Warning: This article is likely to be considered controversial among readers for its content.
It is the twenty-first century and many things have definitely changed. Fashion. Lifestyle. Nutrition. Borders. We ask for world peace and plead to end world hunger. We start wars, we end wars. Women are objectified. Feminism is on the rise. Gender roles are changing. Freedom to sexuality, however…. That is one thing that members of past generations and conservative, intolerant members of this one are struggling to grasp.
We are millennials! We are the first to argue that times have changed, and they have! We should be tolerant and respectful of human diversity in all its wonders, especially in this interconnected life. If you’ve ever discriminated against someone for their sexual preference, reflect on it. Long and hard. Does that make you a better person? How? If you are against LGBT+s, you likely think that heterosexuality is superior to all other sexual preferences. I ask you this: how does discriminating the LGBT+ community make you superior?
It does not.
Final warning: if you cannot tolerate sexual orientation disputation, this is the last call.
What if the scale were reversed and heterosexuals were the minority and homosexuals the majority? Wouldn’t you want to exercise your right to freedom of sexuality? I’m sure you would. All of us would. Now, don’t even begin to argue that such scenario is irrelevant because it is not the case. Well, I’m making it your case. Whether you acknowledge it or not, if the scale were reversed, you would want to exercise your right to freedom of sexuality. Not only that, but you’d also wish that the opposing majority would respect your choice of sexuality.
So why don’t you? What do you gain from it?
Consider the following: have you ever seen news of demonstrations of disrespect carried out by the LGBT+ community against the larger heterosexual community anywhere in the world? Likely not. If you answered “yes,” let me clarify something: gay pride events are not in any form disrespectful towards heterosexuality. Gay pride events are LGBT+ members’ way of celebrating who they are and asking the world for equal rights. We all talk about equality,so where is it and why are we denying them the very thing we claim to want for the world?
The rest of us who aren’t against LGBT+s aren’t completely off the hook either. Why do we tolerate such hate towards others? Sure, we say we don’t like that sort of thing but really, what do we do about it? We should get involved, help out where we can, support the cause. We have to show we care. Otherwise, how much better are we than those who are intolerant of diverse sexual preferences? LGBT+s are victims of an ignorant bunch of heterosexuals that believe they can rule over the lives of others. Sadly, some governments around the world still abuse their power and punish types of love they do not understand. Such is the case with Russia.
Throughout history, Russia has had some of the harshest laws against homosexuality. The Russian LGBT+ community has also experienced a wide variety of hate crimes and aggressions. They are not safe nor able to live freely. In 2013, only 16% of Russians believed homosexuality should be widely accepted. How is this possible? Aren’t we (millennials) and the coming generations supposed to be the most accepting ones there have been in history? A BIG RUSSIAN MAJORITY THINKS NOT. As I see it, there are three main factors that play into Russia’s anti-LGBT+ sentiment:
The power of the brain is amazing. Vladimir Lenin knew this and Joseph Stalin knew this. Have you ever wondered why war prisoners in movies are almost always forced to stand outside under harsh weather conditions and repeat the same phrase countless times? We all have. Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin mastered the illusory truth effect long before its time. The concept postulates that any lie can be interpreted as true (even with previous knowledge of its falsehood) if it is repeated enough times. Therefore, any person, under the right circumstances, that is made to repeat the same phrase enough times will eventually believe the repeated content or at least doubt their known truth. The illusory truth effect does not only apply to verbal repetitions of phrases and messages; visual and auditory content have the same effect. A real life example of this is the hate of Jews that Adolf Hitler instilled in Nazi Germany through posters, radio transmissions, T.V. shows, and speeches that sold most of Germany into believing that Jews deserved to be punished and exterminated. Although Hitler controlled Germany, similar principles have been utilized in Russia to disseminate a sociocultural denial of LGBTs.
The Russian Empire existed from 1721 to 1917, and afterwards there was the beginning and end of World War I (1914-1918), then the February Revolution in 1917 that lasted eight days (March 8th-16th) of that same year, followed by the Bolshevik Revolution that lasted one day (November 7th-8th, 1917), continued by the Russian Civil War from October 1917 to October 1922, involvement in World War II (1939-1945), and, more recently, Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Russia’s extensive history does not go without its fair share of well-known political figures, for good or bad. Peter the Great. Tzar Nicholas II of Russia. Leon Trotsky. Mikhail Gorbachev. Vladimir Lenin. Joseph Stalin. Vladimir Putin. I’m sure some of them ring a bell. Their governments, whether monarchistic, communist, or authoritarian, have condemned homosexuality and punished it. The first law targeting same-sex relationships between men came under the rule of Peter the Great and his 1716 Military Code. It only applied to men in the army and navy but the precedent against homosexuality was set. When a new military code was passed under Tsar Nicholas I in 1835, the same-sex relationship ban on men was formally extended to include a wider sector of society. The new extension included male students, rapists, and pedophiles and punished them by exiling them to Siberia. It remained in force until 1917. Interesting facts:
- Lesbian relationships weren’t condemned. Only men were targeted by these laws.
