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Harvey Fierstein On Why The World Is Ignoring Russia's Anti-Gay 'Scapegoating'
RUSSIA’S president, Vladimir V. Putin, has declared war on homosexuals. So far, the world has mostly been silent.
On July 3, Mr. Putin signed a law banning the adoption of Russian-born children not only to gay couples but also to any couple or single parent living in any country where marriage equality exists in any form.
A few days earlier, just six months before Russia hosts the 2014 Winter Games, Mr. Putin signed a law allowing police officers to arrest tourists and foreign nationals they suspect of being homosexual, lesbian or “pro-gay” and detain them for up to 14 days. Contrary to what the International Olympic Committee says, the law could mean that any Olympic athlete, trainer, reporter, family member or fan who is gay — or suspected of being gay, or just accused of being gay — can go to jail.
Earlier in June, Mr. Putin signed yet another antigay bill, classifying “homosexual propaganda” as pornography. The law is broad and vague, so that any teacher who tells students that homosexuality is not evil, any parents who tell their child that homosexuality is normal, or anyone who makes pro-gay statements deemed accessible to someone underage is now subject to arrest and fines. Even a judge, lawyer or lawmaker cannot publicly argue for tolerance without the threat of punishment.
Finally, it is rumored that Mr. Putin is about to sign an edict that would remove children from their own families if the parents are either gay or lesbian or suspected of being gay or lesbian. The police would have the authority to remove children from adoptive homes as well as from their own biological parents.
Not surprisingly, some gay and lesbian families are already beginning to plan their escapes from Russia.
Why is Mr. Putin so determined to criminalize homosexuality? He has defended his actions by saying that the Russian birthrate is diminishing and that Russian families as a whole are in danger of decline. That may be. But if that is truly his concern, he should be embracing gay and lesbian couples who, in my world, are breeding like proverbial bunnies. These days I rarely meet a gay couple who aren’t raising children.
And if Mr. Putin thinks he is protecting heterosexual marriage by denying us the same unions, he hasn’t kept up with the research. Studies from San Diego State University compared homosexual civil unions and heterosexual marriages in Vermont and found that the same-sex relationships demonstrate higher levels of satisfaction, sexual fulfillment and happiness. (Vermont legalized same-sex marriages in 2009, after the study was completed.)
Mr. Putin also says that his adoption ban was enacted to protect children from pedophiles. Once again the research does not support the homophobic rhetoric. About 90 percent of pedophiles are heterosexual men.
Mr. Putin’s true motives lie elsewhere. Historically this kind of scapegoating is used by politicians to solidify their bases and draw attention away from their failing policies, and no doubt this is what’s happening in Russia. Counting on the natural backlash against the success of marriage equality around the world and recruiting support from conservative religious organizations, Mr. Putin has sallied forth into this battle, figuring that the only opposition he will face will come from the left, his favorite boogeyman.
Mr. Putin’s campaign against lesbian, gay and bisexual people is one of distraction, a strategy of demonizing a minority for political gain taken straight from the Nazi playbook. Can we allow this war against human rights to go unanswered? Although Mr. Putin may think he can control his creation, history proves he cannot: his condemnations are permission to commit violence against gays and lesbians. Last week a young gay man was murdered in the city of Volgograd. He was beaten, his body violated with beer bottles, his clothing set on fire, his head crushed with a rock. This is most likely just the beginning.
Nevertheless, the rest of the world remains almost completely ignorant of Mr. Putin’s agenda. His adoption restrictions have received some attention, but it has been largely limited to people involved in international adoptions.
This must change. With Russia about to hold the Winter Games in Sochi, the country is open to pressure. American and world leaders must speak out against Mr. Putin’s attacks and the violence they foster. The Olympic Committee must demand the retraction of these laws under threat of boycott.
In 1936 the world attended the Olympics in Germany. Few participants said a word about Hitler’s campaign against the Jews. Supporters of that decision point proudly to the triumph of Jesse Owens, while I point with dread to the Holocaust and world war. There is a price for tolerating intolerance.
Harvey Fierstein is an actor and playwright.
- Exactly, this needs to be heard.
- Please share this article with everyone you know.
- Makes Alabama look like San Francisco
- "Fuck you on your grave!"
Get em GURL!!!!
- Actually the campaign is blaming gays for Russia's population decline, when the real culprit is vodka abuse, which Putin has no intention of doing anything about.
- "Fuck you on your grave!"
That's my new go-to line. I hope he inspires people.
- R4, as an Alabamian, yes.
- R7 I *so* want that on a T-shirt!
