In early January, a bunch of bigoted French people gathered in Paris’s Bastille Square to celebrate their rage with a “Day of Anger.” About 20,000 of them turned up in the rain to complain about various things. Some were mad at the country’s President, François Hollande, for being too much of a liberal. Some were mad about abortion. A whole bunch of them were mad about gays. And the Jews. Quite a few people were mad about the Jews.
Anyway, our friend Félix dropped a tab, walked around, and talked to all the pissed off people. We hope you enjoy it at least as much as he did.
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.
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.
This Guy Shot a Porno on the Westboro Baptist Church’s Lawn
A week ago, Get Shot! was a relatively unknown punk band in Sacramento, but two days ago they released “Westboro Fingerbang,” a video of their bassist, Laura, masturbating on the front lawn of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. Since then, they’ve received over a thousand new facebook likes and literally become famous over night. I got in touch with the band’s lead singer, J.P. Hunter, to talk about why he made the movie and what’s next for Get Shot!
Why did you decide to shoot porn on the Westboro Baptist Church’s lawn? J.P. Hunter: Everything in the book has been done to Westboro, but no one has actually filmed porn in front of their church. They’re used to going to other people’s sacred territory: gay soldiers funerals, other churches, Bon Jovi concerts, you name it. We’re trying to put a stance out that says, “Don’t be scared, you can fuck with these people.”
How did you make the video? We tour. We went to Kansas City, Topeka, and Denver, and we planned the little Westboro stunt. We were supposed to have a porn star and some other chick do it, but the porn star’s agent called and said it violated her contract with her company, so she couldn’t do it, and the other girl didn’t want to get arrested. We didn’t want to leave Topeka empty handed, and our bass player Laura wanted to leave sticky fingered.
There Are So Many Other Reasons to Hate the Olympics
With the Sochi Winter Olympics only six months away, denizens of the internet, media pundits, and LGBTQ activists have engaged in a fiery debate over whether or not Western nations should boycott the Games in protest of Russia’s new antigay legislation. While disagreeing on how to effectively send Russian lawmakers a message—whether through an all-out boycott, individual acts of protest at the Games, or moving the event to a different country—both sides of the debate began by condemning Russia’s criminalization of homosexuality as the egregious assault on human rights that it is. But this conversation fails to consider the ways in which the Olympic Games violate human rights everywhere they are held.
Many of the loudest voices in this debate have argued that Russia’s antigay legislation is antithetical to the unifying and egalitarian spirit of Olympic competition. For example, Kristopher Wells wrote in the Edmonton Journal that: “The modern Olympic movement was founded on the principles of equality, fairness and respect for all. The Olympics are the moment when the world stops and all nations come together as one, regardless of gender, race, culture, class, heritage, age or sexual orientation.” Similarly, Barack Obama told Jay Leno: “If Russia wants to uphold theOlympic spirit, then every judgement should be made on the track, or in the swimming pool, or on the balance beam. And people’s sexual orientation shouldn’t have anything to do with it.”
Although it’s nice to imagine the Olympics as a beacon of peace and equality in a world rife with discrimination, the history of the Games has proven statements like these to be problematic and hollow. So really, Olympic egalitarianism is a dumb, stupid myth. Here’s why.
A mob of anti-Olympics protesters in Vancouver. via Flickr.
Evictions and Displacement A UN-funded study by the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) found that from the 1988 games in Seoul to the Beijing Olympics of 2008, more than two million people have been displaced to make way for Olympic celebrations. These displacements disproportionately affect the poor and ethnic minorities, pushing people out of their homes and leaving behind high-cost real estate that most former residents cannot afford.
In the six years prior to the Seoul Olympics, 48,000 residential buildings were demolished, displacing 720,000 people, while over 1.25 million people were displaced in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics. In advance of the Atlanta games of 1996, 9,000 arrest citations were given out for the city’s homeless while 2,000 public housing units were demolished.
