Dan Choi Beaten at Moscow Pride Parade

Dan Choi was among the 18 or more individuals arrested in at a Moscow pride parade this weekend. The group was attacked by neo-Nazis and police and taken to a nearby police station where the Russian protesters were held overnight while the foreigners were released. Among the arrestees were Chicago activist, Andy Thayer, French founder of the International Day against Homophobia, Louis Georges-Tin, and Russian organizer, Anna Komarova, who was being held for questioning about the event.

Choi wrote an open letter to Hilary Clinton, asking her to condemn the violence in Russia. “You have been a longtime friend of the LGBT community. We need your help. Please reaffirm the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Russia and around the world.” The U.S. Department of State has responded by releasing a statement from spokesman Mark Toner.

Concern about Freedom of Assembly in Russia

We note with concern that in Moscow on Saturday, May 28, a peaceable demonstration of Russians advocating for the rights of gays and lesbians, joined by international supporters, was forcefully disrupted by counter-protesters, and that Russian security forces then detained people from both groups, including American citizens. Some protestors were seriously injured according to media reports.

Freedom of assembly is a fundamental right all members of the OSCE committed to, including in the Moscow declaration and as recently as the Astana summit. As nationwide legislative elections approach, constraints on the ability of Russian citizens peacefully to gather and express their views will be closely watched in evaluating the integrity of the electoral process.  We call on Russian authorities to work with municipal officials to find better ways to safeguard these fundamental freedoms.

But not everyone is satisfied. Via Twitter, Choi pointed out that the statement left out bisexual and trans* Russians. John Aravosis from AmericaBlog has spelled out exactly what’s wrong with the statement, namely that they seem to believe that the police were protecting the protesters from the neo-Nazis despite video footage that shows the police going after peaceful demonstrators and grabbing their pamphlets. While Clinton has still made no comment on the incident, Aravosis says he does appreciate that the State Department has said something.

LGBT rights in Russia are in some ways more progressive than in the U.S., with gays allowed to serve openly in the military and men who have had sex with men allowed to give blood. However, these rights are largely nominal. Public opinion polls show that around 40 percent of Russians support the re-criminalization of homosexual acts and, if this incident is any indication, anti-gay sentiment runs high.

You can sign Dan Choi’s open letter at AmericaBlog.

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  1. There’s an excellent book called Queer In Russia, which is a doctoral dissertation of a woman who investigated the rights and non-rights of LGBT people in Russia.

    I would take issue with the statement that LGBT rights are in some ways more progressive in Russia, as it is practically impossible to be actually out and have ones physical safety remain intact. I dont think there has been a single successful pride parade there. All demonstrations end in violence and gay rights groups are frequently shut down by the government.

    This demonstration seems to be another in the line of what’s happened in the past. Just getting more international attention now based on the involvement of American activists.

    • I’ll have to check out that book. And I second that statement about the true “progressive” nature of Russia’s gay laws. I think the only acceptable way for Russia (and other CIS nations) to accept the gay community is by having a very small number of gay (not lesbian) entertainers. Whether I’m personally perplexed with the success of Ukrainian singers like Verka Serduchka and Boris Aprel, I think I’ve been able to rectify it with the population’s “acceptance” of cross-dressing and flamboyant gay behaviour as long as it’s for entertainment purposes only. Still. If these people weren’t on stage, I doubt they’d be allowed to be themselves without mass harassment.

      I was in Ukraine last year in one of the most liberal (i.e. anti-Kremlin) cities, and one of my travel companions was openly gay. Another classmate of ours drunkenly outed him on the street – it was a pretty scary experience because we had no idea how people would respond. He could have easily gotten the shit kicked out of him.

      • Yah, they love to laugh at extremely flamboyant men. My late mother was uncomfortable with homosexuality as a whole, but her favorite movie was the Birdcage. When I showed her But I’m A Cheerleader as a 16 year old baby dyke, she only liked the parts with the super flamboyant gay couple.

        It’s pretty dangerous to be out anywhere in Russia. Sad.

        • My mom’s the same way. She thinks she’s very liberal, but when it comes to gay issues, she’s extremely uncomfortable. From what I’ve observed throughout my life, her idea of acceptance is laughing at them. She’s accepting (ie. makes fun) of gay males. She’s a lot more uncomfortable with regards to gay females. Again, she thinks she’s cool with them, but she’s made some of the most inane comments about lesbians.

          Not too long ago, there was a k.d. lang and Tony Bennet duet on the radio, and my mom says, “You know, that k.d. lang has a nice voice for a lesbian.” And I ask her what that means. And she says, “Well, she sounds like a WOMAN, you know? I mean, it’s nice that she’s singing with a man, and about being in love with a man.” I couldn’t even with her, then. I was like, “Are you SERIOUS?”

          • Tangent – my not-Russian mum is a biiiiiig k.d. lang fan, went to her concert, maybe one of three concerts she saw that decade. She loved the songs, but came back and said “and all the lesbians were there too… being lesbians together”. SIGH.

