“Queer quislings”: Johnny Weir, and getting Russia wrong

A conspiracy of infamy so black that, when it is finally exposed, its principals shall be forever deserving of the maledictions of all honest men: NON-GAYS WALK AMONG US, and we must root them out!

A conspiracy of infamy so black that, when it is finally exposed, its principals shall be forever deserving of the maledictions of all honest men: BAD GAYS WALK AMONG US, and we must root them out.

Fellow gays, I want to discuss a subject which, in my opinion, towers in importance above all others. It is the subject of international homophobia.

At the start, let me make clear that no special credit is due those of us who are making an all-out fight against this force — a force which seeks to destroy all the honesty and decency that every gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender person has been taught at his mother’s knee. It is a task which we are obligated to perform. It is one of the tasks for which we were brought into this world. If we fail to use all the powers of mind and body, then I am sure our mothers, wherever they are tonight, may well sorrow for the day of our birth.

We must be sure that those who seek to lead us today are equally dedicated.  We cannot survive on half loyalties any more than we can find the facts of homophobia with half truths. 

Wise words! They’re as inspiring now as the day they were first spoken. That day was June 2, 1950, and the speaker was that famous gay campaigner Joseph McCarthy, a patriotic fighter and good-looking Irish lug equally at home under the Capitol dome and in the anal cavities of Roy Cohn. At least, so they say. I’ve changed a few words in Tailgunner Joe’s oration, just to bring it up to date for the era of Queer Nation. But the basic idea still resonates for us, as our great sexuality stands at a moral crossroads, caught between Us and Them, hope and fear, the dark burden of the past and the shining promise of the future, which just like tomorrow is always a day away. Right?

There’s no room for half-loyalties. Consider the sad Alger Hiss of the homos, Johnny Weir. Weir, an Olympic figure skater, is not just openly gay but flaming. Even so, it may be necessary to burn him at the stake. In an interview yesterday with Keith Olbermann, Weir – dressed, with typical traitorous élan, in a vintage Red Army uniform – said he doesn’t think boycotting the Olympics is the best protest of Putin’s anti-gay laws.

While many people can sit on their couch at home and say Oh, we shouldn’t go to Russia …  staying away is something I think is the worst possible thing we can do. … Even if we stay away, Russia will still put on an Olympics, they will win all of the medals and it will be even more of a propaganda machine for Russia. What we need to do is be there, to be strong and to be united. We have to show Putin who we are, what we’re about.

If you aren’t for us, you’re against us. John Aravosis promptly lit into the skater: “Johnny Weir is living proof that you can be de jure progay, and de facto antigay, at the same time.”

Weir has been somewhat – how shall I say? – unhelpful in terms of his lack of support for the international effort to help the gay and trans communities in Russia. Weir seems to be letting his Olympian side take precedence over his gay side.

Weir in costume: At least he's not carrying a Kalashnikov

Weir in costume: He may look gay to you, but  just ask him about the boycott

Two sides? People with an extra side need it amputated, fast. They can’t be trusted. Is this guy some kind of closet Communist? I’d guess the author really doesn’t like Johnny Weir personally, which is understandable, given that the kid is not only disloyal but, as Aravosis tweeted today, “a bit caricaturish.” His post is called “Nothing Good Can Come from Johnny Weir,” but if you judge from the URL — these tend to fossilize headings from early drafts — the title used to include something about a “freak of nature.”  (The URL is http://americablog.com/2013/09/freak-nature-johnny-weir.html) Oddly enough, that’s the kind of slur Johnny Weir has heard from homophobes throughout his career. ““We should make him pass a gender test!” “He should compete with the women!” a couple of Canadian sportscasters chortled on air during the 2012 Olympics. In the past, many people saw Weir as courageous for standing up against this shit. But that was before the fey little deviationist veered from the Central Committee’s line.

