By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com October 17 2013 6:37 PM ET
Out MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts published a heartfelt op-ed with MSNBC on Thursday, explaining why he's intending to fulfill his obligations as cohost of the 2013 Miss Universe pageant — slated to begin in November in Moscow.
And on Friday morning's episode of Morning Joe, Roberts expanded on his reasoning for going to Russia, while making an effort to acknowledge the privilege he has to be able to attend as a media-savvy, openly gay man, who will undoubtedly travel with a security detail and most likely be safe from Russia's oppressive anti-LGBT laws as a highly visible media personality.
"[My husband, Patrick, and I] understand that we go on a different privilege than a lot of other people are that live in Russia right now," said Roberts on Morning Joe. "We live here in the States under a different set of privileges. Right now marriage equality is still a big battle. ENDA continues to be a battle in Washington, D.C. We understand what the home turf is like. I want to go and educate myself on what Russia's turf is like. I want to be able to carve out how I can cover and do stories for our network that way, and show first-hand what it's like to be there. But I know that I'm going to be treated completely differently. So there is a bit of hypocrisy that goes along with that — a tremendous amount of hypocrisy that goes along with that — so I hope to shine a bright light on that."
In his op-ed at MSNBC, Roberts, who came out publicly in 2006 and says he's "never regretted it," acknowledges the virulently anti-LGBT climate in Russia, where President Vladimir Putin this summer signed a nationwide ban on "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships" visible to minors — essentially resulting in the criminalization of any pro-LGBT speech or silent demonstration, including waving a rainbow flag. Shortly after Putin signed the ban on so-called homosexual propaganda, he also signed a law that prohibits gay and lesbian people from adopting Russian orphans, as well as any single people from nations that embrace marriage equality. The Russian parliament, known as the State Duma, is reportedly considering a bill that would declare homosexuality tantamount to child abuse and forcibly remove children of LGBT parents from their homes.
Despite widespread calls for an international boycott of Russia and Russian-made products, Roberts wrote that when the opportunity to participate in the Miss Universe program arose, he "aggressively went after it."
"I am not going to boycott," Roberts wrote. "Boycotting and vilifying from the outside is too easy. Rather, I choose to offer my support of the LGBT community in Russia by going to Moscow and hosting this event as a journalist, an anchor and a man who happens to be gay. Let people see I am no different than anyone else."
Roberts notes that all children — Russian, American, or otherwise — need hope. And he might be just the person to provide that example, Roberts asserted.
"I am a happy, healthy, gainfully employed, educated and married man," wrote Roberts. "And yes, I am gay. These new Russian laws won’t stop Russians from being born LGBT and growing up to identify as such. Russia’s treatment of its LGBT citizens is unacceptable, unrealistic and only promotes homophobia and intolerance for a community that does and will continue to exist."
"We do them no favors by turning away now," Roberts concluded. "We must be visible, we must show up, and, as Harvey Milk said, we must 'give them hope.' I go to prove there’s hope."
Watch Roberts' Morning Joe appearance below.