Thoughts on Russia, Homophobia and Protest

OK, interesting stuff brewing over the response to the Russian govt’s hideous new anti-gay laws. The consensus is, of course, that they are an horrific human rights abuse, and we need to do whatever we can to help change the minds of the Russian authorities.

However, the mechanism is a bit more hotly debated.

Stephen Fry’s wonderful open letter to the IOC (Olympics people) and David Cameron has gone viral today – – calling for a boycott, for the IOC to move the 2014 winter olympics to a new venue.

However, a few days ago, the Russian LGBT Network called on Western campaigners NOT to boycott the olympics –

So what to do?

2 things come to mind – firstly, it’s REALLY important to listen to what the Russian LGBT community are saying about what’s happening to THEM. There is a huge history of well-meaning western cultural imperialists trampling over the wishes of the people they’re attempting to campaign on behalf of. In terms of what kind of lobbying of the Russian government needs to happen, listening to them is vital.

However, calling on the IOC to boycott it, as Stephen Fry has done, isn’t just about Russia. It’s about the IOC, it’s about the international community, it’s about the rights of LGBT sports people and sports fans to be safe from assault, arrest and abuse, about the wider message of what the Olympics is supposed to stand for. So while this is VERY much about the experiences of Russian LGBT people and the legal fight within Russia is theirs, with our commitment being to support them, it’s not inconsistent to still call on the IOC and national Olympics committees to represent the wishes of the LGBT communities in their own countries who may feel betrayed by their governments expecting them to put up with that kind of homophobia in attending the games as participants or spectators.

So, choose your method of protest, support whichever course of action makes sense to you, debate it, discuss it, listen more than you speak, but don’t let voices be stifled either way…