- Anti-same-sex-relationship laws didn’t apply to the upper-class in Tsarist Russia because many members of Tsar’s family were gay.
In March 1914, Joseph Stalin put into action a new law against pederasty and male homosexuality that applied to all Soviet republics and had a minimum sentence of three to five years in prison. Stalin’s law remained active in Russia until 1993, but even after it was repealed, there was no amnesty for the men who were imprisoned due to that law. And finally, leaping into a more modern (but not necessarily more open-minded) Russia; a 2012 court ruling banned gay pride events in Moscow until 2112, and the 2013 “Gay Propaganda” law fines places, institutions, agencies, businesses, families, and individuals alike who promote non-traditional relationships to children. On June 20th, 2017, the European Court of Human Rights condemned the 2013 law as discriminatory. According to Russia’s justice ministry, said law is in the best interest of children’s moral and health. The Court rejected the claim and described the law as a “predisposed bias on the part of a heterosexual majority against a homosexual minority” that seeks to impose ‘traditional’ relationships over freedom of expression and sexuality. Whatever the form of government, LGBT+s have been victims of intolerant legislation.
Religion plays a huge role in homophobia worldwide, whether it is done consciously or unconsciously. Catholicism, Judaism, and Islam, three of the largest and oldest religions in the world, share two fundamental anti-gay arguments hidden within their sacred texts, the Bible and the Quran. The first argument involves sex that doesn’t create life. The second, that homosexuality is “unnatural” because “men and women were created to procreate”…you’ve heard the story. However, Russia is not, and never has been, a Catholic, Judaist or an Islamic state. So what is Russia then? The answer is neither and none. Religion is not a big part of life in Russia; only 34% of Russians feel that religion is important in their daily lives, making it one of the 50 least devout countries in the world.
Although Russia is highly undevout in religious affairs, most Russians are extremely supportive of the Orthodox Church. Russians view an affiliation to the Church as a national tradition and 80-90% of them identify themselves as Orthodox Christians. However, the Church is a political ally of Vladimir Putin’s government and is thus intolerant towards LGBT+s. One way or another, religious or not, Russians are inculcated anti-LGBT+ sentiments.
If, at any point, I have insulted Russians or any member of the LGBT+ community, I am sorry. That was not my intention. My frustration is towards individuals against the LGBT+ community and, especially, the Russian government. To be honest, I was not sure whether to publish this article or not because of the topic. I worked long and hard on it for several weeks and learned many things from it. For example, prior to writing this article, I thought that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transexual (LGBT) were the only types of sexualities that existed. After doing proper research, I learnt that the term has grown to make room for Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Allies, and Pansexual individuals. Altogether, the term has expanded to LGBTQQIAAP. The things we don’t know…
When I finished writing the article I watched it gather dust on my desk for another few weeks, trying to occupy myself with writing an article on another topic. What was I waiting for? I’d like to say the perfect moment, but there is no such thing, so I moved on to the next question: what was I afraid of? The response. It’s a controversial topic and for several weeks I was afraid of what the response towards it would be; from family, friends, teachers, the Epoch Herald team, readers, the world. Finally, I decided that I had nothing to lose. There was nothing to be afraid of and lots to be proud of.
And here I am. Supporting the LGBTQQIAAP community, standing up to those who are against it, calling out a government for its abuse of power and intolerance, and standing up for what I believe in. I support LGBTQQIAAPs. That’s just who I am. So I ask you, who are you?
In recent years, Russia has built up a reputation for going against the international community, and the acceptance of LGBTQQIAAPs is no exception. Nonetheless, all geopolitical matters aside, the Russian government portrays a cavemen mentality when it comes to love. Believe it or not; L, G, B, T, Q, Q, I, A, A, or P; love is love. It comes in all shapes and sizes. . I’m betting everyone has been in love at least once, so you all know that love knows no rules, boundaries, or limits. In all the letters of the alphabet and all its definitions, you, me, the person next to you, across from you, in your class, school, the stranger you smiled at today, everyone deserves to be free to love and express themselves.
I beg the Russian government to stop inculcating hate and discrimination in the world through its anti-LGBTQQIAAP laws. When will you let your people love again?
In the end, remember #LoveWins. I wave my rainbow flag in support.
Featured Image: “20ª Parada do Orgulho LGBT de Belo Horizonte” was originally posted to Flickr by upslon. The image has been licensed for fair use by the creator under the Creative Commons license – Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0). No modifications were made.
“Leeds Pride” was originally posted to Flickr by Bryan Ledgard. The image has been licensed for fair use by the creator under the Creative Commons license – Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0). No modifications were made.