Michael Lucas on Russia's Pride Struggle
BY Michael Lucas
May 30 2010 5:00 AM ET
This year, because of the worldwide success of the movie Milk, LGBT Human Rights Project of Russia invited the nephew of Harvey Milk, Stuart Milk, the man who recently came to prominence when he accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in Harvey’s place. He first refused to attend because the U.S. State Department had warned him against participating in an unauthorized march. Then organizers offered him the opportunity to come only for a press conference two days prior and he cited a lack of funds. He was then offered a free ticket, at which point he cut off all communications. That was a major missed opportunity. Russians revere the Oscars, and with its two Oscars for Sean Penn and Lance Black, Milk transcended its subject matter and was shown widely around the country. Anybody associated with the movie or its subject would have gotten major attention from the press.
Russia is a deeply provincial country. It is dark, authoritarian, blustery, macho, and cruel. At the same time, the country is very insecure and sensitive to foreign opinion and criticism. Sustained foreign attention can make a huge difference. When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last year joined homophobic mayor Luzhkov at the inauguration of a monument to America’s gay poet Walt Whitman without saying a word about the situation of gay people in Russia, she missed a big opportunity to make a difference. And the nonparticipation of Western gay rights groups and activists leaves only darkness where an international media spotlight could have shone on the dismal state of gay rights in Russia. Sustained foreign attention would be a powerful medicine against Russian homophobia.
Sadly, it comes in too-small doses for such a deep-rooted disease.