Monday, February 17, 2014

Gays in Russia are encountering a conundrum that they did in the United States: Does showing the more extreme lifestyles of the LGBT community hinder or advance the cause?

One of the arguments LGBT people to advance their civil rights is "we're just like you". Coming out of the closet de-demonizes gay people, and makes others realize that "gay people" are your brother, husband, aunt, cousin, neighbor, pastor.

However, allowing the full diversity of the LGBT community to be seen can also hinder that goal. Drag queens in full bitch-camp mode doesn't make LGBT people look "just like their straight neighbors". Nor does polyamory, extreme inter-generational relationships, Radical Faeries, BDSM/leather, etc. Remember the Mattachine Society: They demanded that LGBT people picket in suits, ties, dresses, and the like. Never in casual clothes, and god forbid in anything campy, trans, or fetish. And yet, the LGBT community is pushing for a goal that allow extreme diversity. To hide, censor, or pretend that this diversity does not exist within the LGBT community is both a lie and a betrayal of that goal.

The reason why I bring this up is because in today's Washington Post article about the LGBT community in Russia, "everyday" people are interviewed and discussed. Yet, the picture used to depict the gay community is a.) a bar (hardly the place most straight people live) and b.) full of cross-dressing campy drag queens. If the goal is to talk about ordinary people like teachers, neighbors (living in their apartments or homes), co-workers, etc., why not show these people? To the average Russian, where propaganda depicts LGBT people as deviant, depicting gay men as drag queens reinforces the state propaganda. Indeed, it may even undercut American support. ("Ma, are we supposed to support civil rights or just the right to be a drunken club-going drag queen? C'mere, Ma, lookit this photo...")

There is a serious issue here, and I wonder if the press has considered what it is doing.

(Caveat: The only LGBT people who may feel comfortable being photographed may be those with the least to lose, like transvestites or drag performers. Thus, it may be the only photo available, other than the arrest one.)

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