Then someone named Scott Wooledge stepped in — he has a business called Memeographs, which as you’d guess produces memes, those funny internet pictures that make you seem cool and original when you post them on Facebook along with 1,537,648 other individualists.  Here’s today’s viral sensation:

Meme for the day: Traitors in our midst

Meme for the day: Traitors in our midst

Queer quisling? Really? I have a dark confession. I, too, have a Soviet military uniform. You could buy them for a few forints in Budapest when I moved there in 1989; Russian soldiers were peeling them off and selling them right and left to scrape up spending money. For years, in the former Warsaw Pact, they were prized as ironic objects whose appropriation (for costume parties, not Party Congresses) mocked the onetime occupiers. This is a lot like the kind of thing gays used to call “camp.” Johnny Weir is campy, an attitude that tends to sit poorly with political correctness.  But these days, camp is for quislings. I wonder if the language here might be getting a bit over the top. This thought control, these charges of treason seem a little … Stalinist, somehow. Maybe Soviet attire would fit Scott Wooledge even better than Johnny Weir.

The enemy is clever – be vigilant! Stalin-era propaganda poster: A phobe in Johnny Weir's clothing, unmasked

The enemy is clever – be vigilant! Stalin-era propaganda poster: A phobe in Johnny Weir’s clothing, unmasked

But all this is nothing as against the righteous ire of John Becker, at the Bilerico Project, who practically dismembers Weir’s comments syllable by syllable, The incompetent little ice queen can’t do anything right. Weir, for instance, had the effrontery to describe himself as “an Olympian, first and foremost, before a gay man, before a white man, I am an Olympian. That’s what I worked for from age twelve.” That is not just disloyalty, it’s thoughtcrime. Wise up, traitor skaterboy, remember who you are! Becker explains it to him:

Note to Johnny: while you’re certainly entitled to view yourself as an Olympian “before a gay man,” that’s simply not true, biologically and chronologically speaking. You may have been training for the Olympics since you were twelve — and believe me, I have incredible respect for the training you and other athletes put yourselves through — but you were born gay. Sexual orientation is intrinsic to a person’s humanity; being an Olympian is not. So whether or not you place your gayness ahead of your Olympic identity, you were a gay person long before you set foot on the ice for the very first time.

Not only does this little ingrate not understand his own essential, primordial, primary biological being: he disses marriage. Weir made the mistake of saying that “the Western countries that support gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender unions” should unite at Sochi. Becker goes ballistic:

Ummmm, Johnny, it’s 2013, not 1983. LGBT people don’t have unions, we have marriages. … Those terms may have been acceptable in the 1980s, but they sure as hell aren’t now. If you’re going to be working the talk show circuit, you owe it to your community to update your vocabulary.

Wait a minute. 

You owe it to your community to use the M-word? I feel my own inner traitor coming out. But what if you don’t want to marry, or call your relationship a marriage — because, say, you believe along with generations of feminists that it’s a repressive institution sodden with the unpaid sweat of patriarchy, and no liberating model for your loves? Weir, as it happens, has married his Russian partner. But are we all bound to obey and imitate, in word and deed?

Here’s where I leave the party. With all due respect to Becker, I invite him to fuck the hell off, and stop telling me how to define my intimacies or live my life. I haven’t been a human rights activist for a quarter century so that some small-minded blogger could straitjacket me in a new regime of canons, conformities, and exclusions. For his information, my relationship is not a marriage, nor is it any kind of regular, sell-out union. It’s a radical Trotskyist union with militant anarchist tendencies, wild as the Wobblies or the old Spanish Confederación Nacional del Trabajo. I’m going to stick to my principles, and I’m not going to play Brad-and-Janet just because John Becker orders me to. And If John Becker doesn’t like how I think of my own life, too fucking bad.

Model for my relationships

Model for my relationships

The abuse of Weir today was weird, an explosion of macho paranoia. But the rage and vitriol, completely out of proportion to what Weir said, suggest that something’s getting way, way out of hand. The demand that gayness trump any other identity or interest because you’re BORN THAT WAY, that’s ALL YOU ARE; the contradictory search for bad gays who don’t have any right to the name; the talk of treachery, the policing of word choice as well as opinion, the smearing of some gays as “antigay” — these kinds of things don’t just demolish nuance and discussion. They destroy movements.

