LGBT Group Holds NY Town Hall On Russia


Over 150 people gathered in New York yesterday at the The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center to discuss the Russian Federation's continued escalating hostility towards LGBT persons. The meeting was organized by Queer Nation NY and welcomed presentations from Russian LGBT group RUSA LGBT co-President Nina Long. The meeting was well attended by Russian and Eastern European ex-pats living in New York in addition to prominent activists and allies including AIDS activist Andy Velez, journalist Andy Humm, activists Randy Wicker, Jamie Bauer, Ira Manhoff, attorney Joan Gibbs, openly gay New York State Senator Brad Hoylman and his predecessor Tom Duane. According to Queer Nation:

Following the presentations, attendees had a wide-ranging discussion
about how the community should respond. There was support for a
continuing boycott of Russian products, including Russian vodka, and the
2014 Winter Olympic Games at Sochi. Other ideas included pressing the
New York City mayoral candidates to oppose the recently enacted Russian
law that bans any pro-gay statements in public or private and on the
Internet to pressing Andrew Cuomo,
New York’s governor, to offer Lake Placid, the site of the 1980 Winter
Olympic Games, as an alternative to Russia where the 2014 Games are
scheduled to be held.  

Other proposals included picketing the September 23 Opening Night
Gala at the The Metropolitan Opera. The performers that evening will
include soprano Anna Netrebko and conductor Valery Gergiev, both are
supporters of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president and a champion of the
anti-gay law. Attendees also suggested denying U.S. travel visas to
anti-gay Russian politicians and funneling money and support to LGBT
activists in Russia. Duane proposed that he and a group travel to Russia
to directly confront the anti-gay law. People also proposed targeting
the sponsors of the 2014 Games. 

New York Magazine interviewed a number of the Russian emigres in attendance, asking them about their experiences coming to America and what they think should be done in response to Russia's anti-gay laws. Roman Mamanov, 30, who came to New York last October, was a TV presenter in Russia like Anton Krasovsky but feared for his safety after coming out:

"My colleagues knew I was gay. I got threats on my life in messages and
phone calls. So I quit. I'm seeking asylum here. I want to still be a
journalist. I want to get some education here. I feel secure here. I
have friends and opportunities here."

Also in attendance, porn producer and PrEP advocate Michael Lucas advocated action in response to the Russian laws:

"I think it's important to put the pressure on the International Olympics
Committee and also to boycott the Games. Some people are saying, 'Oh,
but so many athletes are training so hard.' There are millions of gay
Russians who are suffering versus some athletes."

Queer Nation plans to have a follow up meeting to be held at The LGBT Center on August 21 which will be attended by Russian journalist Masha Gessen who recently announced she will leave Russia out of fear for her family's safety.


  1. Brian says

    We need video interviews with gay Russian expats describing the suffering they faced in Russia. Those stories, told by the people that lived them, would go a long way in helping the average person recognize why we would consider boycotting the games. Right now, it seems many think a boycott would be simply a fight for a principle instead of the fight for real, human lives that it would actually be.

  2. DW says

    Exactly, MARYM. Who appointed “porn producer and PrEP advocate” (read: media whore) Michael Lucas a spokesman on human rights issues? Let him go back to his important work dismantling decades of safer-sex education.

  3. Dback says

    I’d defend Michael Lucas’ speaking out: he’s gay, and he’s Russian, therefore these issues directly affect him and people he knows. He speaks from experience.

    Lots of good things are happening (I’m very intrigued by that Lake Placid idea), including the Stoli boycott, picketing the September 23rd gala, etc. Right now I’m for pulling out of the Olympics altogether if the IOC can’t guarantee Olympians’ safety, which should be Priority #1. If anyone who dares to even speak of a gay friend or family member, or wears any sort of symbol expressing gay support (or even uses Twitter) can be arrested or interrogated by Russian authorities, the IOC has completely failed and is less than useless. I’m sure lots of these old, monied families with interests in sports who make up the IOC could not care less about gay issues–but having a major human rights debacle on their hands will sting.

    And finally, my fellow gay liberals: let’s all try to stay focused on the issue at hand, e.g. the Olympics and Russia’s policies. Inevitably, when you get a bunch of activists together, someone starts yelling “Why are we focusing on marriage and the military? Bring back the radical queer agenda!” or “We should be working for economic justice!” or “What about more HIV prevention?” or “Free Mumia!” Yes, there are lots of important issues for our community to be dealing with, but right now let’s keep Russia and its treatment of LTBQ people, and how best to help them, at the forefront.

  4. Jack says

    So this was a meeting by an “LGBT” group at the “LGBT” center in NYC to discuss the violent oppression going on in Russia. So where are all those concerned Ts? I constantly hear on this site how gays must call themselves LGBT because heterosexual crossdressers and transsexuals are our “brothers and sisters” and how “we all fight together.” Um, so where are they?

    They aren’t at that meeting because it concerns the oppression of LGBs in Russia. It doesn’t concern any of their bizarre issues, so they couldn’t care less. The truth is that trans activists don’t give a damn about gays in Russia or the US or anywhere else. We are a source of money and labor to them.

    Look at the “LGBT” Center, where that meeting was held. It is a multi-million dollar building, maintained by a large staff of salaried employees and volunteers. Who raised the money? LGBs. Who does the work to maintain the building? LGBs. It used to be called the Gay and Lesbian Center. But after “LGBT” was invented, in the late 1990s, guess who was gifted a 1/4 ownership in the project after contributing nothing? What a scam.

  5. Pookie says

    It’s stupid to worry about Russia when our government is spying on all of us, violating the Constitution with impunity, putting people in secret prisons via secret courts, tapping our phones, and immersing the media whores in perpetual propaganda.

    And YOU are ALL part of the problem, because you just don’t give a crap.

  6. Dana says

    Agree with Jack. Where are all the “transgender” activists? If there was a meeting about breast implants or about getting something for themselves they would have shown up.

  7. Dana says

    Not that I’ve ever met a single transgender person in my life. I just believe the negative portrayals of transgender people posted by trolls like myself that I read online. It’s much easier to paint an entire community one way than it is to learn about each individual and comprehend the multitude of opinions and beliefs that can exist within a single population.

  8. alex says

    Sean Mandell: New York is more than New York City. Please consider being more accurate in your descriptions of places in the future. Nothing here specifically states where this all took place.

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