Gay Russians Criticize Moscow
Pride March, McKellen & Alexeyev
The QueeRussia listserv is moderated by three people and committed to open dialogue without censorship, in sharp contrast to the Gays w/o Borders listserv controlled and censored by one individual Nikolai Alexeyev, who tolerates no criticism against him or his controversial attempts at staging a pride march in Moscow.
Curious about what other gay Russians thought about the pride march effort, the many foreign activists from the UK, Europe and America either in Moscow or in the case of gay actor and activist film star Ian McKellen who issued a statement about the mayor of Moscow, I asked everyone on the QueeRussia listserv to share their views.
This very interesting and necessary message comes from young activist Vito Ivan Hernovich who lives in Brooklyn:
American activist tend to operate under this notion that there is a monolithic movement in Russia that is focused around Nikolai and Moscow. I think it is important that we realize that there are so many more working for Russian GLBT in different areas and with varying approaches.
[Correction: Ruslan lives in Southern Urals.] From Moscow Ruslan Porshnev of the progressive LGBT group blog Anti Dogma had this to say:
I find it very unlikely that there will be any statements on Alexeyev's show from Russian LGBT organizations or major human rights activists from Russia. The reason is obvious - Moscow gay pride event failed to win any Russian LGBTs' hearts and minds during all these years due to endless scandals surrounding it and its leader.
On the other hand, we had around 150 LGBT people and their allies attending the first sanctioned by local authorities Rainbow Flash mob on May 17th in St. Petersburg. The contrast between these two public LGBT actions is overwhelming.
Some other notes. First one is on the TV show. Alexeyev rushed away from the studio after a short conversation with a controversial Russian sexologist Dilya Yenikeeva. While she was asking him a legitimate but challenging question on threats she claimed to recieve from gay people after publishing her book on LGBT, Alexeyev, instead of replying to the question, started his nasty name-calling: "You go from one TV show to another and lie all the time! You wear your stupid hat and a wig! You are an effigy!".
This hysteria didn't look relevant at all. Maybe it was planned, because after Alexeyev left the stage, he waved to his foreign supporters and they immediately all got up and left also. The rest of the TV show went quite alright, when Alexeyev's proponents took his place, especially Russian feminist Zhenya Otto. She made some great clear points on reasons of homophobia and goals of LGBT public actions in Russia, which Alexeyev didn't say.
Second note is on message from Ian McKellen. I am saddened and disappointed that Sir Ian McKellen joined Alexeyev's name-calling campaign. Name-calling doesn't ever change anything, does it? Especially when it comes to local politics in countries with different culture. Do we need to fan this fire more? My answer as a gay Russian - no, thanks, Sir Ian McKellen. Please come to the "Side by Side" Russian LGBT film festival instead which is welcomed by St. Petersburg local authorities.
Third note is on Dan Choi presence in Moscow. Frankly, I do not get this point, because in Russian army there is no written prohibition for gay people to serve. There is no written "Don't ask, Don't tell" policy. There might be bullying in army if it becomes known that someone is gay (as any other bullying for any other reason which is common in Russian army, unfortunately), however it is also rumored that homosexual prostitution practiced by soldiers is widespread. So I do not really understand what point Dan Choi is trying to get across in Moscow, really.
Longtime advocate Igor Kochetkov of St. Petersburg, chairman of the Russian LGBT Network, offered these remarks:
For the sixth time in a row Moscow authorities ban Gay Pride. This is a display of unlawfulness and total disregard for human rights, the Constitution, and international obligations of Russia. Each person must be afforded the opportunity to manifest peacefully for his or her rights and dignity, regardless of what other people, who disagree with the goals of the manifestation, might think.
There are, however, other reasons for the defeat of Moscow gay pride organizers, not limited to legal nihilism of the Russian authorities. We feel that the overarching goal of any public event is to raise awareness and inform the society. People have to understand why we come out to the streets. Unfortunately, this is not the case with Moscow gay pride. Pride organizers' main point of coming out is simply that they have the right to do so.
In six years Nikolai Alekseev and his followers have failed to gain tangible support for their initiative from LGBT communities and civil society of Moscow. The handful of activists found themselves alone, faced with homophobia of the authorities and clerical organizations.
This was inevitable. Regular work for mobilization and awareness-raising of LGBT communities and civil society can lead to better results. May 17th of this year, 1000 LGBT persons in 30 cities of Russia marked the International Day Against Homophobia with street actions.
IDAHO cities and towns included Saint-Petersburg, Pskov, Murmansk, Moscow, Kazan, Naberezhnye Chelny, Ufa, Volgograd, Bryansk, Izhevsk, Penza, Rostov-on-Don, Ivanovo, Samara, Archangelsk, Saratov, Tolyatti, Orel, Yekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk, Kemerovo, Tomsk, Perm, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Tyumen, Krasnoyarsk, Khabarovsk, Krasnodar and others.