They breed amid the mounting fever of ever more high-pitched rhetoric that surrounds the Russia campaign. The panic gets steadily more manic. The Holocaust comparisons are becoming not just offensive but insane. Aravosis warns Weir that “Jesse Owens won and the Nazis still killed millions afterwards”! — as if Putin is already testing his gas chambers. Harvey Fierstein seriously believes the next stop after Sochi is, if not Auschwitz, at least Bergen-Belsen:

Vigilantes [in Russia] have implied instruction to protect their communities from the rampant evil.  … And now the government comes in with “concern” for the gay community’s safety. They are rounded up for their own protection and isolated for the sake of the children at risk of infection. Welcome to the return of concentration camps.

This is all in the present tense: Fierstein seems to think it’s happening now, or anyway only a day away. If you really believe that, then of course you can’t waste a second on discussion, there’s genocide going on, something must be done immediately, and dissenters are as bad as killers. Johnny Weir has blood on his blades!  This kind of hyped-up desperation debases all debate.

This wouldn't have gotten out of hand if you'd listened to me earlier: "Death to World Imperialism," Soviet poster, 1920

This wouldn’t have gotten out of hand if you’d listened to me earlier: “Death to World Imperialism,” Soviet poster, 1920

There’s something even more disturbing about the abuse. The truth is: Weir’s opinions, whatever you think of them, are shared by a significant number of Russian LGBT activists. Many activist voices there have criticized the boycotts. The Russian LGBT Network issued a statement six weeks ago that said:

Participation and attendance of the Games in Sochi will not indicate endorsement of injustice and discrimination; they will only if they are silent. We hope to join forces and succeed in raising everyone’s voices for LGBT equality in Russia and elsewhere. We hope that together with those who share this vision, we will succeed in sending the strongest message possible by involving athletes, diplomats, sponsors, and spectators to show up and speak up, proclaiming equality in most compelling ways. …

Do not boycott the Olympics – boycott homophobia! Stand in solidarity with people in Russia and bring LGBT pride and values of human rights and freedoms to the Games in Sochi!

So? Is the Russian LGBT Network “antigay”? Are they fake gays, mere gays “de jure,” as Aravosis says? Are they quislings, Scott Wooledge? Are they only concerned about their selfish interests, instead of a bunch of American boycotters’ needs? Attacking Weir is actually a way for these folks to attack Russian activists and Russian arguments by proxy. They’d be shouting insults and heaping abuse on some of the Russians they claim to defend, if they dared.

Surprise! There are divisions among Russian activists. All the attention paid in recent days to the sheer looniness of Nikolai Alekseev — whose pathology and prejudice truly put him beyond the pale — obscures the fact that serious, respected activists in Moscow and Petersburg differ, for the most part civilly, on what to do. Some people support the Stoli boycott but not the Olympics boycott, some support both, some want neither. The first obligation on Western supporters in this kind of situation is: Do no harm. Whatever you do, try not to worsen the divisions unnecessarily, try not to turn disagreements into civil wars by the sheer weight of your influence. But when Aravosis and Wooledge demonize a perfectly credible strain of opinion by abusing it viciously as “antigay,” they are really, really, really not helping the movement within Russia.

Working together, we're pretty rad: "Worker and peasant women, all go to the polls! We bring fear to the bourgeoisie!" Soviet poster, 1925

Working together, we’re pretty rad: “Worker and peasant women, all go to the polls! We bring fear to the bourgeoisie!” Soviet poster, 1925

More than that, though: There have to be strategic discussions. Western activists actually can play productive roles here. They can help create virtual spaces for talking strategy — Skype, Viber and Internet chat are wonderful inventions that, surprise again!, are useable for more than hookups. They can serve as sounding boards for their Russian colleagues, to figure out what methods will sway foreign governments as well as their own. They can learn about what’s worked in Moscow or Rostov, and, with a little humility, they can offer examples of what’s succeeded elsewhere. Doing this would require getting off  the high-horse of urgency, discarding the frantic certainty that we are summoned to do something, anything, and it has to be now. It would mean admitting that this is going to be a long fight that will stretch way beyond Sochi. It would mean trying to settle on some common and realistic long-term goals, which might not be the stuff of headlines (Putin overthrown! Anti-gay law repealed) but could be very meaningful all the same: arrests that aren’t made, trials that don’t happen, organizations that actually survive. It would mean building a movement for the long haul, too, reaching out to the backbone structures that power real, successful international campaigns — labor unions, anti-war and women’s groups, minority lobbies, mobilized students. It would mean putting the Western activist ego in abeyance a bit, admitting that you’re not going to save a bunch of Russians solo, that Russians are more likely to save themselves.

