There are many pictures circulating the internet since the end of June, when Russian police arrested about 60 participants in St. Petersburg’s Gay Pride. They are shocking pictures of peaceful protesters with blood on their faces. I picked a much less violent, yet very powerful image to accompany this post. Here it is:
If you are interested in seeing the ugly face of reality though, you can check here, here and here (this is a Greek article but it has a large collection of pictures). So what is going on in Russia? In short the basic human rights of self expression and being just who you are are considered “gay propaganda”. Of course, oppression against the LGBT community is not just a Russian phenomenon. But it is sad to see other countries in Europe making some progress -even if it is really slow- when it comes to human rights and seeing Russia being stuck to the -very dark- past. Here is a summary of the law that made the arrests of the protestors legal:
“The federal law imposes hefty fines for providing information about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to minors or holding gay pride rallies. Those breaking the law will be fined up to 5,000 rubles ($156) for an individual and up to 1 million rubles ($31,000) for a company, including media organizations.” (source).
Of course, I cannot be too proud about my home country either. You can read this very interesting article and find out why Greece ranks 25th out of 49 European countries, when it comes to gay rights. Family recognition and laws and policies against discrimination were the sections where Greece had a low score. We did have a high score (100%!) in respect for freedom of assembly and expression, but it seems that we only talk and do not listen to each other. In the same report (you can find the pdf here), Russia was the least gay-friendly country in Europe.
What can we do about it?
I am a big believer of the idea that the revolution can start from our own home. Reminding our parents, teaching our kids that gay rights are BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS is essential. Not being tolerant when someone is being homophobic. Not laughing with homophobic jokes. It is the small things that matter. A close relative of ours was shocked when he heard that we are planning to talk to our future kids about love without specifying genders. He said that this way we might lead a child that otherwise would be straight, to become gay. I do not know if it has to do with the way that the previous generation were brought up. I do not know if it has to do with fear of the unknown and ignorance. But no matter what the reason behind homophobia is, we need to fight it. Fight it with a strong reasoning. Not with violence, not with irony. Educating the ones we love, our friends, our relatives can be a great help. I told this specific relative that he should be prepared for our future kid to be gay and that I was sure he would love it the same way. And of course he would. He pointed out though that his or her life would be much more difficult than that of a straight person. And then I pointed out that this is exactly why we need to fight homophobia. So that gay kids and straight kids can enjoy the same quality of life. Without fear of bullying, violence and discrimination. So that my friends can hold hands on the street without people staring at them or throwing rocks at them.
The other thing that we can do about it is be more vocal. Apart from talking about it to our friends and family, we can start writing about it, sharing it, tweeting about it etc. And we can make an effort to be physically there in gay rallies and support LGBT organizations in any way we can. It is about human lives, it is about equality. Homophobia is as bad as sexism and racism (and allow me to add speciesism) and it should be viewed as such.
P.S.: I am sorry for the intense tone of this post, but this is a topic very dear to me as it concerns people who are really important in my life. Even if it didn’t, I (hope I) would be equally mad.