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Dublin: 14 °C Wednesday 16 April, 2014

Column: If you care about other people, don’t ignore Russia’s targeting of LGBT rights

I was guilty of a blase attitude about gay rights in other countries – until I realised the extent of the discrimination taking place in Russia, writes Kristine Allen.

Christine Allen

‘I’M ALRIGHT JACK.’ A well-known Irish expression and a mentality that many of us are guilty of adopting when we hear about other people’s misfortunes, despite our initial feelings and displays of empathy.

So, when in the past I have heard about LGBT people being discriminated against in countries thousands of miles away from our Green Isle, it has this been this ‘I’m alright Jack’ mentality that has taken precedence, above my initial feelings of unjust and sympathy towards those affected.

‘Propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors’

However, with the widespread coverage around the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, due to host nation Russia’s recently implemented ‘anti-propaganda’ law, which bans the distribution of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors, I have found that this ‘I’m alright Jack’ way of thinking has given place to the disturbing reality that the victims of the homophobia that is rampant in Russia are no different to myself.

In fact, as I watched a You Tube video depicting a 15-year-old gay teenager being doused in urine by a bunch of neo-Nazi thugs, the realisation changed from not only are these LGBT citizens no different from myself, but that this could have been me.

I had taken my rights for granted

As an out and proud 25-year-old gay woman living in a relatively modern Ireland, up until the moment I had read about Russia’s new law and subsequently watched the You Tube clip described above, I had completely taken for granted that I could march in a Pride Parade with a rainbow flag raised proudly above my head; the freedom I have to write online about issues around sexuality and sexual orientation; the encouragement my nieces parents have given me to inform her about people who are different; the availability of information and support that I have availed of throughout the years from LGBT youth organisations such as Belong 2; and, finally, something as small as changing my Facebook status to ‘in a relationship’ with a female – none of which would be tolerated in Russia if I were an LGBT citizen there.

While the law in general is completely backward and discriminatory, it is the phrasing of this law, in particular its use of the word ‘minors,’ which I find to be the most disturbing aspect. While the law doesn’t blatantly claim that paedophilia and homosexuality are intertwined, the implication is there – not to mention the inference that LGBT people are constantly shouting about who they sleep with in detail in front of children, as almost some form of perverse recruitment drive for the ‘gays.’

LGBT equality

The goals of LGBT people like myself are solely to raise the topic of LGBT equality (or the lack of it) and to inform people of all ages that being gay is nothing to be ashamed of, so that not only will people feel comfortable in their own skin if they are gay, but also to decrease the likelihood that they will be abusive to anyone they meet in life who does identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or any other form of identity that is within a minority.

Thankfully, I am not the only person who has disregarded this ‘I’m alright Jack mentality’ when it comes to the Winter Games and Russia’s medieval ‘anti propaganda’ law. Recently, several Irish politicians and LGBT organisations handed a letter, condemning Russia’s recent implementation of its anti-gay legislations, into Ireland’s Russian Embassy. A physical protest also took place.

One could say such an action would be expected – yet athletes at Russia’s World Championships this month have also declared support for Russia’s LGBT community with small yet high-impacting gestures, such as painting their nails in our rainbow colours, which reveals that even people who are heterosexual are no longer willing to ignore such blatant discrimination from the comfort and safety that their sexual orientation brings.

The world is no longer burying its head in the sand

Yesterday morning I awoke to a song on the radio that made me smile. The following are the lyrics which really stuck with me. “I might not be the same, but that’s not important. No freedom till we’re equal, damn right I support it.” The song? Same Love, by Seattle based rapper Macklemore and producer Ryan Lewis, from their debut studio album The Heist. The track which features vocals by Mary Lambert, was recorded at the time of the Washington Referendum 74, which upon approval in 2012, legalized same sex marriages in Washington State.

While not only the song, but also the airplay of such a song on mainstream Irish radio reminded me once again that the world is no longer burying its head in the sand when it comes to LGBT rights and equality, my smile was short-lived at the thought that a woman like myself in Russia would not be waking up to such an empowering anthem.

No, she would be waking up to fear, loneliness and shame. It’s a sobering thought. Mother Russia? I don’t think so. There’s nothing motherly about instilling such feelings into your citizens.



Uploaded by Ryan Lewis

Kristine Allen is studying part-time at DCU in a government-funded
course for the unemployed in Information Technology. She has been writing for
Gaelick.com for two years and has been published in Gay Community News.

This article was first published on Gaelick.com

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