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Russian Gay Activist's Plea: 'Get Us the Hell Out of Here'

Masha Gessen is a Moscow-based writer, journalist and activist who's been speaking out in recent months on Russia's anti-gay propaganda law. Though she's an American citizen, she's from Russia and has lived in Russia for many years, raising three children with her lesbian partner, a Russian citizen. Gessen hoped Western pressure in recent months would help change the course of Russia's crackdown on its LGBT citizens, but now she believes that that's not going to happen, and that it's time to for Russian LGBT people to flee the country to escape what she says has now become "all-out war" against LGBT people in Russia. And she's calling on the United States to allow political asylum for LGBT Russians, and for LGBT activists here to focus on making that happen.

Yesterday, after months of rumors, a bill was introduced in the Russian Duma that compares LGBT people to alcoholics and drug abusers and would deny LGBT Russians custody of their own biological or adopted children.

Gessen had already sent her oldest son overseas, fearful that he'd be snatched by the government.

"My situation is that my partner and I are raising three kids, one of whom is adopted and two of whom are biological," Gessen explained to me yesterday on my radio program in an interview from Moscow. (Listen to clips of the interview below.) "In June the Russian parliament banned adoption by same-sex couples. It was a fair assumption that the law could be used to annul the adoption of our oldest son, so we made the decision to send our oldest son out of the country immediately."

But now, if the new law passes -- the adoption law passed in four days -- Gessen's biological children could be taken too.

"I had a horrible conversation with my daughter this morning," Gessen said. "I got the news of this bill while I was sending her off to school. I said, 'They've finally filed the bill.' Obviously we've talked about this at length in the family, and we expected something like this would show up. And she's 11. She sat there thinking. After about 15 minutes she said, 'Can I stay with my other mom if they take me away from you?' She can't grasp this, that they're trying to outlaw our whole family, that there isn't the option of going with one or the other."

Gessen said the crackdown on LGBT people in Russia has intensified, despite international outcry, and that LGBT Russians are "living through an all-out hatred campaign that's been unleashed by the Kremlin."

"You turn on the television, you see somebody highly placed," she explained, "talking about whether the homosexual 'propaganda' law is enough, or if we need to take it further. That sounds like a call to violence. It's taken as a call to violence, sometimes operating in many cities, in the very center of Moscow, in the trendiest of bars, where people have been getting beaten up, and the police do not interfere. Anti-gay violence is seen as par for the course, and if you don't want violence, remove the gays, not the perpetrators."

It's a situation in which even longtime LGBT activists may be corrupted or coerced through old Soviet tactics designed to destroy their reputations and diminish their influence. In recent weeks activists in Russia and the West have been discussing the bizarre behavior of the well-known Russian gay activist Nikolai Alexeyev, who had what was called a Twitter meltdown, sending out tweets attacking other activists and making ugly anti-Semitic remarks, among other strange pronouncements (including that he was quitting activism). At the same time, his home had been raided by the police.

"I have great respect for some of the work Nikolai Alexeyev has done in the past," Gessen said, offering her beliefs on what might have happened to him. "And I have had disagreements with him on many occasions in the past. What I do know is that he's given every sign of working for the Kremlin right now. Whether he was coerced or blackmailed into doing that through threat of arrest, which exists, through the search of his apartment, which occurred, or seduced by money, at this point he's being used as a spokesperson for the Kremlin." (Alexeyev declined a request for an interview.)

Gessen believes that the events of recent days, and Putin's interview with the Associated Press this week, in which he claimed that the charges of homophobia were blown up and that Russia can't be homophobic because "Tchaikovsky was gay" and "we all loved his music," show that criticism from outside is not going to change anything inside Russia.

"At this point, with the fact that they're proposing this law during the G20 Summit, it shows that no Western pressure is going to keep Russia from passing anti-gay laws, from endangering the lives of lesbian and gay people, from endangering our families," she said. Gessen is fortunate that, as an American citizen, with the Defense of Marriage Act now struck down, she can move to the U.S. with her partner, whom she can sponsor for a green card. But she knows that that's not the case for the vast majority of LGBT Russians.

