A couple of weeks ago I walked through Paddington station one evening and saw two men kissing passionately by a train. I was struck by how naturally and freely expressed their love for each other as they either said hello or goodbye. It was completely unselfconscious and natural.
At the time I was with a 14 year old young man who I mentor as a volunteer for a major children’s charity and I saw him notice it too. I felt really glad that our society has changed over the decades to one where LGBT people have much more freedom to love each other. Now, here was a vulnerable 14 year old seeing a normal and healthy expression of love between two people of the same sex. Whatever his sexuality, now he has witnessed a positive expression of gay love.
In Russia however LGBT freedom has taken a major turn for the worse. Under the Putin regime a new law has been passed that prohibits any public expression of LGBT identity or advocacy of gay equality where someone under 18 years old may see it. Because someone of under 18 could almost be anywhere, this new law constitutes a collosal blow to gay freedoms.
The two lovers at Paddington station, kissing so naturally, would be a crime for a start - whether or not the 14 year old I mentor had been there. Not only that, but the new law has fuelled homophobia generally. Homophobic hate crime is up, and gay people are being attacked and even killed by their fellow citizens.
Cut to my email inbox. I subscribe to the Peter Tatchell Foundation newsletter and was very pleased to read an account of a protest last week at the Barbican.
Picture the scene: a sea of black ties and cocktail dresses excitedly await the appearance of famous conductor Valery Gergiev about to lead the London Symphony Orchestra in its opening night of a season of big ticket concerts. The orchestra warms up, an expectant buzz permeates the theatre. Then, a tuxedo clad gentleman walks onto the stage and makes an announcement:
“Valery Gergiev is a friend, ally and supporter of the Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin, whose regime is arresting peaceful protesters and opposition leaders. Gergiev defends the new homophobic law that persecutes gay Russians. He sided with Putin against Pussy Riot. I ask you to oppose tyranny and show your support for the Russian people.”
“Gergiev’s loyalty to Putin has been rewarded with personal honours and massive state grants for his pet projects. Gergiev is a great conductor but he colludes with a tyrant and shows little concern for freedom and equality.”
The tuxedo clad man was Peter Tatchell. He was manhandled off the stage by security to a mixture of applause and slow hand claps. His point was well made and he exposed a famous supporter of this terrible new law.
This Thursday (7 November) Tatchell leads a follow up protest at the LSO’s performance of Berlioz, also conducted by Valery Gergiev at the Barbican. If you’d like to take part try to bring a sparkler (the idea is that Putin represses, but we sparkle) and meet between 6 and 7pm outside the Barbican Concert Hall, Silk Street EC2Y 8DS.
If you can’t make it, why not email your protest to email@example.com? And, as you freely express your own love to your partner, friends or lovers spare a thought for our comrades in Russia who are repressed for doing the same.
By David Abrehart
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