The Roots of Russia's Homophobia
Published: September 6, 2013 (Issue # 1776)
U.S. President Barack Obama made his boldest statement about the sorry state of gay rights in Russia when he said on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" last month that he has "no patience for countries that try to treat gays, lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them."
Thus, it is no surprise that Obama decided to meet Friday with members of Russia's LGBT community on the sidelines of this week's Group of 20 summit in St. Petersburg. In this way, Obama can draw further global attention to a law that President Vladimir Putin recently signed that prohibits the dissemination of "gay propaganda" to minors.
The new anti-gay law punishes those who "propagandize" LGBT lifestyles. But the real propagandizers are the Orthodox church and state, which are pushing their own political agenda.
Is this law necessary? Gays aren't usually active in "propagandizing" nontraditional sexual lifestyles to minors for the simple reason that it is a useless endeavor. Minors do not become gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender because of a newspaper article defending LGBT rights that they may stumble upon — including this one — or a gay parade that they may accidentally witness once a year while walking down the street. They are born that way.
Although this fact was proven decades ago by the overwhelming majority of Western psychologists and sexologists, Russian lawmakers and church officials still believe that heterosexuals can be "propagandized" into becoming LGBT.
Showing the same level of ignorance, many lawmakers also believe that homosexuality is a disease that should be treated through "proper education" and psychological counseling. Even more disturbing, 80 percent of Russians agree with them, according to an April poll by the Levada Center. What's more, 42 percent believe that homosexuality should again be a criminal offense, according to a June 11 VTsIOM poll, as it was during the Soviet period.
This widespread homophobia provided fertile ground for the new anti-gay law. It was thus no surprise that 88 percent of Russians support the law, according to a June VTsIOM poll.
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