Wednesday, March 09, 2011


What is to Be Done About
US/Russian Gay Relations?

dear friends,

i started a small listserv over the weekend comprised of california/usa and russian people of all stripes, and the best inadvertent wonderful thing to come out of nikalai's disastrous visit to america, is finally interacting with lots of other gay russians. the debate's been heated and charged-up and nasty at times, but one factor is so clear even stevie wonder can see it: the dialogue between american and russian gays must continue.

the russians have proposed below a new listserv for gay russian issues, and i'd like to see this discussion move over to the Gays w/o Borders listserv here:
http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/gayswithoutborders/ . the current big problem with that listserv, and it must be addressed in the very near future, is that nikolai is the only controller for the GWB listserv. that will change.

here are several of the messages from my personal listserv over the past 2 days, and i believe they show part of the breadth and serious concern many of us have about US/russian relations and global gay solidarity. my apologies for the inconsistent layout and sizing.


PART 1

good morning all,

i just got off the phone with bill wilson, longtime photographer for the gay community in san francisco, who was at last night's meeting with nikolai at a cafe in the castro district. bill says at least 24-25 people showed up, much talk was about the fight to stage a gay march in moscow, there was no disruption of the meeting, among other things including a question and answer period. bill took lots of photos, which you can view here:
http://www.billwilsonphotos.com/photoalbums/2011-03-08NikolaiAlekseevSF/index.html .

thank you, bill, for attending the meeting in the castro and sharing your photos with everyone.

also, two gay russians, ruslan of the 'anti dogma' site, http://community.livejournal.com/ru_antidogma/980589.html?style=mine#comments , has via email introduced me to his lesbian friend polina from saint petersburg. very nice to finally hear from a lesbian russian! polina can be contacted via email: polina@comingoutspb.ru

ruslan and polina are proposing one idea to keep communication open and flowing: a new listserv. their emails are below explaining why they are proposing this, and also giving more info about them and their work.

my reactions to their idea see good and some not so good points to their proposal. on the good side, i REALLY want more dialogue with gay and lesbian russians beyond nikolai and the new listserv would keep that dialogue going. however, on the not so good side, i am already flooded with enough emails from gay and HIV/AIDS groups and listservs that i hesitate to join another listserv.

to offer a friendly amendment for consideration, i would like to see the gays without borders listserv, http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/gayswithoutborders/ , embrace and incorporate more russians and dialogue. of course, there is the matter that right now, and it must be changed, ONLY nikolai controls the GWB listserv, and as we saw last week when he tossed off two people from the listserv he can be a dictator about running GWB's yahoo group and it is VERY unwise to have just one person in charge of any community listserv.

can we find a collaborative way to build on existing listservs or web sites for continued communication with and about gay russia? i hope so, and whether we set up a new gay russia listserv or incorporate gay russia issues beyond nikolai into GWB or some place else on the web, i want to be part of that effort.

many thanks for ruslan and polina for making their excellent proposal. what do you think of their ideas?

michael

mpetrelis@aol.com

Dear all,

My name is Polina Savchenko, I am assistant general manager of the St. Petersburg LGBT organization Coming Out (www.comingoutspb.ru) and project manager for the Russian LGBT Network (www.lgbtnet.ru).

I'd also like to express that I am deeply sorry about Mr. Alexeyev's actions and words. It is sad to me that Nikolai seems to be representing Russia in the West, when it should definitely NOT be the case. There is a deep and fundamental LGBT human rights work being done in Russia: there are grassroots organizations that focus on mobilizing and empowering the LGBT community, educate the society about SOGI, lobby and advocate for LGBT interest with the government.

They use methods, which, although far less visible to the media and the western world than the attempts at Gay Pride parades, may be far more effective in the long run in the Russian context. The important thing is, their end-beneficiary is the LGBT community and they make it a point to understand its needs.

It is in large part our own fault, our lack of experience maybe, that we do not know how to better inform the international community about our work. We are working at improving our communications, and it is slowly having effect. Unfortunate fact is that the media is always more interested in a loud story, so it's an uphill battle for the Russian organizations that do not use provocations as a method of work.

If the international community has any suggestions about how Russia can communicate better, we would love to take your advice. I like very much Ruslan's suggestion regarding a new mailing list for English speaking activist from Russia, USA, and Europe.

Thank you for listening, and best wishes!

Polina Savchenko
polina@comingoutspb.ru

Dear All,

Thinking about this, a great idea have crossed my mind. It's obvious
that in English-speaking world there is a huge lack of information on
what's going on with LGBT in Russia. Over the last years Mr. Alexeyev
managed to establish a monopoly on such informaiton - and this is
totally unacceptable. As far as I understand, Alexeyev founded a
mailing list called "Gays without borders" but he didn't let anyone in
it and tried to empose censorship there.

My suggestion is that we create a new mailing list for
English-speaking activists from USA, Europe and Russia, for example on
GoogleGroups, to avoid such disasters like Alexeyev's visit. We can
exchange information, reply to queries, etc, provide information for
interested foreign bloggers, activists and journalists.

I have visited USA in May 2009 and participated as a speaker in LGBT
"Equality Forum" held in Philadelphia. I went there with Polina
Savchenko - international programmes coordinator of St-Petersburg
based LGTB org "Vykhod" (Coming Out, http://www.comingoutspb.ru). Me
and Polina met many people there (including scholars) who were very
interested in Russia and quite surpised also that there is life
besides Alexeyev's pride.

Please tell me what you think.