    • “This demonstration seems to be another in the line of what’s happened in the past. Just getting more international attention now based on the involvement of American activists.”

      sad and true

    • Thanks for your perspective! All I know about rights in Russia is what I can find online, and so clearly I don’t know what it’s really like. I was just pointing out that two things that aren’t legal in the U.S. are legal in Russia. Just because something is legal doesn’t mean that it’s carried out. though (hence “nominal.”)

      “This demonstration seems to be another in the line of what’s happened in the past. Just getting more international attention now based on the involvement of American activists.” Excellent point.

      • I don’t know much more than you (I haven’t been to russia since I was 6), but I have a lesbian friend who fell in love with a russian woman and moved there, so I hear anectodal stuff from her. Also from that book I mentioned earlier.

        Thank you for the coverage – it’s needed. :)

    • “This demonstration seems to be another in the line of what’s happened in the past. Just getting more international attention now based on the involvement of American activists.”

      If it wasn’t for this website, I wouldn’t know anything about gay rights. There’s no coverage of it at all-as far as I know, there hasn’t been so much as a gay pride parade here in months, so good luck getting the news to cover international gay rights.

      • If I may, I’d suggest you ‘like’ a page like ILGA’s http://www.facebook.com/ilgaeurope. It’s the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans & Intersex Association. They always post lots of stuff about issues which concern our community in Europe – so you get to hear about the Pride in Bratislava or whatever. Stuff that would never turn up in “the news”.

  2. I was very disappointed reading this yesterday on Queerty. I had hoped that the EU ruling that banning the parade is illegal would have changed a few things…

    • Well, it seems that part of the problem there is that Russia isn’t an EU member state. It has ties to the EU, but isn’t a member, so whilst it might governmentally think about what the EU says it isn’t bound by EU rulings.

      • That’s true. I guess I was just naive to think that Russia would care about international press. But, yeah, honestly, what was I thinking?

  3. http://yagg.com has a journalist on the ground, for straddling French speakers (Judith Silberfeld)
    she’s there with Dan Choi and Louis George Tin, and her reports have really been enlightening

  4. Keep fighting, Dan.

    I can’t say I agree with him on certain things, but he is fighting the way he thinks is best. Nobody can say he didn’t try.

  5. I may not always agree with Dan Choi but damn, he really puts his neck on the line for our cause…

  6. There’s something wrong when the POLICE are the ones causing a lot of the damage and mayhem. =/

    • IDK where you live, but in large swathes of the world, and for many people in the rest of it, the police are as or more dangerous than anyone else–or at best, a nuisance to be bribed until they leave you alone.

      • Yeah, this. I mean, I’m British and (as a white, vaguely middle-class woman) the police are basically on my side, but my family is all Irish, and has a really long history of not trusting the police. You would like to believe they are on your side but, really, not so much.

      • Yeah, I have a few profs from Eastern Europe and they say that they cross the street when they see a police officer in Canada because it’s instinctual to stay the fuck away.

        In past years of Moscow Pride, the police have always done as much if not more of the beatings as the neo-Nazis. That’s not a surprising fact.

  7. it makes me sad too.

    I was reading some of Dan Choi’s tweets from throughout the day, and before marching out, they knew that there were crowds of neo-nazis waiting for them. I don’t think I could be that brave… maybe I wouldn’t want to be. But I still really respect it.

    • Yeah, knowing there are crowds of neo-nazis waiting for you, I don’t think I would do it. I really respect that they marched anyway.

  8. This both infuriates and deeply saddens me. Not good things to feel simultaneously.

  9. It really is amazing bravery that people not only know that the crowds of neo-nazis are waiting for them…but probably experienced the violence last year and are willing to do it again. I have even heard some Russian gay activists themselves say that a pride parade is pushing it too much. So the fact that some people keep going out even when others in their community (understandably) stay behind is really amazing in its own right.

    In a lighter response, I would also like to take this opportunity to pimp the РоссияStraddle group.

  10. Russia has every right to disband an illegal gay parade.Rather you like it or not nations have the right to choose what culture is showcased. I Personal have nothing against gays and have every right do what they want. Just as other nations have rights to do what they want. Unless Russia is beheading and killing anyone for being gay then they have right to disband a gay pride parade.

  11. “…and men who have had sex with men allowed to give blood.”

    Can someone help me out here? Is this meaning like a gay man being allowed to give blood to his injured partner in case of an accident, or gay men being allowed to give blood just in general, like in a blood bank? And if it’s the latter, is this a fear of tranferring gay through blood contact?
    Please tell me I’m wrong, my brain cannot compute.

    • Gay men/men whom have had sexual with men aren’t allowed to give blood in blood-banks (I’m unsure of the accident situation but I should imagine it’s the same) I believe it’s due to HIV as although they screen the blood for such things there is still a chance that such things could be missed, and as sexually active gay men are more prone to HIV they are excluded. It’s not based upon sexuality, as a gay man whom has not had sex with a man can give blood.

  12. Fearless serving his country, fearless serving his community – respect, Dan Choi.

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