What is to Be Done About
US/Russian Gay Relations?
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.
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:
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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?
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!
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 email@example.com http://community.livejournal.com/ru_antidogma
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 firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.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/