Alex Blaze

Russia, Russia, Russia

Filed By Alex Blaze | February 13, 2007 12:15 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: legislation, Moscow, Pride, russia

It's times like these that even though things are looking down in my state of Indiana, that I can still be glad that there are places that I don't live. This time it's Russia. has the story:

A bill introduced in Russia's lower house will impose a five year prison sentence for anyone convicted of homosexuality.

Gay sex was illegal under the Soviets but was decriminalized in 1993 when Communism fell.

The legislation, introduced Monday by Deputy Nikolay Kuryanovich would bring back the old law, and make it a crime for gays to congregate - a provision that would bar gay pride parades or meetings.

Even though it's unlikely that the bill will become law over there, it's disheartening for Russian gays and lesbians that it's even being debated. This law goes further than punishing gays based on our sexual behavior, as American anti-sodomy laws did up until 2003; it makes it a crime to be visibly identifiable as gay.

This comes on the heels of the mayor of Moscow banning the city's pride parade and calling pride parades satanic. This is, once again, similar to the American anti-gay tradition's use of Christian rhetoric, but slightly different in that we're being called "satanic" - a far theological cry from simply living in sin or having fallen from the Grace of God. The latter implies that our actions are a sign of human folly and a separation from God; the former once again locks gay identity away in a little box from straight identity and labels gay-identified people as evil and out to get everyone else. (Maybe the best place to look for the word "satanic" being applied to queer people in the US is the Rev. Fred Phelps' webpage. The only usage I could find there was a vague reference to "satanic ideas".)

This all reminds me of an interaction with a heterosexual Russian woman I once worked with as a counselor at a girls' camp. She developed feelings for me, and even though everyone knew that I was gay, and I had talked with her about the other men there that I found attractive (there weren't many as this was a girls' camp), and I loaned her a book of gay short fiction with a painting of two naked men holding hands on the cover, she still, on the second to last night there, tried very hard to get me to go to her cabin after my night shift. While she seemed totally OK with me being gay-identified, I wonder how much information she had to fully understand that fact and its implications.

So it's really no surprise to me that Russian heterosexists are this different in their rhetoric about GLBT people as compared to their American counterparts. With a less-developed queer movement, less education on diversity issues and less free press, a whole society is left thinking that same-sex attraction is a development from further West, an outside force that can be boxed away and separated from heterosexuality. That way it's seen as a foreign influence from the less religious western Europe and North America and their starkly different religious and ontological beliefs - individualistic, materialistic, secularist society (as portrayed in foreign media) versus a conservative, tradition-bound, highly organized Orthodox Russian society.

Or maybe Russia's just weird.

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