Michael Lucas on Russia's Pride Struggle
BY Michael Lucas
May 30 2010 5:00 AM ET
Some things have of course changed since my youth in the Soviet empire. There is a commercial gay scene in Moscow — bars as well as bathhouses and rent boys. But gay bashings are widespread, and “don’t ask, don’t tell” has become the motto of the Russian gay world.
That’s why a Moscow pride march would be so important and is yet so difficult to pull off. There is no gay identity in the Russian gay world. Even wealthy, relatively out gays prefer to be proud elsewhere, during the “party prides” in Madrid, London, Amsterdam, etc. But at home, where it’s about human rights, they prefer to remain silent.
The leading organizer of Moscow Gay Pride is Nikolai Alekseev, the head of the Russian LGBT Human Rights Project. When I talked to him on the phone a few days before the march, he bemoaned the lack of Western support for Russian gay rights organizations in general and Moscow Pride in particular. “It would be extremely important to have prominent foreign activists at the March,” explained Alekseev, “both to give it publicity and a degree of protection from Russian authorities.” Only five foreigners participated in this year’s pride, among them the irrepressible Peter Tatchell from the United Kingdom and Andy Thayer, head of the Gay Liberation Network, based in Chicago, both of them returning to Moscow after having been arrested and beaten up during previous pride events.