The situation in Russia over LGBT rights has been playing out in my mind so much lately. From the proposed boycotts, the Olympics, the views of Putin, to the citizens taking the law into their own hands and harassing and beating people assumed to be gay – it sometimes seems unbelievable this is happening in 2013.
Depending on where you live, you are able to take so many things for granted. Walking safely down the street as a couple is one of them. I will never forget the first time I was walking down the street in Rehoboth Beach at night holding the hand of my partner, and hurled a gay slur that not only stung, but caused real fear. As I watch more and more states in the US putting equality over hate, I am overcome with joy. But when a country like Russia allows for citizens to seek out gays to humiliate, beat, kill or turn over to the authorities, my heart is broken.
When I visited St. Petersburg, Russia in 2008, luckily my partner and I traveled with a female couple and even then we felt the need to 'pretend' to be heterosexual couples. I now realize I could never safely go back to that country. When you travel abroad, we are always taught we abide by the laws of that country. The same when visitors come to America. And yet I’m reading where the LGBT community is being told to visit Russia next year during the Olympics to make it ‘the gayest Olympics ever’. That doesn't seem wise to me. To blatantly break a law of a country in which you do not reside doesn't seem logical.
Instead, I believe the world needs to view this as human rights – not gay rights. As Americans deal with ‘walking while black’, I also feel no person should be attacked for simply walking down the street and to have the appearance of being gay (and in Russia’s case, promoting pedophilia which makes my skin crawl to equate the two). No matter where one may stand on the issue of gay marriage in your own country, what gives people the right to treat other humans in this way? History has shown it time and again and until the world holds a country accountable, a boycott of vodka or a small group of protesters are not going to match the power of an entire country.
I've heard it said if gay Olympians do not travel there next year, they will be seen as cowards. I disagree. Fighting authorities/the law in a country in which you do not live is very different from being a citizen of that country and taking a stand. Naturally I feel terrible for those Olympians that have spent their lives training for their big moment and now that moment will be spent in a country that not only views them as less than equal, but can arrest them for simply being gay.
So what are they to do? What are we to do as we look towards winter of 2014 and how are countries that allow same-sex marriage supposed to protect their Olympians?
I wish I had an answer. I wish there was an easy decision to be made. But I feel this will not be easy for anyone involved. NBC and advertisers that support the Olympics will be viewed as anti-human rights. Countries that have legalized same-sex marriage will seem hypocritical if attending the Olympics. Personal views on both sides will play out in a way that will only cause strife for many involved – and give television panels hours worth of talking points.
But in the end, human rights are human rights. I realize I still live in a state that doesn’t see me as equal, but at least I don’t think I’m going to be beat up on the street because of who I am. And if I am beat in a hate crime, I want to believe the laws and leaders in my country will be on my side.
This blog offers no answers. Only hope that countries will not put their heads in the sand and pretend nothing is happening.