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Boycotting the Boycotts

Even without an understanding of the deep historical dynamics at play with Russian sexual politics, we should understand that all a boycott will do, especially a boycott of Russian vodka and the Sochi Olympics, is further enrage a population who by and large wants us to get as far away from their national politics as possible. And who can blame them? We have belittled them, discounted their culture as primitive, barbaric and barely Christian, and among many other things contributed, especially in the eyes of working class Russians, to the economic and social problems that have afflicted them during and after the transitional period from state socialism to free market capitalism. Over the last half millennium we have rarely been anything but a thorn in their side, criticizing them, and we wonder why they might be mad when we make a gigantic holier-than-thou fuss about their treatment of LGBT Russians.

That is not to say I in any way condone the recently anti-LGBT propaganda law or any of the other anti-LGBT laws currently enforced in Russia. Nor do I excuse the horribly violent actions taken against LGBT Russians by nationalist and religious organizations. Neither do I believe their actions are entirely the faults of the West’s presence. It was the nationalist and religious protesters decision to attack the Pride marchers, and in some cases even kill people they suspected of having a non-traditional sexual orientation. And we should not continue to belittle them by saying that we caused them to be violent towards LGBT or suspected LGBT people. But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t complicit in creating a political and social situation in which harassment, arrest and even murder of LGBT or suspected LGBT Russians is tolerated and even encouraged.

Considering all this, we are left with the question: if our presence will do little to actually help Russian LGBT people, and in fact significantly complicates and polarizes the political and social issues surrounding non-traditional sexual orientations, then how can we aid LGBT Russians improve their situation.

Maybe, I would argue, we shouldn’t.

The West, in particular the imperial US and Britain have a penchant for foreign interventions, and gay rights being the fad social issues of the new century so far, a foreign intervention to seemingly bolster gay rights will win the ruling party, as well as western imperialism, lots of political brownie points. These gay Western imperial interventions aren’t just happening in Russia. A few days ago, David Cameron, the Prime Minister of England, boldly and proudly proclaimed that he wanted toexport gay marriage across the world. I challenge the notion that “gayness” and “marriage” are something that can be commoditized and “exported” around the world, first of all. I would also suggest that if David Cameron is so hell bent on making the situation for LGBT persons better, he should start in his own back yard, where recently a court made case law a decision which states that by not disclosing that you are transgender, even if you have had gender confirming surgery, to a sexual partner, you are a sex offender and can go to prison.


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