Of course, this would all be slow and boring and terribly unsexy, and much of it would be out of the public eye. Which is why the Dan Savages will probably never go for it.

How much are the U.S. campaigners bothering to listen to Russians at all — you know, the kind inside Russia, the ones who are going to be directly affected by what they do? Not much, from what I see.

Exhibit One. Dan Savage gave an interview to Radio Free Europe a week ago:

RFE/RL: Are you in communication with Russian LGBT activists about the situation on the ground?

Savage: I’m getting a very clear picture. I live in Seattle, Washington. And there isn’t a large Russian or Russian gay community here. The large Russian community and large Russian gay community is in New York City. And I’m following very closely their statements and following meetings that are going on there.

I visited Moscow in 1990 and met with gay people there. And it just breaks my heart that they were so full of hope for their futures and for the progress that they hoped their country would make as it joined the civilized world.

This all means “No,” with a little overlay of “I can see Russia from my house.” Savage weirdly answers a question about whether he’s ever talked to a Russian activist in Russia by saying he “follows” –whatever that means — what Russians living in New York are saying. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that these aren’t the same thing. He does let us know, however, that 23 years ago he talked to some people in Moscow. It’s a pity they still aren’t civilized. They do have Starbucks now, though.

It makes you wonder whether Savage thought Russians should have any input into the boycott campaign he started. John Aravosis began his attack on Johnny Weir today with this immortal line: “It’s time we stopped pretending that every guy who sucks d*ck, as my friend Dan Savage would put it, is somehow an instant expert on our civil rights.” But how many blow jobs does it take to make you a Russia expert?

Exhibit Two: Also last week, Eric Sasson, a Wall Street Journal blogger, published a piece at Salon on the Nikolai Alekseev mess. He reviews the grim record of Alekseev’s anti-Semitism, but then gets down to the 64,000 ruble question: “Just how does the Russian LGBT community move forward when its most prominent voice loses his credibility?” The answer is, it can’t, and its credibility is shot. The whole initiative lies with activists in the West: “We have a responsibility to speak up for those who cannot do so.  This is exactly what the propaganda ban is about: denying a class of people the right to stand up for themselves.”

Shut up, she explained: Soviet propaganda poster, 1941

Shut up, she explained: Soviet propaganda poster, 1941

In the process he attacks Nation editor Katrina Vanden Heuvel, who dared to suggest that “a truly effective fight for LGBT rights” means listening and giving priority to what Russians themselves say and do. Vanden Heuvel, he says, simply seeks “to dismiss the efforts of Westerners (including activists such as Harvey Fierstein and Dan Savage and journalists such as John Aravosis and Richard Socarides).” We need to remember how important those people are, “given that the propaganda ban effectively denies Russian LGBT citizens the right to protest freely.”

The law is awful, but Sasson is silly if he thinks it has shut “Russian LGBT citizens” up for good. They continue to organize, protest, and write. Of course they demand and need Western support, but they are also perfectly capable of saying what they want, and telling Aravosis, Fierstein, and Savage what to do. It’s their country. For Sasson, the law really seems less a human rights abomination than a wonderful opportunity for Westerners to speak for “silenced” people. No matter how loud they scream, Putin says they’re “silenced,” therefore we’ll do the talking. The good intentions shouldn’t obscure the terrible methods here. As Teju Cole wrote, “The White Savior Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege.”

