Posh…,” she’s serving old school TLC as best as she can. Better than the real thing? That’s the beauty of a demo…it’s just a guide track.

What’s the song about, exactly: diversity, equality somehow embodied as posh? Who knows? Herein ies the charm of Lady Gaga. Self-admittedly, she’s so fascinated with the art and science of fame, fashionably posh living and perfect pop songs, when queers hear themselves reflected in her lyrics (Gasp! On the radio!), our response is primal and her tracks go viral. The messages are mixed, but this woman thanked “God and the gays” at an awards ceremony—so just dance!

Gaga’s version of the track’s got a light, sensual groove. Still, it would be ultra-pleasurable to hear a newly-reunited TLC bust these outwardly queer lyrics with their own twist.

TLC’s official Facebook page mourns the tragic death of former band mate Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, who passed in 2002, while looking forward to brighter days. The group wrote: “Comin’ back with Lisa in our hearts…. We’re hard at work on new tracks and they’re gonna be some of our best ever.”

The “Crazy, Sexy Cool” movie trailer’s gorgeous and hypnotic. Have you seen it?

Same Love Success

ryan_lewis_macklemore
It’s not often a rap song carried a message of support for anything gay let alone marriage equality, therefore it came as quite a surprise to many to hear a rap tune supporting gay marriage had snuck into the US top 20 of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

Rap duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis released the song Same Love, quite some time ago, February I believe and as the momentum for equal marriage across the US has increased so have sales for the enchanting tune. Last week it sold the most it ever had since it was released, an amazing 110,000 copies, pushing it into the charts.

The song comes from the duo‘s latest album and focuses on Macklemore’s personal experiences, thoughts and feelings around the issue of same-sex relationships and equal marriage. The accompanying video also features the lives of a gay couple, including a happy marriage and can be seen on YouTube.

The lyrics were inspired by Referendum 74, where voters in the US state of Washington voted to uphold a law legalising equal marriage.

Many believe the song, which also features vocalist Mary Lambert, gained an added impetuous recently because of the US Supreme Court’s ruling in favour of same-sex marriage, in two cases recently. It jumped from 28 to 16 in the Hot 100, as well as surging from 23 to 8 on the US Digital chart.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis rose to fame in the UK last year with the song Thrift Shop, which topped the UK chart and the follow up Can’t Hold Us, is currently in the top 20 in the UK, having been on the chart for around 16 weeks.

Same Love is surprisingly evocative and packed with energy, passion and meaning. A worthy addition to any music collection.

Jay Brannan On The Road Again

The wonderfully talented and dashingly handsome actor, musician and all round nice guy Jay Brannan is on the road again with the next update of his tour schedule.  It seems this boy is always off on some leg of some tour or other,  last year he played various dates in many European cities, including my home town of Brighton, England.  I caught up with him back then and was surprised at not only how intimate a night with Jay is, but also how much effort and passion he packs into his performances on stage.    There is no big production,  no cast of hundreds,  first there is often an opening act,  but then it’s just Jay, a guitar and a mic and a who room full of happy and thoroughly entertained music fans.

Here’s the dates and details of Jay’s latest tour,  I’m sure he’d love it if you pop along and say hello,   just tell him Jason Shaw sent you!

Date City Venue / Tickets More Info
Apr 29, 2013   Washington, DC Rock & Roll Hotel Facebook Event Page opener: Justin Trawick
Apr 30, 2013   Philadelphia, PA World Café Live (Upstairs) Facebook Event Page opener: Josh Schurr
May 01, 2013   Boston, MA Middle East (Upstairs) Facebook Event Page **EARLY SHOW**
May 03, 2013   New York, NY Joe’s Pub Facebook Event Page *sold out* / no opener!
May 06, 2013   Chicago, IL Schuba’s Tavern Facebook Event Page *sold out*
opener: julie meckler
May 08, 2013   Austin, TX Lambert’s Facebook Event Page no opener!
May 10, 2013   Los Angeles, CA Hotel Café Facebook Event Page opener: Terra Naomi
May 11, 2013   San Francisco, CA Bottom of the Hill Facebook Event Page openers: Rin Tin Tiger & The Plastic Arts

More details on Jay’s own website

 

If you want to read my review of his show at the rather oddly named venue ‘Sticky Mikes Frog Bar’ click here.