When I hear about what is happening in Russia at the moment, I
cannot even imagine what it must be like. It's only when I see
videos online, when images of the oppression taking place is
physically in front of me, that I appreciate how brutal the
struggle for equality is. In one such video, a young woman
holds up a rainbow flag. She is shouted at, pushed and physically
dragged to the ground, ripping her dress. A man wearing a rainbow
sweatband has 'holy' water chucked at him, before being subjected
to a flying fist and being dragged away by the police. Sickening
There are many countries where it is illegal to be gay, and that
obviously is not right. But, with homosexuality having been
decriminalized in Russia in 1993, you would think this would be a
step forward for the equality we are striving to achieve. With such
a strong anti-gay sentiment brewing in Russia, however, and the
current wave of homophobic legislation and law enforcement, it is
hard to say that Russia is doing anything but taking a step
Earlier this year this year, a law was
passed in St Petersburg banning the promotion of 'homosexual
propaganda'. What is propaganda? This ambiguous term could have so
many meanings. Is it waving a rainbow flag? Writing a book with gay
character? Holding hands with your same-sex partner down the
street? If a gay couple has children, everyday they would be
breaking the law by 'promoting' a homosexual lifestyle to
The idea behind the law was to protect children so they can uphold
'traditional Russian values'. What values? Hate, prejudice, shame?
I have to question the credibility of the powers that be in Russia.
How they are running their country? If they want to breed a
generation of hate-mongers, what future are they heading for?
With plans to roll out this law nationally across Russia, it seems
they are heading down a slippery slope into complete totalitarian
control and outright persecution. At the moment, this law does not
ban homosexuality, but by banning 'propaganda', a term which is so
unclear and so easily twisted, it seems that the Putin government
is doing anything it can to push LGBT Russians underground.
You only have to look at the news headlines to sense how anti-gay
Russia really is at the moment, and how their homophobic laws are
just a by-product of a deeply rooted prejudice amongst the
government and (some of) its people.
Last week, three members of the Russian feminist punk group 'Pussy
Riot' were jailed for
two years following their anti-Vladimir Putin protest in Moscow
Cathedral. I can see why they caused a stir, but two years in
jail?! This disproportionate sentence just shows the zero tolerance
Putin and his Kremlin has for different opinions, and how he is
happy to let Russia's reputation suffer for what was a personal
criticism on his own repressive anti-LGBT policies. What an extreme
way to deal with it, and what a way to fuel the fire of those he is
trying to silence.
In another recent story from Russia, a ban
was upheld for Pride celebrations in Moscow for 100 years. Firstly,
100 years?! This length would be laughable if it wasn't so
infuriating. Pride is not about saying we are better than anyone.
We are only saying we are equal and we are normal, just like
everyone else. Generations of Russian LGBT people will grow up
feeling scared, ashamed and discriminated against. To shroud sexual
orientation with such shame will only breed a generation of more
troubled people for Russia's increasingly questionable
Even the sporting world isn't free from this discrimination,
as earlier this month The Russian government banned gay activists
from creating a Pride House - a welcoming place for all athletes,
spectators and friends - at the 2014 Winter Olympics in
In yet another news story, pop icon Madonna is currently being
sued by a group of activists claiming she broke the law by
promoting homosexuality at a recent concert in St Petersburg. You
can maybe understand why there was a bit of an uproar as she
stomped on an Orthodox cross, and that is likely to rile up some
religious types. But this is Madonna; she has always been pulling
stunts like this, she has always gained notoriety for her
controversial use of religious paraphernalia in her performances.
However, what I am most shocked about in this lawsuit is the
complaint against Madonna for asking the audience to raise their
pink armbands in the air to show support for the lesbian and gay
people in the crowd. Is this something the law even needs to be
involved with? Maybe a more pertinent question is, should this
'offence' cost Madonna the $10 million she is being sued for?
The answer is quite frankly no. You cannot promote homosexuality
as a choice. Madonna will not have 'converted' the impressionable
youth in her audience to suddenly be gay. If they were gay, they
were always going to be gay.
I cannot believe that a government, who is in charge of a whole
country, can truly believe that 'gay-ness' can be 'spread' or
'promoted' like it's a lifestyle choice. Their lack of knowledge
not only angers me, but worries me. How do these people get into
It's times like this I realise how much I take for granted.
I go to Manchester Pride every year, and bar the odd religious
protester or thuggish youth, we never get much grief. I feel
relatively safe to go out with my friends and we feel assured and
confident not to hide who we are.
And this year will be no different. This weekend I will be proudly
walking through the streets of Manchester. After this wave of gay
hate coming out of Russia, instead of my usual surprising tolerance
for the religious groups at the side of the parade, banners in hand
and hate in their hearts, I think this year it will be hard for my
to hide my frustration. If everyone is entitled to their opinion,
even in a place where their 'opposition' chooses to celebrate, like
a Pride festival, why can't Pussy Riot do their alternative
'prayer' protest in the cathedral without facing
Back to the people though; my heart goes out to those who are
living in fear every day. Every day it seems as if there is another
story from Russia on this topic, and the momentum of anti-gay
prejudice only seems to be growing. However, as their hate grows,
so does our pride, and I feel that the harder Putin tries to
silence our Russian LGBT brothers and sisters, the louder they will
shout. And we, as LGBT people, no, as human beings, should help
them raise the decibels.