Exhibit Three: Lesbian Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen gave an interview last week to Michelangelo Signorile, in which she said: “It’s high time to talk about asylum. The only way at this point that the U.S. can help Russian gays and lesbians is get us the hell out of here.” Masha’s an old friend of mine, and somebody whose opinion I respect a lot. She’s been a power behind the boycott movements, but she’s also consistently discouraged expecting quick results. Repealing the propaganda law is unlikely, she’s stressed, for instance; the best one can hope for is scaring Putin into seeing that it’s not enforced. It’s hard not to read this statement as a reminder that the US has limited clout in Russia, that persecution and arrest are real threats, and that we have a responsibility to clean up our own act where the human right to asylum is concerned.

That’s not how the comment played, though. By the time the meme-makers had mangled it, this was spreading over Facebook like kudzu:

1003392_631726586860265_1239272419_n

Bullshit. No activists are “begging” for asylum. They’re not abject mendicants. Most activists in Russia are courageously working and fighting on. But we need to feel that Russians need us. So we translate even a message that there’s not much we can do into a satisfying cry for help. How great to live in a country people want so desperately to get into! Let’s not think about immigration reform, though (does anybody even remember that?) As Teju Cole wrote, for the White Savior Industrial Complex, “The world is nothing but a problem to be solved by enthusiasm.”

None of this is the stuff of successful campaigning. It’s the raw material for personal catharsis, not change. And in fact, despite all the urgent talk of concentration camps and gas chambers, the Russia campaigns aren’t going swimmingly. The anti-Stoli side of the boycott came in for withering ridicule in last week’s New York Times. More importantly, nothing in Putin’s Russia has budged; new, worse law proposals keep coming. Aravosis tried to tabulate the boycott’s successes today, while reproving Weir:

The only reason that Johnny Weir is even on Keith Olbermann’s show is because the boycott took an issue that most people didn’t care about and made it an international scandal with non-stop coverage going on seven weeks now. No one outside of the gay blogs and the very occasional news article was talking about Russia’s draconian crackdown on its gay and trans citizens, and it certainly wasn’t being discussed on a daily basis like it is now.  Yet, just days ago, the issue was raised at the G20 summit by both President Obama and the British Prime Minister. … It happened because some activists called for a boycott which caught the attention of the gay community, the media and the world.

This is getting the cart before the ass, I think. The boycotts creatively rode a wave of indignation that was already rising; they didn’t create it. But even granting the point (which Gessen also agrees with) that the boycotts have done a lot to crystallize public attention: what do you do with that public attention? Just getting publicity is not, is never, the point. Even pressing Obama to talk to Putin is not the point, as long as Putin doesn’t listen. If the Olympics stay in Sochi, what’s the plan? What are you going to do when Sochi’s over, and the law’s still there?  Can you mobilize people for something more sustained and demanding than dumping vodka in a drain? What actually are your concrete goals, short of bringing Putin down?

I don’t yet hear answers to any of these questions — and that’s partly because even to take a stab at answers, you’d have to pay some serious heed to Russian activists, especially Russians outside New York. Short of that, all this attention-catching and publicity-grabbing mainly mean attention and publicity for Dan Savage and the rest. Russian activists, Russian movements, and ordinary Russians facing silence or arrest are still waiting to see what it means for them.

Soviet sports education poster, 1951: "If you want to be like me, just train!" No comment.

Soviet sports education poster, 1951: “If you want to be like me, just train!” No comment.

17 thoughts on ““Queer quislings”: Johnny Weir, and getting Russia wrong

  1. Thank you for this. I’m appalled at how self-congratulatory the leaders of the boycott movement have become and how easily they dismiss the opinions of LGBT Russians who are in Russia fighting for their rights.

    I can’t understand the vitriol leveled at Johnny Weir. Blake Skjellerup holds virtually the same position, yet LGBT sites across the internet have been raising money to send him to Sochi and make him the first out gay man to compete at the Olympics.

    Johnny’s femininity and playful campiness obviously make a segment of the gay community very uncomfortable, but the frothing at the mouth hatred that’s been evidenced lately is just ridiculous. I think your idea that Western activists are using Johnny as a whipping boy instead of the Russian activists they disagree with is very insightful.

