Russian politicians are showing themselves to be intolerant, bigoted and scared of anything approaching acceptance of gays.
With their heads firmly buried in the sand, lawmakers in that country are planning to make it illegal to hold public events that promote gay rights. Any discussion of homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality or transgenderism could land you a fine for “homosexual propaganda.” And don’t even think about kissing your same-sex partner in public.
The stated goal of the Russian legislation is to keep the nation’s youth from being “turned gay.”
The Russian reaction comes just as the United States starts to show acceptance of its GLBT community with same-sex marriage laws. Barack Obama broke new ground when he invited openly gay poet Richard Blanco to read a verse during the presidential inauguration.
It is not just bigoted but juvenile to believe that children who learn a new concept – how to play a musical instrument, how to paint a wall or what homosexuality is – will follow that path or, by contrast, that limiting exposure to these concepts will prevent them from becoming who they are. If what we understand in childhood determined our later lives, we’d have a world chock full of firemen, astronauts and people dressed in rabbit costumes dropping anvils on Tasmanian devils.
Banning thought has never worked. The thought remains, just hidden beneath the surface. Because gays were underground for generations during the era of the Soviet republics, there is fear of the unknown in modern Russia. Most people there don’t realize they probably know someone who is gay, but in the closet.
A Russian church leader quoted in one news article suggests the nation must choose between Western tolerance and “our God-protected land in purity and godliness.”
Gay Russians have always existed but only found their voice after the Communists lost control of the country. Because two things – freedom and an open gay community – arrived concurrently, small minds can conclude that Western influences prompted people to turn gay.
The suggestion that simply outlawing gay expression will keep homosexuality at bay is laughable and almost as silly as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s comment to U.S. college students in 2007.
“In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country,” Ahmadinejad said when asked about his country’s attitude towards gays.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown he will work with anyone who can help him hold onto power, including the church. Strange bedfellows indeed.
Given that polls suggest the majority of Russians think homosexuality is morally unacceptable, backing a crackdown may be shrewd politics. The attack on gays acts as a warning to other minority groups in Russia, or even musicians: speak out and you will get hammered.
Putin is unpopular within many segments of Russian society, so it should be no surprise that he would try to divide and conquer. Too bad real people have to be put down for others to feel they are superior.
Image credit: PeterGray1989 via Flickr