Growing up gay is hard. Growing up geeky—that is, socially awkward and more comfortable around video games, movies, and other works of fiction than people—is no rose garden either. If you are both gay and nerdy, adolescence is a minefield; you may not share interests with the kids in your school’s gay-straight alliance, and you probably won’t feel comfortable calling out any casual homophobic slurs tossed out by your buddies during LAN parties or games of Magic: The Gathering. Even in adulthood, “gaymers” can feel like outsiders in the often ultra-hetero realm of video games. That’s where GaymerX, the first-ever convention for gay geek gamers, comes in.
The event, which took place last weekend at the Kabuki Hotel in San Francisco’s Japantown, aimed to create a safe place for gaymers to congregate, though you didn’t have to identify with part of the LGBTQ acronym to participate. Organizers—full disclosure: my brother, Matt Conn, runs the thing—also wanted to draw attention to the lack of queer characters in video games and to the industry’s underlying homophobia. “There’s been no advocacy for gay rights in the gaming world,” said Matt. “There are gay and lesbian film festivals and GLAAD and HRC fighting for characters on TV shows. But nothing really for the gaming industry.”
Russian Orthodox Priests Want to Take Back Alaska and Save Its Non-Gays
Back in the day (by which I mean from 1733-1867), Alaska was a Russian colonial possession. In 1867, we bought it off the Russkies for two cents an acre. That may sound like a measly sum, but in those days two cents was considered riches—you could buy a pair of Air Force 1s with it and still have enough change left over to start your own slave colony.
Anyway, last weekend, a Russian Orthodox group known as the Pchyolki called bullshit on that deal and demanded that Alaska be returned to Russia. These guys previously gained notoriety for their reaction to Pussy Riot’s controversial performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, when they produced a handy guide for any Russian Orthodox Christians unlucky enough to be accosted by blasphemers. Apparently you’re supposed to destroy their electronic equipment with holy water, spit in their faces, and keep in mind to “avoid shedding of blood in the church itself, but if the scorners are violent outside the church grounds, you shall fight back accordingly.”
Media reports suggested that the issue of gay marriage had prompted the demand to get Alaska back. Predictably, the group isn’t too happy about two guys exchanging vows and with Obama said to be considering that very act, the Pchyolki are taking preemptive action to protect the state’s Orthodox Christian community. I phoned up Nikolay Bondarenko, the Pchyolki leader, for a chat.
VICE: Hi Nikolay. Why are you questioning the legitimacy of the USA’s ownership of Alaska? Nikolay Bondarenko: Because the original deal wasn’t done properly. Legally, the USA shouldn’t own Alaska. In the legal documents of the original deal that sold Alaska to the US government in the 1960s it specifies the terms of payment—it says that Russia will sell Alaska to America for $7.2 million and payment of the equivalent of this sum should be made by gold. But in fact the payment was made by check. Why was that? It is not known where that actual check is now, so we can’t even prove that Russians received that payment. At the time Russia and the USA were allies, so whoever was responsible for that deal must have done it on purpose.
Why do you want Alaska back? As a human rights organization we have to think about the rights of the Russians and other Orthodox people of Alaska. Article three of the original agreement highlighted that all people living there will be treated by the government according to their traditions, beliefs, and religion, and the majority of residents were Orthodox. When Obama announced his plans to legalize same-sex marriage, we realized it will really affect the Orthodox population of Alaska and it will directly violate the agreement.
Have you wanted it back before now? What prompted you to file the lawsuit? We could have claimed it back a few months ago; we could have claimed it back 100 years ago. The formal “trigger” was the Schneerson Library case, when, a few months ago, an American court ordered Russia to hand over the library to Hasidic jews of America with a $50,000 fine for every day it wasn’t returned. This was very outrageous and caused a lot of discussion.
How do you rate your chances of getting it back? We have much better legal grounds to get Alaska back than they had then, so we are quite positive about our chances.