Russian President Vladimir Putin called the movement for transgender acceptance “a crime against humanity” in a Thursday speech.
Putin, speaking at the annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi, the city that hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics, said that to have children “taught that a boy can become a girl and vice versa” is “on the verge of a crime against humanity,” The Washington Post reports. He claimed supporters of transgender rights are pushing for an end to “basic things such as mother, father, family or gender differences.”
He called on his country, which is notorious for its persecution of LGBTQ+ people, to reject what he referred to as Western values. Russia should maintain its “spiritual values and historical traditions,” and avoid the “sociocultural disturbances” of the West.
Putin also railed against so-called cancel culture. Some in the West think “the aggressive deletion of whole pages of their own history, reverse discrimination against the majority in the interests of minorities … constitute movement toward public renewal,” he said. “It’s their right, but we are asking them to steer clear of our home. We have a different viewpoint.”
Russia infamously adopted a “gay propaganda” law in 2013, banning any mention of LGBTQ+ issues in venues accessible to minors. In recent years, Chechnya, a semi-autonomous region of Russia, has systematically persecuted LGBTQ+ people, especially gay men, jailing and torturing them, and outing them to intolerant family members, which puts them at risk of further violence. Some have been killed, and others have fled abroad.
Matthew Sussex, a Russia expert at the Australian National University, told the Post that Putin’s speech was “a unifying message” to his base, but “it does hit … the transgender and gay communities that the Russian government has continued to target.”
Tatiana Stanovaya, head of R.Politik, a Russian think tank, wrote on Telegram that Putin’s “ideological spin, which is becoming more and more official and concrete, is the main aid to repressions, much stronger than any election.”
Also, speaking Thursday to former Donald Trump adviser Christian Whiton, Putin implied he would support a Trump run for U.S. president in 2024. Russia “conducted a sweeping and unprecedented campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” the Post notes, although Putin has denied he was involved. He and Trump, however, had something of a mutual admiration society.
A Russian LGBTQ+ activist group responded to Putin's remarks in an email to The Advocate. "Putin's speech in Sochi is a typical example of the Kremlin's traditional family values rhetoric juxtaposing Russia and the supposed 'West' that is excessively demonized as decadent or lacking morals, especially when it comes to the subject of LGBTQ+ rights," said Dilya Gafurova, press secretary for Charitable Foundation Sphere (the operating organization for the Russian LGBT Network). "Of course, it is no surprise coming from the leadership of a country that legitimizes homophobic and transphobic attitudes through its legislature, a discriminatory 'LGBT propaganda' law that is so vaguely formulated that being queer, being not 'manly' or 'womanly' enough in one's gender expression could mean that an LGBTQ+ person is 'propaganda' by definition. In other words, there is an entire social group of people — the very Russian citizens — who are not only highly invisible and vulnerable, but whose needs and concerns are publicly ridiculed, as this incident demonstrates. Justifying that as a policy course, in that sense, fits the description of 'crime against humanity' much better."