On Russia and Gayness

Good afternoon again, all you wonderful people.

Last week’s blog received a great deal more traffic than those that came before, and I know that most of that is down to people sharing it.  So, thank you to those that shared it, or liked it, or retweeted it or whatever.  It’s heartening to know that someone is reading this shit.  I can only hope that subsequent scribblings will attract a similar level of positive feedback.  You might also have noticed that I’ve changed this this page’s appearance, hope you all enjoy that as well.

To business, then.  Russian history, as we all know, holds a colourful roster of gigantic flaming queers.  Pyotr Tchaikovsky was one such.   Despite his undisputable homosexuality, social pressures forced him into a brief, miserable marriage.  After it failed, he resolved never to get married again.  In a letter to his brother Anatoly, dated February 25th 1878, he explained that there is “nothing more futile than wanting to be anything other than what I am by nature.”

Well, I’m now writing this 135 years and 168 days later (difficult to be much more precise, I don’t know what time of day he wrote the letter, then there’s the time zone to take into account), and it seems that this point of view is still widely contested, especially in Tchaikovsky’s homeland.  Unfathomably, people still give a shit about what other people do with their genitals behind closed doors.

Up until quite recently, I was only dimly aware of the plight of homosexuals in Putin’s Russia.  I had, like many others, read about it, muttered my disapproval and catalogued it in some mental archive of human-on-human twattishness, so I can nod solemnly when it comes up in conversation.  Then Stephen Fry wrote his open letter, which catapulted the topic into mainstream discussion for a while.  So I might as well offer my take.  Why not?  It’s my fucking blog, I can walk a well-trodden path if I want to!

Ahem.  Recap.  The Russians have inserted a new clause into a child protection law, in order to prohibit “the propagandising of non-traditional sexual relations among minors.”  Now, I’ve heard about this sort of thing before, and it has always mystified me.  How the fuck does one ‘propagandise’ homosexuality?  What form does this propaganda take?

There’s an element of paranoia about the use of the word propaganda, here.  It implies that gays are trying to recruit more gays, and if not stopped they will recruit everyone in the world, after which the human race will cease to be (which, on this evidence, doesn’t seem such a terrible thing).  In this scenario, gays (when they’re not dementedly fisting one another while laughing at Jesus) spend their time trying to brainstorm ways in which to spread homosexuality.  Let’s consider this.  Have Stonewall ever plastered the following onto the sides of any London buses?

“Have you ever considered being a gay?”

“Homosexuality: it might be for you!”

“Enjoy anal?  You’re already halfway there!”

The answer is no.  Homosexuals don’t ‘promote’ homosexuality.  Some people just fancy people of the same gender.  They fall in love with them.  They fall out of love with them.  I don’t know why they do.  I don’t know why it should matter.  I do know that homosexuality is not an idea, any more than sex itself is an idea.  It did not begin as some crazy scheme, conceived in the mind of some maniac.  Someone didn’t wake up one day, astonishingly randy, and put in a phone call: “Billy-Bob? I’ve had a great idea!  Just come over right away.  Clear your schedule!   …no, don’t bring Irene.  Make something up, I don’t know.  Okay?  Okay.  In a bizzle!”

When this clause says ‘propagandise’ it doesn’t mean actively try to recruit homosexuals; the wording is vague enough that simply presenting homosexuality as morally equivalent to heterosexuality would qualify.  Under this ridiculously broad interpretation, this blog probably constitutes ‘propaganda’, since I’m talking as though no sensible person should give a fuck about other people’s sex lives.

There is of course, the religion thing.  One of the architects of this new amendment, Vitaly Milonov, has described homosexuality as a ‘sin’ (meaning a transgression against divine law).  Nearly three-quarters of the Russian people support this legislation, so it would seem that he’s not alone in his view.  It’s tempting to lay the blame for all of this at the door of the Russian Orthodox Church, whose hands have been firmly clasped around the nation’s nether-regions for some time now.  Now, I don’t think this thing is entirely religious; but I do think it’s worthwhile taking a moment to address the religious objection to homosexuality, which as I understand it runs a little something like this:

The creator of all things emerges from His hibernation pod and says, “What’s on the agenda today then?”

His PA emerges from behind some celestial curtain, clipboard in hand.  “Well,” he says, looking agitated. “There is something happening in the Milky Way galaxy, sir…”

The Deity silences him by brandishing a tentacle.  Yawning, He pours Himself a bowl of corn flakes. “What’s a Milky Way?”

“It’s one of the hundred thousand million galaxies you made, Sir”

“Did I?” says the Deity.  “If you say so.  Is it a particularly interesting galaxy?”

“Well, errr…” the PA frowns for a moment.  “I suppose it’s a nice sort of bluey-brown colour.”

The Deity chews His breakfast thoughtfully.  “Oh, alright,” He says.  “What’s going on there, then, anyway?”

“Sagittarius A-star, Sir,”

“Sagittaria-what-now?”

“The supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s core, Sir.”

“Oh, one of those.  What about it?”

