When Russian President Vladimir Putin banned gay “propaganda” last June, Russia’s LGBT community went from being a stigmatized fringe group to full-blown enemies of the state. We traveled to Russia to investigate the effects of the country’s state-sanctioned homophobia.
Young and Gay in Putin’s Russia - Part 1
When Russian President Vladimir Putin banned gay “propaganda” in June last year, Russia’s LGBT community went from being a stigmatized fringe group to full-blown enemies of the state. Homophobia becoming legislation means it’s now not only accepted in Russia but actively encouraged, which has led to a depressing rise in homophobic attacks and murders.
The main aim of the law, which essentially bans any public display of homosexuality, is to prevent minors from getting the impression that being gay is normal. Which means that, if you’re young and gay in Putin’s Russia, you’re ostracized and cut off from any kind of legal support network.
We traveled to Russia ahead of February’s Sochi Winter Olympics to investigate the effects of the country’s state-sanctioned homophobia. In the first part, we take a ride in Moscow’s gay taxi service, hear about the rise of homophobic vigilante groups, and meet Yulia, who runs LGBT self-defense classes.
A Holiday Gift Guide for Bigots
It’s Christmas time. And just because you’re a piece of shit with repellant views doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get to enjoy the season too. Below are our pick of gifts available from organizations designated as “hate groups” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Perfect for zealots of any ideology.
Clockwise from top left:
"White Pride World Wide" Hand Towel ($12.75 - via)
Who does your money go to support? - Aryan Wear
Who are they? - Online store selling merchandise geared towards white supermacists.
Sarah Palin Bobblehead ($16.97 - via)
Who does your money go to support? - World Net Daily
Who are they? - Super-conservative online publication with an anti-gay agenda. Also big fans of the Obama “birther” stuff.
"THIS IS AMERICA WHY MUST WE PRESS 1 TO PROCEED IN ENGLISH" Dog T-Shirt ($22.99 - via)
Who does your money go to support? - Casa D’ice
Who are they? - Restaurant in Pennsylvania, famous for the sign in their parking lot which displays messages like “It’s time to bomb the hell out of Iraq, make it a giant litter box, take damn oil, bring our soldiers home, and out source the war.”
Don’t Have People in Blackface at Your Birthday Party
Welcome to another edition of This Week in Racism. I’ll be ranking news stories on a scale of 1 to RACIST, with “1” being the least racist and “RACIST” being the most racist.
-An Australian girl currently known only as “Olivia” became internet infamous this week for posting a bunch of photos from her "Africa"-themed 21st birthday party. In Australia, I guess “Africa-themed” parties traditionally include plenty of racist caricatures of black people, dudes in gorilla costumes, and a dude in a KKK outfit. If you haven’t had your eyeballs melted by these pictures yet, please prepare to lose your ability to see the majesty of human existence!
Still trying to figure out what a Klansman is doing at an African-themed birthday party. You can’t tell a black person to “go back to Africa” if they’re already there.
An elephant never forgets… unless we’re talking about remembering to respect ethnic minorities!
Please note the title of the album on Facebook was “This is My Africa.” I’ve never been to Africa, but if it’s as lame as this party looks, then you can have it, baby.
The girl who threw the party issued a statement on her Tumblr, which was subsequently deleted. In the statement, she offered a rebuttal to anyone who dared be offended by her friends’ decision to buy all the grease paint and Darque Tan oil in Australia and apply it to their faces:
"I am 100% sure that parties would be held that would be ‘Australian themed’ or American themed or even countries of the world, and in that instance I don’t believe anyone would be offended. People wear oktoberfest cotumes [sic] to parties and no one cracks it that they are not German?"
I am 100 percent sure that if I had an Australian-themed party, I wouldn’t paint my face white. But that just might be because I hate costume parties. RACIST
Neo-Nazis Are Attacking Anti-Racist Activists in Calgary
We’re being attacked, Bonnie Devine thought as a brick shattered her living room window, only inches above the couch where she slept.
It was just past 5 AM on September 29, and luckily the brick-throwing vandals didn’t break through the second of two window panes, which would have sent deadly glass shards cascading upon her.
The mother of four calmly checked on her four boys before inspecting the damage. A brick lay broken in half on the lawn outside. Three of her car tires were slashed. The next day, the fourth tire blew out while she was driving with her boys.
The attack follows six years of white supremacist violence against her family, which they link to 26-year old ringleader Kyle McKee.
“This time it’s a brick,” she pondered. “But who knows what it’ll be next time.”
Amidst a rising tide of hate activity in Canada, the couple have been targeted again and again for their activism with Anti-Racist Action Calgary.
Over six years, they’ve faced death threats, fire-bombing, home invasions, and horrendous beatings—the worst of which saw a group of thugs break into their home in 2010, jumping on Bonnie’s husband Jason—along with a friend of his—and battering them so severely with hammers and bats there was blood smeared on the walls.
“They tried to kill me by beating my head in and beating my body,” he recalled.
Here’s What’s Happening on the Internet’s Most Racist Forums
These days, you can call someone a cum bubble that was sharted out of a dead hooker’s crusty asshole and chances are you’ll walk away with a high five. But call someone the N-word, and you’ll be dropped faster than Paula Deen’s hottest potato. Racism really is the last taboo—and that’s a good thing. In fact, earlier this month, Slate examined the waxing and waning power of profanities over time and concluded that cuss words related to religion (“damn,” “hell”) and body functions (“dick,” “shit”) are losing their shock value, while racial slurs are becoming more and more provocative. In other words, as we become more secular, immune to gore, and open to freaky porn, we’re also becoming less OK with bigotry. Again, this is a very good thing.
