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Academic Igor Kon Talks about Gay Pride in Moscow


Academic Igor Kon Talks about Gay Pride in Moscow

Academic Igor Kon

2005/10/29. Academic, Igor Kon, is a zealot of sexual enlightenment in Russia. His books concerning many questions on sexology have repeatedly become bestsellers. It is difficult to put a price on the amount of support that Professor Kon has given to the gay society in Russia thanks to his superb authority and notoriety amongst western colleagues.

From the point of view of rights and morals, there are no objections to holding Gay Pride or reasons for forbidding it and there shouldn't be. This event, which is being already held for many years in many different countries, is in essence one of non-confrontation, but of peace and friendliness. I saw Gay Pride in several countries and not in any place were they conducted with any sorts of excess. If in Moscow it happens differently, then the blame lays partially on the uniformed society and partially on the Moscow Mayor, who for many years has been illegally rejecting the registration of GLBT organizations, which are trying to protect the rights of the GLBT community. The Mayor's office justifies rejecting registration saying that the organizations' goals go against the norms of morality.

By doing this, the city's officials have created political difficulties for themselves. As world experience has proven, gay communities everywhere serve as strongholds of order and stability. Homosexuality becomes a socially explosive power only when you suppress it. But, if a different certain socially minority does not have legal representation, then anyone can speak for him.

Moscow Gay Pride, from the very beginning, turned out to be confrontational. The first mention of it was done in a peremptory form, which followed with a flat out, "We will BAN it," from Yury Luzhkov. Doing it in this way was a big mistake. The Moscow Mayor is not obliged to comment on petitions from unknown private people. As a last resort, he could have said, "Alright, in Moscow there is a legal procedure for conducting such an activity. Let them fill out the forms." Now the situation has become more aggravated and unfavorable for both sides.

The administrative ban on Gay Pride may in some way undermine the image of Moscow as a democratic world capital, in which all citizens have equal opportunities. This image will negatively affect the future of international events, in which the city is interested in hosting. The conducting of Gay Pride would automatically mean recognizing the rights of sexual minorities and their legal right for self-expression. This would also mean including recognizing the organizations which are trying to protect the rights of the GLBT community, which have been for so many years been rejected by the Moscow authorities.

Even though the majority of the population in Russia, and in particular Muscovites, relate to homosexuality more or less with tolerance, they are not psychologically ready for public demonstrations of this type as results from a recent survey have shown. If the Moscow Mayor can't tell the difference between a Gay Pride and a heterosexual "Love Parade" in the Berlin style, then what should we expect from a simple citizen? Expectations of a public orgy could give rise to fear and aggression, even if these expectations are not justified. People often don't see what really exists, but instead see what there were trained to see. The important factor here is namely the psychological effect.

There is no unity in this question, and amongst GLBT activists a critical dispute has come about. In principle, it is absolutely normal for there to be a universal divergence of the liberal and radical strategies where the first is ready to be happy with a little and the second demands firm decisions. From this, come the accusations of time-serving or adventurism towards one another. However, discussion of principle questions was from the start substituted with rude attacks of the personal type. The confrontations between GLBT activists has turned out to be more brutal than the general disputes with the Moscow authorities. For who is this advantageous?

In the country there are influential political powers that are using homophobia as an instrument in the fight against a democratic transformation and for the return to totalitarianism. Even if you exclude the possibility of excesses and violent actions from the direction of the fascist organizations, which just need a reason for violence, the inescapable reaction on Gay Pride will be that those suffering from homophobia will increase in number. This will give a shove in the direction of strengthening homophobic propaganda in Moscow and in the provinces. These types of actions are already underway, but to sufficiently reply to these attacks, there is no one and no place. The majority of Russian media are only interested in scandals. Only a few liberal editions, with disgust, make like this has something to do with them. GLBT sites usually are not visited by heterosexual people. How will this all affect those living in Russian remote places where it is already difficult for those living there?

Because of the intensifying of social tension, not only sexual minorities may suffer, but the democratic movement altogether. During the December elections to the Moscow State Duma, the attitude towards homosexuality may become one of the topics for the propaganda soapbox for the "Rodina" and "Communist" parties as well as for clerical organizations. "Yabloko" and "SPS" have never had a definite position concerning this question, and now they might have to make a decision in these difficult conditions. What will be their choice and how will it affect the results of the elections? In the end, the fate of sexual, like all other social minorities, will depend on the preservation and development of democratic and liberal institutions, and values.

Representatives of more or less well-known Russian GLBT organizations and media have declined all responsibility for conducting Gay Pride with only mostly western figures showing any support for it. Meanwhile, the national pride of Russians, having been stung by losing the status of a superpower, is extremely sensitive. Even those suffering from homophobia won't like it if a manifestation in the capital of Russia is organized, financed and conducted mostly by foreigners. This is even more so if the event is conducted by deputies of the European parliament, which we have not elected. Disregard of the national feelings of Russians just pours more water onto the mill wheel of chauvinistic propaganda and affirms that homosexuality is alien to the Russian soul and that it is brought here exclusively by foreigners and the "corrupt West." Will this bring with it a growth of homophobia and anti-European feelings, which the West and Russia are for sure not interested in?

If one wants to, he or she can write off this anxiety of mine as just my customary conformism senility, which hinders me from evaluating the new realities taking place. I really still think though that these questions are ones of great seriousness.


Academic Igor Kon -

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