U.S. Gay Activist Savage: ‘Keep Controversy Roaring’ In Russia

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American author, journalist, and sex-advice columnist Dan Savage is one of the best-known gay-rights activists in the United States, and the creator of the global It Gets Better video campaign in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth.


Savage has now turned his focus to the brutal crackdown on LGBT rights in Russia. In an interview with RFE/RL correspondent Daisy Sindelar, Savage talks about vodka boycotts, the Sochi Olympics, and what Russian activists can do to fight back against a rising tide of violence and repressive laws.

RFE/RL: You and your partner, Terry Miller, launched the It Gets Better campaign in 2010 in response to the suicide of a 15-year-old boy who had been bullied by schoolmates for being gay. Was there a single incident in Russia that motivated you to get involved there?

Dan Savage: I, along with everyone else, have been watching for the last few years the rising tide of intolerance and politically motivated hatred and violence in Russia, and feeling at the same time like there was nothing you could do. They're describing gay-rights organizations as foreign agents, so it began to feel like any move we made out here in the West would play into the hands of the bigots and potentially make things worse.

But it reached a point with the passage of those laws – laws banning gay-pride parades for 100 years, and what's been going on in St. Petersburg, the violence — that it didn't seem like we could remain silent any longer. And it didn't seem like making a move could possibly make things any worse.


continue to source article at rferl.org

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  1. RFE/RL: If the Sochi Games aren’t boycotted or relocated, what other forms of protest can be made?

    Savage: I don’t know what moves the athletes can make. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is being very weaselly. The IOC has said they will not tolerate any political activism or political statements. And Russia has banned all demonstrations, meetings, and protests in Sochi during the Olympics.

    I like Stephen Fry’s idea of a simple, arms-across-the-chest symbol of defiance.

    Stephen is hugely popular in the UK, for good reason, and has a large number of Twitter followers. When the Sochi games draw near – they’re only about six months off – if thousands of those who are sympathetic to this cause change their Twitter or Facebook photograph to one which shows them making this language-transcending gesture, it might start a bandwagon.

    The despicable sods at the IOC will have a tough job proving that athletes who adopt this pose before the cameras are doing anything other than innocently giving themselves a bit of a shoulder massage.

    • In reply to #1 by Katy Cordeth:

      RFE/RL: If the Sochi Games aren’t boycotted or relocated, what other forms of protest can be made?

      I like Stephen Fry’s idea of a simple, arms-across-the-chest symbol of defiance.

      I like it but I prefer the “same sex holding hands idea”, not sure who’s it was but it seems even less challengable while in my mind more provocative.

      • In reply to #6 by alaskansee:

        In reply to #1 by Katy Cordeth:

        I like it but I prefer the “same sex holding hands idea”, not sure who’s it was but it seems even less challengable while in my mind more provocative.

        I agree holding hands is a more provocative gesture, but it can also be more easily dismissed by bigots: if you see two men or two women doing this on a march for gay rights, you tend to assume they are gay themselves and are therefore only looking out for their own interests. The Russian media would be able to report that homosexuals are the only ones who have any problem with their country’s noble efforts to rid itself of the curse or sexual deviancy (it could even play into Putin’s hands: we know he gets off on the macho man image. I’m not entirely sure how releasing topless pictures of yourself revealing you wax your chest, and holding your rod, or doing a Right Said Fred catwalk strut is supposed to convey what a screaming heterosexual you are, but I’m sure he knows his own mind – dammit, I’m going to have I’m too Sexy bouncing around my head for the next few days now).

        If Richard, for example, were to change his Twitter photograph to one which showed him clutching the hand of some dude, it would be risible, because we know he isn’t gay; if non-famous straight Twitter users changed their avatar to one of them holding hands with someone of the same sex, their followers would just assume they were using the medium to come out.

        Holding hands is a gesture of physical intimacy; this crossed-arms symbol would convey only a sense of opposition to bigotry, and solidarity with those who are the victims of Russia’s anti-gay agenda, whilst saying nothing about the sexuality of those making the gesture.

        I’ve just been having a look at the list of top 100 Twitter users. If only a few of these people were to change their avatar when the Sochi Olympics approach, many of their fans would follow suit and I think it could go viral, as they say.

  2. The Russians have already announced they will not prosecute the laws during the games. It was unclear if that includes athletes, coaches, foreign spectators, Russian spectators and/or ordinary Russians.

  3. I think any campaign against the Sochi games should focus on calling for a viewer boycott. Ultimately it’s the TV audience that matters to the IOC because that’s what attracts the money. Plummeting ratings for the event itself would scare the hell out of the IOC and may well make them incorporate equality (under the law at least) as a requirement for hosting future games. I can easily envisage a poster campaign featuring prominent people (celebs, politicians etc) and the slogan “I won’t be watching”. Perhaps a non-Russian vodka maker would be willing to stump up the cash.

    Sochi won’t be boycotted, but it’s still possible to turn it into a beacon of negative publicity for Russia and Putin.

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