    Anton Krasovsky has asked the West to not boycott the millions of gays and lesbians still in Russia. LGBT in Russia are fearful of how much worse their situation could be if they lose the Western media spotlight. Johnny Weir has called it turning our backs on the very people we say we want to help. Why is that so hard to understand?

  2. It says something that Savage doesn’t know there’s a large Russian community in WeHo.

    On the ‘take kids from gay parents’ bill, actually people say it is too absurd, as I note here http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/09/11/comment-is-the-western-coverage-of-russian-lgbt-issues-missing-the-positive-angle/ (I did not write the headline or intro).

    In comments, reporting Coming Out’s opinion is literally compared to holocaust denial.

  3. To borrow a phrase from John Aravosis: Nothing good can come from a community eating its own who refuse to walk in lockstep with US LGBT activists’ misguided, kneejerk groupthink. All the Weir-bashing from US LGBTs reveals the depth of both their arrogance and their ignorance of the Russian cuture & mindset, and of what actions will truly effect change in Russia for its LGBT community.

    If there’s any American gay who really understands Russia, it would be Russophile Weir—whom actual Russian LGBTs embrace because they know he respects their beloved Russia, he deeply grasps the Russian soul, and he gets how things work in Russia.

    The crushing irony of self-proclaimed leaders of a community that seeks acceptance of diversity but who have no room in their minds/hearts for the same is apparently completely lost on Aravosis, Wooledge, Savage, Fierstein, and the like. Worst of all is the amount of hate flung at Weir from, again, a community fighting for acceptance based on love (“love is love. Unless you’re Johnny Weir. Then we hate you because you make us uncomfortable in ways we don’t know how to deal with.”)

    Complicated problems like Russia’s homphobia require more than typically simplistic black-and-white American thinking. Western disapproval and boycotts only serve to harden Russians’ deep nationalism; they thrive on being uniquely, insularly Russian. Fierstein keeps insisting that money is the only thing that makes a difference anywhere in the world. But for Russia, nothing—not even money—trumps pride in being Russian. Which Fierstein and other activists would know if they took a moment to STFU, check their egos, listen, read, and get informed.

    But of course, it’s much easier to simply attack Johnny Weir, even though he’s far from alone in his adamantly anti-boycott stance (see: All Out, Athlete Ally, Patrick Burke, Cyd Zeigler, Greg Louganis, Blake Skjellerup, etc. etc.). And also to conveniently ignore, in every biased report on the interview in gay media outlets, Olbermann’s own agreement with Weir. His last comment to Weir at the close of the interview, after Johnny concludes his explanation of his anti-boycott stance by drawing the (gasp!) parallel between his lack of rights in Russia and his lack of rights in New Jersey: “You’re absolutely right.”

  4. A wonderful piece – though quite depressing in what it reveals about the mindset of so many US and Uk LGBT camapigners, and about this increasingly hysterical episode.

    Says something that it seems shocking to see someone talking sense.

    Thank you.

  5. In my mind the point of the boycotts is to get the conversation going. I don’t think anyone knows what will work the best. A boycott gives the message that the West cares about human rights for LGBT. Russian activists are a very diverse group so one can not really follow them, or whatever you do will be denounced by some of them.
    There are also a lot of parallels toJews in Nazi Germany during the build up to the Holocaust even if one doesn’t believe the same result awaits gays.
    I agree that the gay spokespeople have to stop attacking those with divergent opinions or approaches. Thank you for an insightful and well-researched article.

  6. Thank you again for that great and very insightful article. You actually made my day and gave hope that not all is lost with the “gay community”…the American gay community in particular.

  7. Thanks for this perspective, Scott. It seems a uniquely American phenomenon, however. In following this (and a lot of other) issues, I have noticed that American queer media personalities seem convinced that self-aggrandizement within America will have results in foreign countries. I have some bad news for them: Americans are not leading the issues or the queer battles in Russia.