 “It’s devouring an enormous gas cloud,” the PA replies, showing the Deity his clipboard.

The Deity inspects the picture on the clipboard and yawns again.  “That’s not particularly enormous,” He says, dismissively.  “Anything else?”

“Well, there’s something else, actually.  A problem on one of the planets orbiting a star on the Orion arm, around thirty thousand light years from the core…”

“A problem?” the Deity says, raising one of His nine-trillion eyebrows.

“Yes, well, if you recall, you created a species of sentient mammals there, and they propagate their species through something called sexual intercourse…”

“Ah yes.  One of my better plans.”

“Yes well, instead of sex being always between a man and a woman, they…”

“What’s a man and what’s a woman?” the Deity asks, before quickly reconsidering: “Actually, never mind all that; just tell me what the problem is.”

“The problem is, Sir, that there’s this chap called Billy-Bob Smith from Milton Keynes, and he’s gay, and he thinks that…”

“BILLY-BOB!” the Deity bellows, spewing corn flakes everywhere in the process.  His single eye throbs with murderous passion.  His tentacles flail wildly.  “BEING GAY AGAIN IS HE?  HOW MANY TIMES BILLY-BOB!  WHY MUST HUMANS IGNORE MY PERFECTLY ARTICULATED MESSAGE?  I FIND THAT VERY IRRITATING INDEED!”

“Well, sir, they say that the stuff you told them about ‘judge not, lest ye be…’”

“THAT SHIT WAS JUST PADDING!  I MAINLY CARE ABOUT THE BUM SEX!  I FIND THIS ALL VERY UPSETTING!”

Okay.  You get the idea.  Suffice to say, I don’t find this scenario particularly plausible.

But it seems that most of the population of Russia find it very plausible indeed, and this law is the result.  Alone, that would be very shitty; but of course this particular shit sandwich has a final disgusting dressing: the endorsement of the International Olympic Committee, an organisation whose stated goals include “to act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement”.  So, they’re going to go there in order to ‘act out’, by holding a massive circus in Sochi where the world can gather and pretend that everything’s hunky-dory.

Amidst this, I find the whining of former athletes particularly nauseating.  Especially when they harp on about how ‘sport is a catalyst for social change,’ or other such gubbins.  These people would happily hold the fucking slalom skiing on the slopes of Mount Doom rather than consider moving the games to another location.  Now, I like sport as much as the next person, but I’m not about to pretend that fucking skiing matters more than human rights.

So, what to do?  All sorts of things have been proposed.  They’ve proposed boycotting the games.  They’ve proposed moving them. They’ve proposed banning Russia from their own Olympics, which, while it would be hilarious, is not going to happen.  None of these things are very likely to happen.  Even Stephen Fry now concedes this.  What’s now being suggested is that the athletes make some sort of show of solidarity, like making some homosexual hand gesture (not that one) while wearing a rainbow armband or something.  That seems like a wonderful idea.  If every bobsled team were to acknowledge their time with a quick celebratory Y-M-C-A, that would surely help.  If all of the lycra-clad athletes were to perform some sort of suggestive gyration on the podium, that might get the message across.  Perhaps if a gay tobogganist were to win gold, run over to their gay lover and plant a big wet slobbery gay kiss on their chops.  All wonderful ideas, though all of them amount to little beyond trolling the Russians.

I’ve gone on a bit, here, so I’ll leave you with a thought experiment:

Imagine, dear readers, if it were a different section of Russian society that were receiving this treatment.  Let’s pretend, for the sake of argument, that it’s black people.  Now, since Russia has not outright outlawed homosexuality, let’s not imagine that the crime is being black, but rather propagandising blackness, i.e. putting across the view that black people are of the same worth as white people.  Now imagine that we invite the athletes of the world there.  Imagine that you are presented with the following justifications:

  1. The laws do not apply to visiting athletes and spectators.  Black athletes and sports fans will remain unaffected.
  2. Athletes only get a few opportunities to go to an Olympic games, it would be wrong to rob them of it.
  3. Bradley Manning.
  4. Sport is actually a catalyst for social change.
  5. Other regimes in the world are equally racist, some of them more so.  Unless that other racism is eliminated we can’t well complain about this racism.  (I find this one particularly stupid. It makes me want to chew glass.)
  6. You have to respect the laws of other countries.

Yeah, these objections don’t seem quite so solid when we’re talking about an ethnic minority rather than a sexual one.  But really, is there any fucking difference?  Neither have any choice in their nature.  But more importantly, neither being black nor being gay harms anyone.  The harder you think about the difference, the smaller the difference becomes.  Think hard enough and it evaporates.

So, to summarise: DOWN WITH THIS SORT OF THING.

I’ll be back next week with something a little less depressing.  I haven’t quite decided what though.  Until then, ciao xx

PS. A related note, I recommend this unintentionally hilarious interview with a group called ‘Straight Pride UK’.  A sample:  “Straight Pride is a small group of heterosexual individuals who joined together after seeing the rights of people who have opposing views to homosexuality trampled over and, quite frankly, oppressed.”  Oh my word, I’m dying, help me.

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