Putin Beware: The Gays Are Coming For You

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While excitement is building as the 22nd Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia are quickly approaching, some are expressing concerns about the safety and treatment of out LGBTQ athletes who will be competing at the games.

There's no question about it. Today, being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer/questioning–or, LGBTQ in Russia is not safe. It can even be deadly.

Though the Russian government has promised to suspend their anti-"gay propaganda" laws during the games, gay rights activists have begun campaigning to advance the gay rights movement in Russia in various ways. Some are even calling for LGBTQ allies to boycott the Olympics altogether.


Here are five campaigns aimed at bringing awareness to the LGBTQ community in Russia:


What would it mean for a gay competitor to have to pretend to be someone they're not? Is it fair to make a lesbian athlete hide who she is to compete in the Olympics?

That's what organization, All Out, wants you to consider.


By "mobilizing millions of people and their social networks," All Out aims to end homophobia. Using social media campaigns, their mission is to "build a world where no person will have to sacrifice family or freedom, safety or dignity, because of who they are or whom they love."

According to the organization:

The Olympic games are our best chance to end to Russia's outrageous anti-gay laws — but to do it, it's going to take lots more of us to hear about what's happening in Russia.


What Dyke Looks Like

How are lesbians typically depicted in the media? What does a lesbian look like? Burly and wearing plaid?


Toronto-based photographer, Kristy Boyce, created "What Dyke Looks Like" in hopes of changing stereotypical perceptions of lesbian, gay, queer…identities. By showcasing diverse identities–from a loving lesbian couple, to high fashion femmes and even BDSM, she hopes to change the perceptions of women-who-love-women. Boyce has already shot photos of diverse women representing a multitude of identities in Canada and the United States, but she's not stopping there.


In order to add a human face to the current gay rights struggle in Russia, Boyce has launched a crowd funding campaign to add Russian LGBTQ faces to her portrait anthology.

In Boyce's own words:

Saying "This is What Dyke Looks Like" is a bold statement. And it will never be a true one without an international scope beyond just the North American perspective. In February of 2014 the world's eyes will be on Russia. In light of the recent homophobia, violence towards queers and anti gay laws, I think right before the Olympics is the perfect time to go to Moscow and collect the stories of the LGBT community there through video interviews and photography.


Principle 6

Athlete Ally has teamed up with All Out and clothing company, American Apparel, by creating merchandise that supports LGBTQ athletes competing in the games as well as highlighting the need for protection of LGBTQ rights in the country.


Principle Six of the Olympic Charter states "the goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play."


According to the campaign:
Wearing the merchandise will help uphold the Olympic principle of inclusion and underscore that Russia’s anti-LGBT discrimination is incompatible with the Olympic movement. The proceeds from sale of the clothing will go support the Principle 6 campaign and directly to lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) advocacy groups in Russia fighting discrimination and anti-gay laws.

Love Conquers Hate

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is targeting Russia with screen-printed t-shirts that say "Love Conquers Hate" in Russian. The campaign recently earned support from pro-gay celebrities like Jonah Hill, Kristen Bell, Madonna, Russell Simmons and Cyndi Lauper.

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Supporters of HRC's campaign are purchasing the t-shirts from the site and sharing selfies on Instagram, tagged #LoveConquersHate.



In order to be "the antidote to hate," a team of artist-activists created "(We Are) #GayPropaganda" (in reference to Russia's anti-gay "propaganda" law), using videos shared online to bring awareness to gay rights issues.


According to Kevin Dolan, co-founder and co-head of strategy:

(We Are) #GayPropaganda exists to unify our voices in support of LGBT communities around the world who are facing degradation and violence. We encourage people who believe that love is love — no matter whom you love—to use the hashtag #GayPropaganda on the words they write, the photos they post, and the videos they share across social platforms.


One of their videos, "The Scream" uses graphic imagery to underline the type of violence LGBTQ people may face if they are are even thought of being gay.


From petitions to social media campaigns, artists, activists and artist-activists alike are attempting to bring attention and real change to Russian LGBTQ people.

If you know of other campaigns, please share them in the comments below.

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