    While American LGBT media hounds publicly scrap for credit or for righteousness, the battle rages on and the Russians are quietly pursuing and leading their own campaign together with their allies. This is being done in collaboration and with the support of the worldwide queer movement primarily through International Lesbian, Gay and Transexual Association (ILGA) member groups in Europe and elsewhere. The information sharing led by ILGA Europe in particular is convincing queers outside America to get their own governments and Olympic organisations to take action both with Russia and with the IOC. The issues are not just boycott versus no boycott. ILGA Europe, where most Russian groups are members, has put forward an analysis at: http://www.ilga-europe.org/home/guide_europe/country_by_country/russia/response_russia_july_2013
    It puts forward that: “So here comes the issue. In fact, the anti-propaganda laws are part of a much broader attempt to clamp down civil society. The laws are adopted in a period, coinciding with Putin’s third presidency, during which a number of laws have been adopted that clearly violate freedoms of assembly, association, expression and information. All these laws seemingly share one objective: rendering the work of NGOs impossible. There is the Treason law, which aims to make international advocacy difficult. Then there is the Foreign Agents law, forcing organisations to register if they receive foreign funding, putting them under extreme administrative scrutiny and thereby threatening their mere existence. And there are also new laws regulating the internet. It is clearly the aim of the government to stop any organizing that could create a threat to their leadership.

    “At the same time, the anti-LGBTI campaign plays well into the new way in which Putin likes to position Russia. A society that is hyper-conservative and pro-family values, close to the Orthodox Church and moving away from western values. The LGBTI community in that context is best place to become the symbol of everything that is un-Russian”.

    We have not seen the issue put forward this way in the American queer media, with the exception of a very few bloggers who have bothered to look outside the borders of the USA for news to see what the rest of the world is doing.

    After the Olympics are over, Russian queers with their allies will continue their struggle together with other civil society groups, other minorities, and migrant workers . We all hope that American queers will be involved with the long battle ahead. Long term collaborative efforts, with little bling or headlines, will be required to turn things around in Russia, and in many other countries where the situation is worse than in Russia.

    There are 76+ countries where being gay or expressing our sexual orientation or identity is illegal. The situation for queers in Jamaica and in Cameroon for example is at least as bad than in Russia with many more well documented cases of homophobic hate crimes, violence and savage murders against queers, and yet the situation in these states, other than the occasional article, seems largely ignored by the American queer media and movement. The world is all the poorer by your absence.

    I feel sorry for the way Weir is being treated. He is a figure skater, and no one should expect him to be a queer movement leader or spokesperson. Let him be an Olympian and cheer him on. Although he doesn’t really need to do so, perhaps he will join with other queer Olympians and wear a rainbow pin to test the propaganda law when he steps up on the podium.

    • I have no criticism, but I’d like to make a point, since you brought up the rainbow pin. Johnny’s been very open about his marriage to the Russian press. It’s common knowledge he’s married to a man. He has a ring finger full of diamonds from his husband you can see through his competition gloves. I can’t speak for Johnny, but in my mind those rings are a much more natural expression and still a challenge to the propaganda laws. It is, after all, illegal to portray a homosexual relationship as equal to a heterosexual marriage.

  8. The verbal gynastics required to defend the wearing of a Russian military uniform under these circumstances were quite entertaining. Your inability to even entertain that Mr. Weir may have made some mistakes in this interview tells quite a bit. I personally found it to be completely tone deaf, and he could have made his points without comparing Russia to Jersey, especially considering the rash of violence against Russian teenagers, Just today a video was released of. Russian teen boy being raped with a bottle to cure him, because of the anti gay laws and attitude, Russian authorities refuse to investigate…and johnny weir wears their uniform……but it’s just like Jersey and Campy…so it’s OK.

  9. Pingback: Top guns: Last words on Johnny Weir | a paper bird

  10. Pingback: He’s our bigot. Leave him alone. | a paper bird

  11. This was an excellent post! One other thing that struck me was that it was completely legit for Weir, anyway, to speak of “Western countries that support gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender unions”, given that civil partnerships and civil unions, rather than marriage, are a reality for same-sex couples in some places. So.

  12. Pingback: September 1-15 | new political paranoias

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