Russia’s latest anti-gay law makes it unlawful to “propagandize non-traditional sexual orientations.” In other words, it is unlawful in Russia to be gay or to in any way indicate that gay is okay.
Once again, I find myself turning to these words:First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me. … Martin Niemöller
When are these words only going to memorialize some unthinkable history? How many more times are they going to resonate with current events?
When will humanity stop being its own worst example?
It’s fairly obvious I am disheartened. Sickened, angry, tired. There is so much amazing progress to celebrate for the LGBT community – the Supreme Court decisions, California, Minnesota, Rhode Island, the UK, hell, I even finally have the same last name as my partner! Yet, my mind and my heart are pre-occupied with Russia. I could write a novel on the disingenuous reasons they’ve used to justify this law, but what’s the point? We know their real motivations. They’re the same motivations that always underlie laws like these: hate, fear, discrimination.
There are varied layers of truths within Niemöller’s words, but his primary point was when we are silent at social injustice, we are complicit in its occurrence. He has said he was critiquing the German Protestant churches, the German intellectuals and himself for looking on while the Nazis rose to power. I wonder, if Russia wasn’t holding the 2014 Winter Olympics how much fuss would be raised right now in reaction to its new law. And even though there’s not exactly silence, what is the world going to do this time? Anything? I’m not pretending to have an answer on the appropriate world response. Though I’m pretty sure it should not be offering that country center stage this winter.
I am supposed to be sitting here writing the next monthly newsletter for the local PFLAG organization. I have written before about my work with them. The organization inherently garners most people’s respect, even those not necessarily allies to the LGBT community. Parents and family advocating for their children. Most people can relate to that, admire it even, regardless of their personal stance on gay rights.
Thus, I find it particularly striking that in Russia, every member of this organization would be a criminal. Mothers who want to stand up for their sons, uncles for their nieces, children for their parents, people standing up for their best friends – charged, fined and eventually imprisoned, unless the average Russian can pay the $31,000.00 fine every time they are charged. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s unlikely.
And don’t think for a moment the Russian law is clear. It isn’t. We know if any person in Russia utters a word in support of a gay individual or gay rights, that person is a criminal. We know if you stand on the sidewalk in Russia holding a rainbow flag or wearing a pin on your lapel, you will be charged with a crime. But where does it end? If an employer knowingly employs a homosexual, is that employer committing a crime? Keep in mind, organizations are fined $100,000.00 under this law – per day? per employee? does it matter? – and also closed down for 90 days.
If a mother knows her son is gay, but provides him shelter, is that a violation? Or, let’s say her gay son has already been imprisoned, if that mother says she still loves her son, if she says those words out loud, will they imprison her, too?
The true reality of this Russia is more brutal than I can fathom. If our family lived there, I have no doubt they’d take the Divine Miss M away from us, and that would come closer to killing me than any jail they put me in or beatings they inflicted. In the end, I suppose that’s their point.
In Oklahoma, I lived so far deep in the closet I couldn’t even see the door. I can’t remotely contemplate living in today’s Russia. I generally balk at comparisons to Nazi Germany. They’re usually a cheap shot from people too lazy or lacking in intellect to formulate a real criticism and flung at anything they dislike or disagree with. But today’s Russia is the early Germany. Russia’s new law isn’t just distasteful, it isn’t just offensive. It doesn’t just have shades of Nazi-ism. Russia’s new law embraces it. What circumstances do we think are going to evolve from these laws? People can’t hide who they are absolutely. Their sexuality will reveal itself at times. Others around them will suspect. Then what? There will, of course, be people going into hiding, other people trying to hide them (because thankfully, time has proven courageous decency always survives). If we really don’t think we’re going to have the equivalent of Anne Frank attics in Russia we are seriously deluding ourselves. And the thing is, I don’t think Russian officials are deluding themselves. I think they know exactly what’s going to happen, what is happening. They are coming for the homosexuals. They are coming for those who aid them. Who will they come for next? And what will the world do this time?