- But more importantly -- who's on their magazine covers???
- Russians are subhuman, alcoholic pieces of trash. I've had the misfortune of having to go there on business a few times and have never encountered a more garbagey group of people in my life.
- I fucking love and admire Harvey Fierstein so much. To get out there and say this -- and it needs to be fucking said -- when so many gays are trying to be "Oh, we gotta be polite and ask for straight whitey to give us our rights." Fuck that shit. Go, Harvey!!!
- Straight whitey? ?
- r13, don't be so obtuse. Who's in charge of the world? Straight white men.
- This is being ignored
Part of it is there are no formal enemies now, so nothing is really criticized. And the unspoken desire by all in the globalism economy is a race to the bottom - this is to be achieved by an economic and social race to the bottom.
- You GO, girl!!!
- Perhaps Russia just wants to be loved. Is that so wrong?
- It's sad that an ex-KGB man who has developed into a powerful billionaire and has had his face operated à la Silvio Berlusconi to make himself look younger is using an innocent minority as a tool to try and stay in the power. Practically the whole Russian government seems to be corrupt, and Putin and Medvedev themselves have probably stolen their billions from the state. Putin is estimated to have net worth of about 70 billion usd.
I personally believe that if all the corruption came out in the public there would be a revolution in Russia. I guess all these gay propaganda laws are a smoke screen to try to unite "normal" Russians against one evil, while keeping the government out of the public eye. I mean probably everybody knows in Russia that government is corrupt but it would take some massive news to make people protest the current government. I'm pretty sure the unrest in the Arab countries has had Putin shit his pants, and I think that anti-gay laws are one reaction to that.
Russia, a sad fucking country. And one thing even sadder is that nobody knows what would happen if Putin's regime came to an end. His power is keeping the country together and without it the collapse might cause some really bad situations between the different groups living in Russia.
- Good article but OP has a misleading title-Fierstein never explains "why the world is ignoring Russia' anti-gay scapegoating". He mentions they are ignoring it, but not why.
- I wish the European Union would threaten a boycott and make plans to hold their own winter games in a EU nation.
- Some people are beginning to wake up. Many gay bars are taking on a boycott of Russian vodka.
- The Russian gay-bashing is getting more attention.
- In Hollywood, the leader of a gay rights organization once relayed the story of a very brief visit from a visiting Soviet diplomat. Gay life has always flourished in the USSR but was extremely underground. Gays were heavily recruited for the secret police as they were believed to be easily blackmailed and therefore controlled.
With an almost universal rate of alcoholism and physical violence in Russia, plus many living in dire poverty and thus in extremely crowded conditions, children are seen as an extreme disadvantage. This is despite the common view from young women that "a man need only be better looking than a monkey."
- When Religion and Government merge you get these atrocities. No doubt our US teabaggers and assorted brand of Xtian fundies are collecting tips
- Bottom line: it's terrible to be a gay person in Russia, and LGBT folks lucky enough not to be living there are stuck helplessly watching as Moscow becomes increasingly hostile to gays. And that anger is manifesting itself in calls to boycott the 2014 Olympic games, which will take place in the southern Russian city of Sochi, as well as smaller, more accessible moves, like telling gay bars to dump their Russian vodka.
- The face of the Russian vodka boycott is Dan Savage, he man known for permanently attaching Rick Santorum's name to frothy feces and a force behind the It Gets Better anti-bullying project. Savage explains that vodka is a good place to start:
[italic]Boycott or no boycott there is something we can do right here, right now, in Seattle and other US cities to show our solidarity with Russian queers and their allies and to help to draw international attention to the persecution of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, trans people, and straight allies in Putin's increasingly fascistic Russia: DUMP RUSSIAN VODKA.[/italic]
- Sidetrack, one of Chicago's biggest gay bars published an announcement quoted in the Huffington Post.
Sidetrack cannot support a brand so associated with Russia at a time when Russia is implementing (against strong world criticism) its anti-gay law that bans gay "propaganda". The Stoli story is complicated by decades of lawsuits whereby the actual Government of Russia has laid claim to the Stolichnaya brand name. Very soon the Russian government itself, which bans positive portrayals of LGBT people, may be the beneficiary of the goodwill earned by Stoli's distributors and bars over the years.
Another Chicago bar has propped up a sign that states, "proudly serving non-Russian vodkas."
- Stoli vodka is made from wheat grown in Russia.
- The vodka thing might work. But who cares diddly about the Winter Olympics?
- I'm glad Harvey took the time to write this.
- Gay activists have been sending dildos to Vladimir.
