Tag Archives: civil rights

LGBT and the Russian Human Rights Abuses

Gay Russian protestors being assaulted.

Gay Russian protestors under assault.

Oh what to do, what to say about this? Something, for sure. I couldn’t just not talk about it, even though it’s one of those things, not so different from climate change in that regard, where the individual feels that there’s probably little they can do on their own to mitigate or stop this horror.

I mean, I can’t just pop over to Moscow or St. Petersburg and grab a bunch of LGBTs and bring them home with me.

Yet this reminds me so much of what I’ve read about what happened in Germany in the 1930s with the Jews (and later gays, and gypsies, and . . .) — first laws restricting, ever increasing in scope, until they were legally marginalized as a group and then of course we know what happened after that. Russia is going through the same initial motions with the LGBT community there, outlawing any positive speech about LGBT under the guise of protecting children. (see this link for specific information about the laws in Russia)

What is clear to me is that we cannot stand by and not say or do anything. If not us, who? If not now, when?

There’s lots of things/ways to protest, on the table, that people and organizations and governments are doing. Let’s look at them, let’s see what makes sense for us in both groups and as individuals.

  • Boycott Vodka — a lot of bars and towns are boycotting vodka purchases and drawing attention to this by doing “public pours” down storm drains, etc. My take: great as an attention-draw-er, as publicity stunt without much practical impact — as I understand the vodka industry is not Russia-based. Still, it’s a cultural touchstone and this is a way to draw attention to the matter.
  • Boycott Olympics in Sochi – the Winter Olympics in February, 2014, will be held in Sochi, a city on the Black Sea in southern Russia. The various proposals are to boycott nationally – as in, not send a team (which won’t happen, at least from the U.S.) or to pressure the IOC to move the Olympics to a city where they’d recently been held, such as Vancouver. I honestly don’t know how effective this would be. It’s probably too late to make it happen now regardless. What lasting effects did the western boycott of the Moscow 1980 Olympics and their corresponding get-you-back boycott of the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 have? I’m not sure either was a factor in the collapse of the Soviet Union, which was a massive economic meltdown five years later. Russian LGBT have purportedly said this is NOT a good idea, they would like the world to come to Sochi to keep the spotlight on the human rights abuses of the home country.

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Has Pride Jumped the Shark?

Bradley Manning, c by Semino1e

Bradley Manning, c by Semino1e

or did that happen long ago? Or maybe it’s just been insidious over the years, like the proverbial slow cooking frog in the pot.

We’ve gone from being (mostly) afraid to talk about who we are to having the right to marry and the right to serve our country in the armed forces (and what could possibly be more boring and traditional than these two things?*).

The dark and dangerous area of town where the gay bars (mostly) used to be where I grew up is now a highly desired, yuppie loft paradise. (that’s Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

In recent years, my jaw has dropped further and further to the pavement with the appearance of professional street vendors, the type of guys who come to any public event in Los Angeles, with their carefully and artfully arranged carts of rainbow paraphernalia, no doubt all made in China or another far-away, lower-wage country.

Buy some Pride for yourself! Wear something with a rainbow on it, better yet, several rainbows! I was even given a rainbow Mardi Gras beads at a GLBT lit conference I was recently at. And we’re supposed to be the fashion trendsetters?

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Really?? I guess it’s the price of success, when you become, in so many ways, the status quo. I know we keep this up to show kids from Kansas and Oklahoma and Alabama and all the rest of the officially hateful places that there is an alternative, there is tolerance and acceptance and there is a place for them. And truly, I do remember, it wasn’t always like this.

So it’s even weirder what happened in San Francisco — remember, this is the City Harvey Milk famously invited queer youth to come to if they wanted to be free — when they threw Bradley Manning under the bus.

I’m not sure if Bradley Manning is a hero or not. He very well may be. But we do know he is a gay man who had the guts to challenge power with huge, unimaginable consequences for himself for the rest of his life. Shining a light on something he felt was deeply wrong and immoral. Since his arrest, he’s been held in solitary. He’s been interrogated. I’m not sure how “enhanced” this was.

Yet he seems to have been met mostly with silence by the official gay community. Cause it might embarrass the somewhat cozy relationship we have with the current administration, or maybe it’s just embarrassing now that we have equality in this area of the military, this gay guy gives our secrets to Wikileaks for the world to know. Well, you knew that would happen once you let those queers in.

The thing of it is, the Gay Pride Movement was founded on the coattails of the civil rights, anti-war, and women’s rights movements of the 1960s, all which challenged the status quo and our definitions of what was right and what was wrong.

That we can’t even come to include Bradley Manning in our embrace of the issues really makes me wonder about the health of Gay Pride as a political force. It’s almost like, “don’t rock the boat, we’re this close guys” type of a thing.

But at what price?

(* by saying this, I’m not discounting that both marriage and the military have advantages, often huge ones, for those who participate in them. I believe everyone should have the right to marry or be in the military should they so choose. What I mean is that these two institutions have failed for many, many people over long periods of time and I question the push to assimilate in this direction, rather than being a beacon of hope and new direction for humanity, which is traditionally a gay role. )

We Deserve Better video


We Deserve Better from FosterBear Films on Vimeo.

Check out this video made by my nephew-in-law’s company FosterBear Films (David Bear) in association with BreakOUT in New Orleans. The purpose is to fight discrimination on the part of the NOPD towards the GLBTQ community there.

Yes, we still have to fight these fights in 2012. Depressing, but there you are, and unfortunately, for so many minority communities, including GLBTs everywhere, the cop is generally not your friend. Videos like this help put them on notice. We’re watching. We’re talking. We’re filming it and posting it. And it will stop.

Share widely, as you wish.