What is Happening to Queers in Russia?
By Jessica Fischer
The current situation in Russia did not happen ‘all of a sudden’ - the situation is the rampant governmental discrimination against the gender and sexuality minorities (GSMs) in Russia.
In Russia male homosexual acts were decriminalized in 1993, but there have never been laws protecting against discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Additionally, same sex marriages and civil unions are not recognized and leading up to the current discriminatory crisis, many local legislatures have even passed laws prohibiting dissemination of information about GSMs.
Then last year something very deliberate happened, Moscow’s top court upheld a ban on gay pride marches in the Russian capital for the next 100 years.
Worse than taking away or withholding the vocabulary necessary for a Russian within the GSM to understand themselves and their community, Moscow has made it illegal for Moscowians, or any Russians, to meet in the country’s capital and host an event celebrating their culture and their identities.
This blatant attack is a tragic first step to denying these people their right to exist.
Starting in 2006, ten different regions in Russia have enacted a ban on ‘gay propaganda’.
Two months ago, Russia at a federal level went one step further when the government unanimously passed a law banning what is referred to as ‘gay propaganda’. This law makes it illegal to spread “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors.”Another law passed the same day makes it a jailable offense to “offend religious feelings”.
Coming from a place of authority and power, the Russian government gave this decree the bulk of its power when it decided that fines would be given to individuals and media groups found guilty of breaking the law, including special fines for foreigners.
While Greece is rounding up ‘undesirables’ and the GSM community in the US is attempting to change the culture that discriminates, bullies, ignores and rejects it everywhere from pre-school to assisted living, Russians are facing a federal government who is abusing its power in an attempt to silence and ignore, if not erase, the existence of its GSM community.
Hopefully the GSM community in Russia can trust in one another as well as in the global GSM community. We can stand in solidarity with this Russian community. We can petition Vladimir Putin, encourage embassies around the world to grant asylum to anyone who is a GSM fleeing Russia, we can boycott the corporations sponsoring this Olympics, especially next time they want to sponsor our Pride parades - and we can protest outside of Russian embassies.
The GSM community in Russia deserves not only our solidarity, but its own space. It deserves our signatures and our sweat, but it also deserves not to be silenced and repressed.
While in Russia the GSM community is looking for space to be as they are in their community and their culture, in the United States, the issue of a very specific space for GSMs has reached a feverpitch as the national media discusses recent legislation passed in California.
California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law assembly bill 1266.
This bill requires schools, teachers and administration to respect the gender identity of students.
To quote the bill, “This bill would require that a pupil be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.”
There have been negative reactions to the passing of this bill. From Bill O’ Reilly and his guests enjoying a good laugh about if he were to die and come back as a teenager to a member of the California Assembly pulling their kid out of public school in protest of the passage of the bill.
Opponents of the law argue that it may be exploited “By boys who want a competitive advantage by joining the girls’ swim team.” says the L.A. Times
Matthew B. McReynolds, staff attorney for the Pacific Justice Institute went on to say, “The vast majority of California students who do not identify as transgender have a reasonable privacy expectation that they will not be forced to undress or share bathroom, locker room, shower and sleeping facilities with members of the opposite biological sex.”
To McReynolds I propose a solution. Assuming that in California it is the same as it is in my home state that one must be in school or their parents will be arrested. Assuming that you truly believe in the right to privacy while refusing to believe that my sisters belong in the women’s room and that trans men belong in the men’s room, then I propose that it be mandated that every building come equipped with a gender neutral bathroom, or respective bathrooms for every gender identity.
Granted, it may be argued that this is a radical and expensive idea. But money is relative, and one tends to only look at the costs that they care to observe to make their point. I will, for the sake of growing a more equitable society, concede that potentially these bathrooms will cost more. I will concede that I have not done the research to know if the labor put into building these bathrooms will put money into the economy, or take it out.
Truancy brought on by fear that is brought on by bullying that those who are a GSM face, costs money. If a student is not in a seat, then they have to repeat the grade, or, as is taught in K-12 rhetoric, they will not become a productive member of society.
Dealing with the bullying and coming to school anyway can sometimes lead to the very real problems of self harm and in extreme cases, suicide.
But maybe someone who is within the GSM makes it through K-12. Maybe they graduate college. Without the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) here in the US they are more likely to be turned down or fired from a job, simply for being a GSM. There are men’s and women’s shelters, so if they end up jobless, abused, misled, homeless or down on their luck, where will a GSM go?
But then, this is not about expense, nor is it about ‘reasonable privacy expectation.’ This is about ignoring and erasing gender identities and sexual orientations that make the majoritarian society uncomfortable. From California to Moscow this is about reinforcing oppressive binaries. This is about telling queers they are not respecting the privacy of a non-queer. Then telling a queer person they are asking for special treatment. Then telling a queer person their behavior is attention seeking. Then finally when they respond with anger, frustration and probably at least a little hostility that’s when they are told they are being hostile and aggressive and that none of their suggestions or ideas can be taken seriously if all they are going to do is stomp and scream.
Mr. O’ Reilly, I do not care to hear what fantasies you have about coming back as a teenager. Mr. McReynolds, I care not to hear about what rights to privacy you think cisgender people deserve when on any given day I can be asked about my genitals, my plan for my genitals, my ‘real’ name and my sexual orientation.
To the government of Russia - your morals and traditions include everything from perpetuating war, to genocide to starving your own peoples and now to resorting to repression of and violence against peoples based on their gender identity and sexual orientation?
Fuck your morals and traditions!
From California to Moscow - I will support GSMs to the very end, and anyone who is an enemy to any member of the GSM community for being a GSM, is an enemy of mine.
—Edited by Queen Arsem-O’Malley
Follow Jessica on Twitter @TransAnarchist.