- Harvey is still working to get more attention on this topic.
- Love Harvey anyway - but REALLY love him for this.
- Yep, R15. Very sadly.
- Of course it's right to speak out against Russia's anti-gay legislation but it's better to get the details right. No, the law does not mean that any Olympic athlete, family member, trainer, etc. even just suspected of being gay will be arrested.
Secondly, it's not really Putin who is behind the "gay propaganda" legislation but crazy members of the Russian parliament who introduced it as a private member's bill. One analysis is that Putin himself does not really care about the so-called "propaganda" issue, but he has to go along with the general mood. It's nothing to do with targetting a minority to distract from his own weaknesses and failures.
The ban on adoptions by foreign gay couples comes in the wake of the introduction of same-sex marriage in western countries. This is insipred more by the generic anti-western rhetoric, which paints the west as some great decadent devil, and the general tension that is cultivated with the US. The kind of foreign government condemnation that Fierstein is demanding will only feed into this mindset and strengthen it, it won't do anything to make the situation of gays in Russia better.
Why won't the world speak out? Well, sad to say, a huge chunk of the world shares these Russian attitudes. Beyond that, western governments do speak out on these issues, they just don't come out and make grand speeches (aside from the excellent statement by the Canadian foreign minister). In Europe we already have extremely strained relations with the Russians, I'm not sure a public press release condemning the "gay propaganda" law would be of any use except to exacerbate the tensions even more. It could also make the situation of gays in Russia even more precarious, as they will be presented as being allied with this evil west which is attacking Russia and dictating to this free and sovereign country what its laws should be.
If foreign citizens and, especially, athletes were directly threatened by any of this legislation then you would hear public condemnations from governments. No government will want their potential medal winners and representatives to be barred from competing.
And, no, it's nothing like the Berlin Olympics of 1936. I find comments like that extremely offensive.
There won't be a boycott of these Games, and there shouldn't be. But all sorts of other protests by citizens, targetting Russian products or held outside Russian embassies, should be stepped up. The coming Olympics are a chance to embarass Russia as much as we can. Putin wants the Games to show that Russia is a strong, important country, a modern country with great infrastructure, can organise major events, show the rest of the world what wonderful things they can do, etc. They completely misunderstand what gay rights mean in the west, as evidenced by this stupid phrase they are coming out with about "non-traditional sexual orientations".
- "The World" isn't doing a damned thing about this because Russia is on the UN fucking Security Council; the rest of the Council needs this tundra-covered, Vodka-swilling, moose-fucking (but god forbid it's a gay moose) backwater country's votes on "more important" issues, such as the Middle East, oil, North Korea, etc. That's why Putin is allowed to get away with murder, literally.
Never mind the fact that the country still has thousands of nukes...and a power-hungry, narcissistic, greedy psychopath who's possibly crazy enough to push the button.
It definitely appears to be building up to a Nazi-like regime. Sadly (and sickeningly), things will only get worse.
- Don't stop now, Harvey. People are beginning to notice.
- Good message, but he still needs to apologize to Jodie Foster.
- r38, what did Harvey say or do to Jodie that he needs to apologise?
- In a bold statement sent to Queer Nation, 23 leading LGBT Russian activists and their supporters called for a broad boycott of Russian products and the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
“International support is essential for the survival of Russia's LGBT community right now,” the July 28 statement read. “We appreciate and support all attempts to let the Russian authorities know that homophobic and inhumane laws will not go unnoticed and that Vladimir Putin's regime will not get away with antigay violence.”
The statement is an unambiguous endorsement of the “Dump Russian Vodka” campaign called for by Queer Nation, Dan Savage, Cleve Jones and other leading LGBT activists worldwide.
The statement also endorses actor Harvey Fierstein’s impassioned call in the New York Times for a boycott of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
- Vladimir Putin, the man our previous president lovingly nicknamed "Pootie Poot", approved legislation that hands out two-week jail sentences for any tourist [bold]suspected[/bold] of being gay.
Four Dutch tourists were recently arrested for "suspicion of promoting homosexuality to children."
- "Time" magazine is on the story. It keeps building.
If you're for OR against the Stoli boycott, just keep posting about it. That's what gets attention.
- No doubt Harvey was pleased to see the President address the GLBT situation in Russia last night when interviewed on "The Tonight Show."
- NPR report this morning says our State Dept. is going to meet with Russians to discuss their treatment of the gay community.
- Officials in the German government are talking of boycott. That must make the Olympic committee very uneasy.
- Stephen Fry is doing similarly great work on this in the UK. I hope they keep it up.