#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?

Straight Allies Spotlight: Why We Love Chris Kluwe

“Society’s trending towards more equality, and you see that in the locker room.”

– Chris Kluwe (to Larry King, on “Larry King Now” broadcast)

 

Oh, Chris: how do we love thee? Let us count the ways.

First off, few people can bring themselves to hate him.

As the Oakland Raiders’ American NFL football punter, Chris Kluwe comes off as a fresh-faced, cheery, potty-mouthed and an unabashedly proud “gamer geek.” Kluwe’s spoken up—loudly—about everything from NFL labor disputes to honesty in the media. Now, he’s championing gay rights and marriage equality—and it’s not his first time rocking the mic for LGBTQ inclusivity.

The UCLA alum combines dashing good looks and dorky gamer references (he owns a fantasy gaming store for goodness’ sake), and let’s just say his wife Isabel isn’t the only one who finds him easy on the eyes.

Hm…male model? Athletic cover boy? What? Okay, losing track of the numbers here.

Still, there are so many reasons to adore him.

As articulate as he is awkward, Chris recently appeared on “Larry King Now”  to promote his  book, “Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football and Assorted Absurdities.”

On the show, he briefly mentioned his personal protest of the Minnesota Marriage Amendment and his ever-expanding record of LGBT advocacy, which started hitting its stride last year.

Sharing a viewpoint with Larry King that’s rarely been shared by celebs publicly, Chris went on to express a bittersweet regret about the Prop 8 decision, saying  we could have pressed even harder to get more mileage from the opportunity to make permanent changes.

“I liked the DOMA decision,” said Kluwe, “Because obviously it extended federal benefits to married couples. Not a big fan of the Prop 8 decision, because while it allowed gays to be married in California as soon as they vacate the stay, the problem is, the Supreme Court had a chance to extend those rights across the entire country…whereas they could’ve made a statement.”

“They have a precedent,” he continued. “They have Loving v. Virginia—that says

marriage is a human right. They could’ve extended that out to say, ‘Same sex marriage, that is a human right, and you can’t discriminate against that.’”

Trying to keep realistic, he tied things up by saying, “So now we’ve just got to go to all the other states that—right now—gay marriage is illegal in, and get that passed.”

Earlier this month, in what could have been a media disaster, Kluwe shared a stinging truth (citing ex-New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez’s murder charges) in the following exchange with Conan O’Brien on the “Conan” show:

“Now what about the NFL? Where’s the NFL in all of this?” Conan O’Brien asked.

“They pretty much just left me alone,” Kluwe answered, “As long as you’re not out shooting people…”

Here’s the deal: straight allies often put their foot in their mouths, no matter how good their intentions may be. Chris Kluwe’s using his “big-mouthed” persona to our advantage. You just can’t hate on somebody for that.

Chris Kluwe loves World of Warcraft, loves the game of football, loves to raise consciousness and awareness, and is all about a message of transparency, fairness and equality.

In his “Larry King Now” appearance and his Out of Bounds blog, Kluwe rants on with this through line: if we are not honest with ourselves and protecting our own, our civilization is doomed. He simply won’t back down from the idea, and his new book likely puts that sentiment on full blast.

Well-played Chris Kluwe—and play on.

What’s your take on Chris’ mouthy antics? Do you think he’s trying to co-opt Gay Rights to get attention? Does that matter, either way? Wait…you’re too busy looking at his “Out” magazine cover spread, aren’t you?

Don’t leave us hanging, y’all—what’s the T? Let us know what’s on your mind, and you can holler at your boy Chris Kluwe @ChrisWarcraft on Twitter.