"It's high time to talk about asylum," she said. "The only way at this point that the U.S. can help Russian gays and lesbians is get us the hell out of here."

by Anonymousreply 2109/07/2013

Petitioning President Obama

The U.S. Government: Grant Asylum to Russian LGBT citizens

To: President Obama The United States Congress The Russian government through its recent laws regarding LGBT propaganda has encouraged it's citizens to target LGBT individuals as less than human, deserving of hatred, scorn, torture and even death.

LGBT Russian citizens are more in danger today as a result of these laws and steps must be taken to insure their safety. Please allow them to seek asylum here in the United States and encourage our allies to do the same.

Sincerely, [Your name]

sign petition to President Obama at link below

by Anonymousreply 109/06/2013

I would say maybe the HRC could get involved with raising money to get them out, but it would all end up lining someone's pockets or funding a lavish party.

by Anonymousreply 209/06/2013

Casting couch for amnesty...

by Anonymousreply 309/06/2013

Move these fucking Olympics out of Russia. These human rights violations, brutality and violence are unacceptable.

by Anonymousreply 409/06/2013

Why should I care about Russia? That's THEIR problem, not mine.

Just like Syria and the massacre of innocent children is their problem and not mine.

What goes around...

by Anonymousreply 509/06/2013

r5, do you care about other gay people?

by Anonymousreply 609/06/2013

R5=what is wrong with the world

by Anonymousreply 709/06/2013

Fuck bombing Syria. Airlift Russian gays into the U.S.

by Anonymousreply 809/06/2013

Yes, but rescue only the cute young Russian gay men.

Nobody cares about fats, femmes or uglies or bulldyke babushkas.

by Anonymousreply 909/06/2013

Our future twink porn might depend on saving them. Although once they're in the U.S. I don't know if they'll make a video for a pair of jeans anymore.

by Anonymousreply 1009/06/2013

R5 ask the women of syria if they want to live under strict sharia law.

Ask the gays as welll....

by Anonymousreply 1109/06/2013

Russian Olympics

by Anonymousreply 1209/07/2013

I believe R5 was being ironic / sarcastic.

The IQ of the average poster has fallen off a cliff in the past few years.

by Anonymousreply 1309/07/2013

[quote]I would say maybe the HRC could get involved with raising money to get them out, but it would all end up lining someone's pockets or funding a lavish party.

link, because that's bullshit. The HRC had done more than just about any other gay organization in the US.

by Anonymousreply 1409/07/2013

Screen for the most clever and productive, then send them to Detroit on a well-supervised path to citizenship.

by Anonymousreply 1509/07/2013

Should we get all the gays out of the Middle East? Why isn't anyone screaming to save them?! Face it, none of you actually give a fuck. Russia is fashionable at the moment.

by Anonymousreply 1609/07/2013

[quote]Face it, none of you actually give a fuck. Russia is fashionable at the moment.

No doubt you fail to notice that the President of the United States is in Russia this week, R16. If you can get your mind off Miley Cyrus for a moment you could comprehend why half the planet is watching the treatment of gays in Russia at this time.

Of course, your interest in what's being served at McDonald's prevents you from realizing the Winter Olympics are scheduled for Russia; another reason the world notes a MAJOR upcoming event in a land passing homophobic laws.

by Anonymousreply 1709/07/2013

No more Russians. We've got more than enough. And russians will lie and say they're gay in order to get out.

by Anonymousreply 1809/07/2013

Let the Russian gays go to European and South American countries and Canada. The US has done its bit for Russia by taking in hundreds of thousands of them

Time for everyone else to step up to the plate. All countries besides the US that allow same sex marriage should take their share of Russians now.

by Anonymousreply 1909/07/2013

I wish the 2014 olympics would be canceled just to teach Russia a lesson but that won't happen, which will only embolden the country. What I think might happen is there could be a pro-gay demonstration during the games that will get broken up with many arrests, and the story/fallout will end up overshadowing the Games. In the end, it might be a good thing as this will embarrass Russia. All the media will be focused on Russia during the Olympics.

by Anonymousreply 2009/07/2013


by Anonymousreply 2109/07/2013
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