Regards,
Ruslan Porshnev 
s0ulariss@gmail.com
http://community.livejournal.com/ru_antidogma
  
PART 2

Don't think there is a particular need in an additional listserv for Russian 
LGBT issues in English language. For those fluent in Russian, there is 
a very good neutral channel "LGBT Grani": 
http://community.livejournal.com/lgbt_grani/ 

For those able to read in English only, the existing listservs should 
suffice. The intention behind GWB was exactly to unite the groups and 
individuals from various countries and to create one public space for 
grassroot activists. Nikolay certainly understands that this is a joint 
project and he cannot turn off people just at his own choice. We need 
additional moderators, though. 

As for the Russian LGBT activists, I can only warn against taking side 
for anybody particular. There is much sectarianism involved, and those 
without language knowledges are seen as fair game for misinformation. 

Viktor Zimmerman
viktor.zimmermann@gayhomeland.org 
Cologne, Germany

Dear Victor,

It is good that you touch the subject of sectarianism and taking sides.

Unfortuntely, the situation has come to a point where you indeed have
to take a side. You need to decide wether you support endless
Alexeyev's calls to "repress" other LGBT activists with other views,
who are "slaves and masturbators who do not deserve gay pride "? Do
you support Alexeyev's constant threats to publish lots of
"compromising materials" on them, etc. Do you support a self-confessed
Russian nationlist which Alexeyev is? It is a big surprise!

Russian LGBT community right now is divided into two groups: the
smaller one - Moscow-based - employs sectarian and discatorship
approach and has a very small number of supporters who still "believe
in Alexeyev's pride" and wraps their heads around it, seeing nothing
and nobody else.

The other group is busy with making social changes by serving the
community and pursuing a much wider agenda which is aimed at general
public as well, i.e. making a big LGBT cinema festival "Side by Side",
making "Queer festival", working with parents and friends of LGBT,
conducting non-scandalous public street actions and public debates,
creating psychological and legal support services for LGBT not only in
Moscow and St-Petersburg, but in other regions as well. This group has
a lot more potential to stage a real community-based pride (or Russian
analogue of it, tailored to Russian culture) instead of 15 people
running on heels every year  from police all over Moscow.

By the way, I do not know your reasons for saying why LGBT-Grani is
neutral. It is very far from that - having an agenda of "whitewashing"
and "bleaching" Alexeyev all the time and censoring other views. What
LGBT Grani does - it copies and pastes articles directly from
GayRussia without providing other points. And I've never seen in my
life GayRussia admitting their mistakes or taking a critical review of
their work, engaging in a meaningful debate with other LGBT groups.
Have you?  What is your definition of neutral?

Ruslan Porshnev
s0ulariss@gmail.com

This is my two cents: As for Nicolai  Alekseev, there are two things to say about him. One is a great thing.  He is fighting against Russian homophobia. The second is a bad thing. He  is an anti-Semite. I wrote two articles about him before. Links are  below.
http://www.advocate.com/Politics/Commentary/Michael_Lucas_on_Russias_Struggle_to_Demonstrate_Pride/
As you can see, I was a big supporter. I will always support those people who are speaking against homophobia. About the anti-Semitic charges, he is definitely an anti-Semite. A banal, boring Russian anti-Semite. I never knew about the extent of that before. I just knew as a rule that Russians are anti-Semitic and the nature of their anti-Semitism is very primitive and grotesque. They purport that Jews are the rich mafia that want to take over the world. They share the notion that you can't make it to any high position in America unless you are a Jew. But what is particularly disturbing and disappointing is that the very person who's support comes from the West hates America. In one line on his blog he praises Muslims, people that would kill him much faster than Russian homophobes would, and slanders the Jews, people that for the most part stand for and share his beliefs.
He finished his own career. He traveled the US and enjoyed support here but there is still a Russian anti-Semite in him. This one just happens to be a gay one. I am sure all he understood from his experience is that the Jewish mafia in America ganged up on him.
Yes, it's true. Russian gays do not like him. But this is their own loss. Those idiots did not understand that it's a good thing that someone is speaking for them. Yes, he does live part time with his boyfriend in Geneva. So what? Whenever I talk to Russians about him, the accusations are always the same: he's a self-promoter who is doing it all for his own interests. This is ridiculous. Of course he's a self-promoter. He should be. This is the only way he can promote his anti-homophobic agenda. If no one knows him, how will he be able to fight homophobia? You cannot fight and take actions without being vocal about it and be in the public eye. It is also impossible to fight homophobia without the support of the West. You will simply be killed by Russian authorities. The only reason they didn't kill him is because they know there will be too much bad press surrounding his death.
I don't know what the other questions that Russians are raising are, but their are not concerned about his anti-Semitic comments. It's just jealousy that he is recognized internationally and that he freely travels to the West and has a place in Geneva. So that's what I have to say. He knew he did something wrong, which is why he deleted the blogs. He is trying to twist the facts to avoid the accusations, claiming that he was wrongly translated. He was translated perfectly well.

Michael Lucas
michael@lucasentertainment.com
New York, USA

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am a Russian. What is important to know about Nikolai is that he is very publicity-oriented. Some of his anti-American and anti-Semitic statements are deliberately calculated to provoke discussions and even intense disagreements with the ultimate goal of attracting publicity. Many of the things he says he doesn't even mean. His intense focus on publicity and visibility contrasts sharply with the tactics of many of his detractors within the Russian LGBT community who prefer to avoid visibility at any cost. For example, they prefer to watch "queer-oriented movies" in their basements and have "seminars" and "lectures" among supporters, behind closed doors. In other words, they preach to the choir and their "struggle" for equality is a joke. We need to criticize Nikolai for all his shortcomings but we also have to realize that he has done more for the LGBT community in Russia than all other Russian activists taken together.