Friday, July 26, 2013

To Russia… with no love…

The following is the opinion of Kaylia Metcalfe, staff writer and BOD member of GCV. The views in this article belong to the author herself and do not reflect the views of Gay Central Valley, its staff, its other Board of Directors, or its sponsors.

Are you aware of what’s going on in Russia?

First there was the new law that made it illegal to promote the LGBT “lifestyle” to youth… meaning that no public displays of LGBT affection or support (no flags, no holding hands, no festival, no information). Here is a great break down of the new law, the predictable response of the people, the even more predictable response by the police... and a fun twist of pointing out that on the day this new law was passed President Putin announced his divorce.

Then the Russian government announced that no LGBT couple would be allowed to adopt… even if that couple were in the US. So, Russian babies who are up for adoption can’t be adopted by foreign LGBT families.

This is all horrible enough.. but now this.

Russian skin heads are using social media to lure LGBT youth to “dates” where they are brutalizedsometimes In Public With No Consequences.

Be careful, that link is very disturbing.

Let’s get back to the law though… the new Russian law basically makes it impossible for LGBT tourists or even straight allies to visit the country without the threat of jail time or worse.

In fact, it was reported last week that four Dutch documentary film makers were arrested in Russia for daring to make a film about Russia’s LGBT policies. (They were not the first to be arrested under the new laws, but they were the first foreigners.)

And Russia is going to host the Olympics next year.

Of course, the International Olympic Committee has said that they \ “received assurances from the highest level of the government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games.”

But do we believe them? Obviously they have a vested interest in keeping the games going... and US media corporations have an interest in the US taking part so that they can sell ad time during the days and days of coverage.

For example, Comcast paid $4.38 billion in 2011 to win the rights for NBC and other properties to air the winter and summer Games from 2014 to 2020. (source)

In light of both the Russian anti-LGBT laws as well as the Snowden debacle, some advocacy groups are calling for the US and other LGBT friendly countries to boycott the 2014 Olympics.

This wouldn't be the first time such a thing would happen. In 1980 we boycotted the Olympics (which were being held in Moscow) because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

(Of course this led to Russia and other countries boycotting the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics for security concerns and flat out “tit for tat”)

Back to the present: people on social media sites love to hysterically start clamoring for boycotts. Recently there have been several sites and places who are refusing to sell Russian made products… most notable gay bars declining to sell Russian made booze.

The problem with that, of course, is that you aren't really hurting the government by not buying a product that, it turns out, isn't actually made in Russia and is made by a company who actively supports the LGBT community.

Let’s be clear: boycotting is a valuable method to show your disapproval. Our money is a powerful tool and we have every right to decide where and when and how much to spend it.

But to boycott the Olympics? To derive our own athletes the chance to compete and showcase their talents… to wash away years of training and dedicated hard work?

Maybe there is a better way to draw attention to the plight of LGBT people in Russia.

Maybe we need an act of civil disobedience on such a grand scale that the world will notice.

Imagine a sea of rainbow flags during the opening and closing ceremonies. Imagine rainbow patches sewed onto uniforms alongside corporate logos. Imagine a gold medal winner hoisting the medal with a rainbow bracelet. Imagine if the swelling of support was impossible to ignore… imagine being a Russian LGBT youth and knowing that while your own country might consider you a degenerate, might condone labeling you a pedophile and hunting you down… that there is hope. That it can get better. That others have survived and support you.

Imagine the hope that could be inspired.

This isn't my original idea, mind you… a wonderful article (found here) makes a much more compelling case.

But regardless of what happens (and one can only hope that Russia might bow to international pressure... a fleeting hope to be sure...)… we who won’t be attending the games, who won’t be competing or putting our freedom in jeopardy… we can still do something.

We can talk about it. We can spread the word. We can call on our elected officials to make a stand… we can join the HRC in their letters to the International Olympic Committee condemning the Russian laws and asking them to intercede.

We can speak up for those who are being forcibly silenced.

For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
Nelson Mandela

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