Thursday, September 06, 2012

Russian Lesbian Writer Fired:
Ignored Putin's Flying Cranes Stunt

 My history with out Russian lesbian journalist and public intellectual Masha Gessen, pictured, stretches back the late 1980s when we were involved with several East Coast chapters of ACT UP, when she and her family resided in the United States.

In the early 1990s, with the Soviet Union still standing, if wobbly, she brought pioneering Russian gay activist Roman Kalinin to America for a speaking tour. We collaborated on Kalinin's visit to Washington, DC, including an event at the old Lambda Rising Bookstore.

Since her return to Russia, I've followed her journalistic career and criticism of Vladimir Putin, admiring her courage in speaking truth to a terrifying power known for killing political opponents and assassinating reporters.

Gessen is making international headlines for refusing to cover another stunt of Putin's, pictured. The Moscow Times has the details:

The Vokrug Sveta (Around the World) travel monthly terminated its contract with Gessen seven months after she got the job because, she said, she refused to send a reporter to cover an expedition where Putin would release some endangered Siberian cranes.

"I'm leaving Vokrug Sveta #thankputinforthat," Gessen wrote on her Twitter on Monday.

The official reason for the contract termination is "a disagreement over the separation of powers between the editorial and the management," she told Kommersant-FM. She said the management had asked her to send a reporter to cover the expedition but she had objected.

Siberian cranes, known for their snow-white feathers, are the most critically endangered of the world's 15 crane species, with only 3,200 birds thought to exist in the wild. Gessen said in the interview that she did want to write about Siberian cranes — but without Putin.

Gessen, who authored a Putin biography titled "The Man Without a Face," is a renowned critic of the Kremlin and a columnist for The New York Times.

Googling for news of Gessen that mention either gay or lesbian, as in she is out about her lesbianism and that a lesbian journalist has been fired thanks to Putin, turns up zero results. There are dozens of English-language article about getting sacked, with none reporting on the L word part of her identity. Her blog at the New York Times site also omits mention of her being a lesbian, and so far she has not written about her firing on that blog.

Obscuring Gessen's out lesbian status in the the widespread coverage is troubling, a point I would hope to find agreement on with her.

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