Cher said no, and the world listened. From ballet demonstrations to national commercials, from tweets to open letters, here are the 14 ways the world came together for the Russian LGBTI community
Did you pour your Stoli vodka down a drain, or stop eating McDonald’s during the Winter Olympics?
In recent months Russia has been at the center of a civil rights firestorm, between president Putin signing anti-gay laws to politicians threatening LGBTI Olympic athletes and spectators.
Even though the Sochi Winter Olympics wrapped up this weekend, the reactions to Russia’s anti-gay laws are still being seen, heard and felt around the world.
For all the hate speech flying around from both sides, there were so many courageous and respectful ways in which people took a stand against Russia’s anti-gay laws.
Here are 14 ways the world said no to Russian homophobia and yes to universal love.
Many people were asked to perform during the Sochi Olympics, but the majority of them all refused.
That list included Blondie’s Debbie Harry and Cher.
On Twitter, Harry posted a photo of the offer by the Red Rocks Festival. On it, she had written, ‘Pass – human rights.’
And Cher said: ‘I can’t name names but my friend called who is a big oligarch over there, and asked me if I’d like to be an ambassador for the Olympics and open the show.
‘I immediately said no.’
Hollywood heartthrob Wentworth Miller came out publicly as a gay men in 2013, choosing to do so in a rejection letter to the St Petersburg International Film Festival.
‘As a gay man, I must decline,’ he wrote.
‘I am deeply troubled by the current attitude toward and treatment of gay men and women by the Russian government’.
The Prison Break star said he previously enjoyed visiting Russia and also claims a degree of Russian ancestry.
The mayor of Sochi, Anatoly Pakhomov, said there would be no issues at the Olympics as there were no gay people in his city. The gay people in his city were furious.
One gay man, Andrey Ozerny, came to GSN to air his frustration.
‘You are mistaken that you don’t know any gay people,’ he vented. ‘Believe me, there are many gays in the city administration and probably you often sit with them in the same room at the same table.’
‘I hope you realise that gay people are a part of the picture of a modern world, and you will one day join us.’
One of the most famous Russian exports is gay composer Tchaikovsky, and the world famous ballet Swan Lake.
In London opposite the Russian embassy’s headquarters, two male and two female dancers plièd in protest to Swan Lake’s most famous theme.
The result was perhaps the classiest gay rights protest ever.
And now to the slightly lower class, and that is meant in the most hilarious, tongue-in-cheek way.
Both Canada and UK’s Channel 4 decided to release adverts to protest against Russia’s gay propaganda law.
In the first, Canada showed how the Winter Olympics has always been a little bit gay by showing how homerotic the double luge can be.
Olympic sponsors like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s came under fire in recent months for not doing more against Russia’s anti-gay laws.
Openly gay MEP Michael Cashman sent a stinging reprisal to Visa when he cut up his plastic credit card on the floor of the chamber.
‘I will never allow the tyranny of a majority to oppress a minority,’ he said in a televised speech.
‘The defence of civil liberties and human rights is paramount and is finally the test of a civilized democracy.’
Ahead of the Sochi Olympics, Russia’s government gave conflicting reports over the safety of LGBTI athletes and attendees.
Bent Høie, the official representative for Norway at the Paralympics, said since it was normal for a cabinet official to travel with a spouse on such an official visit, he would take his husband with him to Russia.
As one of the world’s most gay-friendly nations, Norway has also won some of the most Winter Olympic medals.
Students from the UK’s Cambridge University, the top-ranked college in the country, aren’t afraid to kiss and tell.
This February hundreds of Cambridge students staged a flash-mob where same-sex couples kissed and waved rainbow flags on campus in solidarity with Russia’s LGBTI community.
Elly Smith, student and organizer of the flash mob, told Cambridge News: ‘My girlfriend and I can hold hands on the street, without fear. We feel very lucky to live in a town where people aren’t persecuted for who they love.’
‘Not everyone has this, not everyone even knows it is possible.’
‘To LGBTI people in Russia: the world is listening, and the world is fighting for you.’
During the Olympics opening Ceremony, the London Gay Men’s Chorus hosted a three-hour song-fest outside the city’s Russian Embassy.
Steven McIntyre, one of the group’s trustees and the organiser of the protest, said: ‘What we wanted to do was say, “look, we understand that the Olympics bring people together, but this Olympics is excluding people, and that’s not okay”.’
‘If I could send a message to the gay athletes in Russia, I would say “you are our heroes,” McIntyre said.
Some knew who Vladimir Luxuria was before, after all to be Europe’s first openly Trans elected member of parliament it takes some bravery.
But not only did she go to Sochi, Russia and a hold a gay rights protest, she got arrested. And then the next day, she turned up to a hockey match in a rainbow dress and got arrested again.
After so many politicians talked the talk, it was her who became a hero by taking a stand.
On Valentine’s Day, several cities hosted same-sex kiss protests in order to show how love can conquer fear and hate.
In just one protest in Beijing, activist Xiao Tie told the AFP: ‘We feel more positive today as it is Valentine’s Day and we have the opportunity to relay the message that everybody has the right to love and the right to campaign.’
Stockholm residents sent Russia the ultimate Blowkiss.
A camera crew followed Mishka the bear around the city asking residents to send air kisses to Russia ‘to support equal love and gay rights’.
The film crew intends to go global as the next planned stop is New York City.
The world proved LGBTI athletes do better when out
Even though Sochi just had seven openly LGBT athletes, if they were a team they would have done better than countries like Finland, Great Britain and Australia.
Dutch speed-skater Ireen Wüst was the biggest medal-winner of the seven athletes, winning one gold and three silvers so far.
‘It proves countries that exclude LGBT people from any activity, including sport, are shooting themselves in the foot,’ Marc Naimark, vice president of the Federation of Gay Games, told GSN.
‘They say in the workplace a woman who reaches the same level as a man is often much more competent because of the challenges they face. I think that is perhaps true of gay athletes. To reach the highest level needs something special.’
The latter went cabaret with a gay bear singing the ‘Gay Mountain’ song.