How Gay Is Russia? Ctd

by Chris Bodenner

Anecdotal evidence from readers this week suggested that there is more acceptance of gay life in Moscow than there is in St. Petersburg. That contrast is further evident in the first two of “eight horrific and uplifting stories about being gay in the new Russia” from Julia Ioffe:

In Moscow, one of my closest friends is Mike, a gay American journalist. In 2010, he met Fedya, a Russian seven years his junior. Mike called the next day to tell me he had met “the one,” and soon they were living together—nesting really. They made a conscious decision not to hide their sexuality. They held hands in the streets, they kissed in public, and, amazingly, no one seemed to mind.

One day, Mike and Fedya went to a party for Fedya’s older brother, a soccer fanatic. “We pull up to the house, and there is heavy-metal music playing, a bunch of dudes swilling cognac and vodka out of plastic cups. And we walk in and all heads snap in our direction,” Mike recounts. One of the friends, who had clearly spent most of the afternoon drinking, was watching with a wary, slanting look. Later that evening, he approached Mike: “I was sure he was going to try to pick a fight. Instead, he thrust a cup of cognac in my hand, raised his glass, and said, ‘It doesn’t matter what kind of love it is, as long as it’s true love.'”

A much less heartening scene from St. Petersburg:

Maria Kozlovskaya is a lawyer and she was asked to resign from her previous job at the Russian branch of a Western tobacco distributor. “My boss said we don’t align on certain core principles,” Kozlovskaya says. “She thought that gays are all pedophiles who corrupt children.” Kozlovskaya came out to her mom about seven times, and, each time, her mom pretended it was news.

Kozlovskaya works in gay advocacy in St. Petersburg, where there has been a spike in anti-gay violence. (There are no official statistics, but Kozlovskaya’s group, the LGBT Network, estimates that 15 percent of LGBT people were assaulted last year.) “People are changing their behavior to protect themselves,” Kozlovskaya says. “They don’t wear rainbow pins anymore, they don’t hold hands outside.”

Recently, when Kozlovskaya and a client—an assault victim—arrived at the courthouse, they were met by a group of skinheads. “They egged me and beat up the victim,” Kozlovskaya says. “We called the police, but they didn’t come.”

Julia’s six other vignettes – some truly horrifying – are here.