Monday, September 9, 2013

Russia and the IOC Deserve Each Other

Russia is playing the IOC and the IOC is playing everyone else.

According to the AP, Sochi Olympics head, Dmitry Chernyshenko, has asked the IOC to calm down "those who are still trying to speculate on this very transparent and very clear topic," adding, "It's very important to have your support to stop this campaign and this speculation regarding this issue." IOC President Jacques Rogge said that the group would tell athletes, once again, not to protest or make political statements during the games. Rogge once again assured the world that Olympians will not be placed at risk — as long as they cooperate.

Young people from more enlightened cultures – which includes much of the rest of the world – have gay friends and teammates. How much restraint can we reasonably expect? In 1968, at the Mexico City Olympic Games, two American athletes (John Carlos and Tommie Smith) made a powerful statement with a black power salute from the podium as they received gold and bronze medals in the 200 meter race. The Australian silver medalist wore a human rights badge in support of the two Americans. A similar incident at Sochi could result in arrests.

The whole thing is especially nauseating. The problem is that the Olympics have become a professional competition with billions of dollars at stake. The fate of gay people in Russia is relatively immaterial compared to all of the loot floating around.

We have no business participating in this debacle.

Some six million gay people in the Russian Federation are at risk based on pseudoscience that sexual orientation is a learned behavior that can be influenced by others. We are implicitly condoning this behavior. The Russian Federation has an established medical and scientific community. Why have they not spoken out?

As Michelangelo Signorile reported in the Huffington Post, Russian journalist and activist Masha Gessen has already sent her eldest son (who is adopted) out of the country. Gessen, her partner and their remaining two children are in turmoil.

After months of rumors, a bill was introduced in the Russian Duma that compares LGBT people to alcoholics and drug abusers and would deny LGBT Russians custody of their own biological or adopted children. She is quoted as saying:

At this point, with the fact that they're proposing this law during the G20 Summit, it shows that no Western pressure is going to keep Russia from passing anti-gay laws, from endangering the lives of lesbian and gay people, from endangering our families.

It's high time to talk about asylum. The only way at this point that the U.S. can help Russian gays and lesbians is get us the hell out of here.
Gessen is fortunate in that, unlike most Russians, she holds dual citizenship (Russia and US).

Just how bad do things need to get before we demonstrate our full disapproval?

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