I Joined a Bunch of Gay Conversion Groups
The last few months have not been kind to the gay conversion industry. The loudest mouthpiece for the trade, Exodus International, disbanded after the ex-gay ex-president of the organization, Alan Chambers, issued a letter of apology for the “shame,” “false hope,” and “trauma” Exodus caused, which admitted that “reparative therapy” didn’t work. On top of that, the State of California banned the practice for minors and the federal government started recognizing same-sex marriages with the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.
To get a better look at the state of the industry before it takes its final bow, I decided to join several gay conversion groups. I am a straight male, however, for the sake of this piece, I presented myself as a malleable young man with a history of homosexual behavior, looking to acquire a taste for female genitalia.
Conversion groups differ in their methods and supposed “causes for homosexuality,” but the one thing they can all agree on is that two dudes doin’ it is totally gross.
SETTING CAPTIVES FREE
The first group I joined was an online one called Setting Captives Free.
It was about 2 AM when I created my account. I was tired, buzzed, and ready to be ungayed.
Setting Captives Free is a 60-day Christian course of reading scripture and answering both personal and religious questions. To help you along the process, members are assigned an email mentor, whose job it is to send daily inspiring emails of salvations and are there 24/7 to answer any questions or concerns.
Day one started with a nice introduction by founder Mike Cleveland and author Shon Bruellman. They informed me, despite what I have been told, I don’t have a “homosexual gene.” In fact, I can be set free “by the way of Jesus Christ and the cross.” I was encouraged to discuss my sexual history with my mentor, but to eschew the graphic because “Satan has received enough glory and attention in our lives.”
Why Is Anti-Muslim Violence Only Now Being Classed as Terrorism?
Last Friday, a nail bomb exploded outside a mosque in the West Midlands town of Tipton. The blast came about an hour after the funeral of army drummer Lee Rigby—the latest in a broad series of attacks on Britain’s Muslim community since the soldier’s murder in May outside his barracks in Woolwich, London.
Britain’s Islamophobes haven’t just been leaving nail bombs around ex-industrial towns in the Black Country. Since Rigby’s murder in late May, aggression toward the Muslim community has included: an Islamophobic social media free-for-all, attempts to pull off hijabs in the street, phoned-in death threats, and various attacks on mosques, ranging from racist graffiti to arson and petrol bombings.
But do I blame Rigby’s two alleged murderers—both Muslim—for this swollen wave of anti-Muslim sentiment? No. The bigotry existed well before the murder, it’s just that the climate is now far more conducive for those who spout it to leer their way out of the woodwork, confusing Sikh temples with mosques and repeatedly spelling Qur’an wrong on Twitter. It was against British law to be Muslim until 1812, but the community has never been viewed as anything but “the other” in this country.
Protesting Against Gay Pride Was Super Boring
This past weekend was the Los Angeles Gay Pride Parade, and as always with large-scale gay events, a group of antigay Christians turned up to yell at everybody. I spent the day with them.
The day got off to a pretty miserable start, with the guy with the mic screaming, “You’re a wicked, evil, twisted abomination! You deserve AIDS!” at this old man.
Then this lone counterprotester showed up.
His sign read “St. Paul was a closet case” and he was shouting a bunch of stuff at them about pork: “Why don’t you get a fucking life you pork-eating fucking pigs, I hope the Muslims blow you motherfuckers up and you burn in hell you fucking pigs.”
The curse words seemed to genuinely upset the anti-gays. One of them started shouting, “There’s laws against cussing in public! It’s illegal for you to say the F word to me!”
Then the police came over and broke it up, making the counterprotester go and protest from the end of the block.
Then the second group of counterprotesters arrived. These guys had giant rainbow flags that they held up in front of the antigay protest to block them from the view of anyone marching in the parade.
Even though they’d only been there for about 30 minutes, the majority of the protesters seemed pretty bored by that point. I got to chatting with this lady.
She told me that her name was Angela, and that she liked my shirt. I almost reciprocated the compliment out of politeness, but then I realized that her shirt said “REPENT FOR JESUS” and stopped myself.
America Needs a New Outrage Machine
Yesterday Michele Bachmann—the Republican congresswoman from Minnesota who has been called “controversial,” among other adjectives—announced that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term in the House of Representatives. She was potentially facing an ethics investigation into her campaign spending in the last election cycle, and she only won by a couple percentage points last time, so it’s not surprising she ducked out when she did—she’s basically quitting before she can get fired.
Bachmann being Bachmann, she didn’t frame it that way. In an eight-minute video on her website, the only concrete reason she gave for leaving her post was, “Eight years is also long enough for an individual to serve as a representative for a specific congressional district.” She went on:
I fully anticipate the mainstream liberal media to put a detrimental spin on my decision not to seek a fifth term. Since I was first elected to Congress many years ago, they always seem to attempt to find a dishonest way to disparage me. But I take being the focus of their attention and disparagement as a true compliment of my public service effectiveness.
About that “public service effectiveness”—in her role as a legislator, she did essentially nothing. Of the 58 bills she sponsored in her six years (and counting) in the House, exactly one passed and got sent to the Senate, and that was one of the many bills with the goal of repealing Obamacare that have no chance of becoming law.
Bachmann’s role in the political ecosystem has nothing to do with laws though, and hardly anything to do with policy. Her job is to be crazy, and she’s amazingly good at it.