A lot of the focus on Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” laws has gone toward the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which has unfortunately overshadowed many of the families that are currently suffering in silence due to the legislation.
In order to raise awareness about Russia’s impact on LGBT families, journalist, activist and mother Masha Gessen wrote a piece for The Guardian about how she, her girlfriend and her three children have been forced to flee the country for the sake of their safety.
What woke me up was a friend who messaged me on Facebook: “I am worried about how this might impact you and other LGBT people with families.” This was enough to get my imagination working. Whatever they meant by “homosexual propaganda", I probably did it. I had two kids and a third on the way (my girlfriend was pregnant), which would mean I probably did it in front of minors. And this, in turn, meant the laws could in fact apply to me. First, I would be hauled in for administrative offences and fined and then, inevitably, social services would get involved.
That was enough to get me to read the legislation, which by now had been passed in about 10 towns and was about to become law in St Petersburg, the second-largest city in the country. Here is what I read: homosexual propaganda was defined as “the purposeful and uncontrolled distribution of information that can harm the spiritual or physical health of a minor, including forming the erroneous impression of the social equality of traditional and non-traditional marital relations".
If this law is supposed to protect children, I can’t help but feel like it’s doing a piss-poor job accomplishing its stated purpose.
Russia’s anti-gay laws are bad enough as they are, but claiming that they help children almost seems like an intentionally sadistic jab at us. It forces families to choose between abandoning their homes or losing their families, it teaches Russian citizens that it’s okay (even honourable) to attack LGBT people, and it teaches queer kids that there’s no place for them in the one place they call home.