Indeedy, and it's a good one. But first, the op-ed pages of the New York Times have turned up a very troubling article from the International Herald Tribune by Masha Gessen, an influential Russian journalist. Apparently, no place is safe for people with LGBT friends in Russia any more. So, follow me below the great orange coaster on which is resting my Absolut with grapefruit juice for today's report on Russian homophobia and the Winter Olympics. And a h/t to smileycreek for her diary on George Takei's egually interesting proposal
Gessen's article is called "Gay Bashing inside the Garden Ring." I don't know Moscow at all, but it seems that the Garden Ring is a neighborhood within whose residents think all the terrible homophobia is happening someplace else. Her subject is a woman, a Facebook acquaintance who wrote on her page recently
I thought all those awful homophobia stories happened outside the Garden Ring.It seems that this woman, the young journalist Vera Kichanova, went out with her husband and a group of other young Russian "hipsters" to a trendy Moscow bar and got gay-bashed because someone thought two of the male members of the party were gay.
Kichanova and her husband, 22-year-old Pavel Gnilorybov, went upstairs to get some air on a terrace, and two of their friends, both male, stayed behind at the bar talking. A few minutes later, a woman screaming “Faggots!” ran up to the two men and started hitting them. As they tried to calm her down, she was joined by another woman and three men, who also began hitting the two young men they perceived as gay. Finally, the club’s security intervened — by escorting the two victims out of the bar. The attackers proceeded upstairs to the terrace, where they continued screaming antigay epithets and attacked Kichanova and Gnilorybov. Security intervened again, escorting the couple down to the bar area and again taking no action against the attackers. Kichanova asked them to call the police, but they ignored her.Right. The attackers were protected.
As happens at this point in the 21st century both Kichanova and Gnilorybov described the incident on their blogs the next day, and here's the part that really frightened me:
In the morning, both got the same message through a Russian social network: “It was us. You better not go to that bar anymore. Waiters in green and security guards in black are not going to help you. I’m telling you for your own sake: The place is closed to gays.”I can't imagine this happening in this country. It sounds like what some Southerners did to white people who got too friendly with Blacks during the era of segregation, and we know where THAT led.
The International Olympic Committee says it has received assurances from the Russian government that the laws will not be enforced during the Games. But the Kremlin is expanding such resources on fanning hatred that there can be no such thing as a protected space for gays, lesbians or the otherwise different in this country.
So the modest proposal. If you don't know about Outsports, this is a site run by a two gay sportswriters which has been in operation for at least the past 18 years which covers sports from a gay perspective. The proprietors, Cyd Ziegler and Jim Buzinski, describe the site as the galactic leader in gay sports. Anyhow, Ziegler's modest proposal is that the Games should go on, but that Russia should not be allowed to participate. He explains:
To make a real statement -- to send a message to the Russians that these laws cannot stand -- the International Olympic Committee has to go a step further. Instead of the rest of the world refusing to go to Sochi, there's one step the IOC can take that will land a wake-up slap on the face of the Kremlin. The new Russian law is in clear and direct conflict with the Olympic Charter, creating a system of discrimination that forces LGBT athletes into a life of fear and isolation.After all South Africa was banned from participation in the Olympics from 1964 until 1992, when the practice of apartheid was ended. It seems also that the IOC is in the process of electing a new president, and one of the six candidates wanted to ensure that the legislation doesn't create e problem for the athletes.
But seriously. What will the Russian authorities pay attention to? Not a boycott of Russian vodka. Not a Western boycott. Not even a big IOC statement.
While the Russians would love an American boycott of the Games -- more medals for them -- being banned from competition at their own Games would help drive public sentiment. Instead of asking our athletes to carry messages that would fall on deaf Russian ears, it would drive Russian Olympic hopefuls to speak out to their own government.It would also put other nations with homophobic policies --like, say, Nigeria -- on notice that, unless they change them, they will never get a chance to host the Games.
Not a bad idea! I hope it gains some traction.