Edited by MASHA GESSEN and JOSEPH HUFF-HANNON
Foreword by GARRY KASPAROV
"This project comes at a really important time. There’s nothing like putting a human face on the struggle for acceptance and equality. Love conquers all."
—Greg Louganis, quadruple Olympic gold medalist
"The most potent weapon in the fight against anti-LGBT prejudice is the reality of who we are instead of the caricatures presented by our opponents. The bigots who seek to censor our reality by banning 'gay propaganda' understand this. So do Masha Gessen and Joseph Huff-Hannon. Projects like theirs are the most potent weapon in the fight against anti-LGBT prejudice, putting the reality of who we are against the caricatures presented by our prejudiced opponents."
"Following in the proud tradition of 'samizdat' writers such as Václav Havel, Masha Gessen and Joseph Huff-Hannon's new book Gay Propaganda seeks to do the same for the current, life-or-death struggle confronting gay people in Russia today. By shining a much-needed light on the common humanity of those brave gay men and lesbians seeking to go about their daily lives in Russia, or those who have made the difficult choice to leave, this book puts the lie to the malicious stereotypes currently being spewed by the Russian government."
—Roberta Kaplan, lead counsel in United States v. Windsor, the
Supreme Court case which overturned the Defense of Marriage Act
"Hundreds of straight athletes from around the world have joined the effort to advance LGBT respect and equality. Every one of them will appreciate the importance of this project. This book is much needed and couldn't come at a better time."
—Hudson Taylor and Lia Parifax, founders, Athlete Ally
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The stories in Gay Propaganda will appear in both English and Russian, in one volume. Gay Propaganda will be distributed as widely as possible through underground networks inside Russia, including via a free Russian-language e-book.
Print + E-book: $20/£14
русская э-книга: $0
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|Print: $16 Bitcoin||E-book: $10||Print + E-book: $20|
Gay Propaganda brings together original stories, interviews and testimonial, presented in both English and Russian, to capture the lives and loves of LGBT Russians living both in Russia and in exile today. Timed for publication in February 2014, on the eve of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, the book is a provocative riposte to Russia’s recently passed and ill-defined ban on “homosexual propaganda.”
As part of a strategy to consolidate political control in Russia following massive pro-democracy protests that shook the government, President Putin’s ruling party decided it needed an enemy to unite the country. Hoping to manipulate backward but widely-held prejudices, it opted to demonize gays and lesbians. As a result, in June 2013, Putin signed a bill banning any and all “propaganda” of so-called non-traditional relationships. Quite predictably, in the months that followed, attacks, firings, and hate crimes have spiked across Russia, and the state-sanctioned campaign shows no sign of abating. The Russian Duma is now debating a law to take children away from gay and lesbian parents.
As the world’s media turns its attention to the host country of the Winter Olympics, the stories gathered in Gay Propaganda offer a timely and intimate window into the hardships faced by Russians on the receiving end of state-sanctioned homophobia. Here are tales of of men and women in long-term committed relationships as well as those still looking for love; of those trying to raise kids or taking care of parents; of those facing the challenges of continuing to live in Russia or joining an exodus that is rapidly becoming a flood.
Publication February 2014 • 224 pages
Paperback ISBN 978-1-939293-35-0 • E-book ISBN 978-1-939293-36-7
Masha Gessen is an award-winning journalist and author of many books, most recently Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot (Riverhead, February 2014). She is a lesbian mother who is abandoning her home in Russia because of the anti-gay laws.
Joseph Huff-Hannon is a celebrated campaigner and writer who has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian, Salon, and elsewhere. He works with the international advocacy group Avaaz.org. He is one of the founding campaigners of global LGBT rights group, All Out.
Elvina Yuvakaeva is co-president of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation, a volunteer position she dedicates ample time to when not working full-time as a marketing manager at a small engineering firm in Moscow. In the fall of 2013, Elvina toured the US to promote the upcoming inaugural ‘Open Games’ in Moscow, an LGBT sports competition scheduled for the week after the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Interestingly, Elvina traveled with an official delegation from the Sochi organizing committee, meeting with people in Atlanta and Salt Lake City, former Olympic cities, to discuss sponsorships, licensing, and the nitty gritty of pulling together a major global sporting event. “In our first dinner here, these official Russian government guys asked me who I was and what I was doing here. Obviously I surprised them a little bit, but by the end of the trip, some them actually told me I’d opened their eyes. It was unexpected.” —Joseph Huff-Hannon
On the one hand it’s bad, this new law. On the other hand the government has started to talk about us, and they’ve pushed our activists to go out and do something. I know a lot of people, they never really thought about gay rights, some of them were homophobic. But I’ve seen them change their minds, say it’s no business of the government to tell people how to live their lives. I think we’re exactly in one of those moments, where when you look back at it 25 or 30 years from now, you see it’s when the fight really began.
Being a lesbian in Russia is easier than being gay, people are less bothered. I have a good example: In the Federation of Gay Games, the international organization we’re affiliated with, the board members are mostly men. But in Russia our board is mostly women. Women are more ready to be open than men.
My girlfriend Yelena and I are both from St. Petersburg, but we never met there. We both moved to Moscow, had some friends in common. This December is our five year anniversary. We live together as a family, we live in one home, we have one budget, like a family.
To be honest she’s not my type. But when we first met there was some kind of electricity between us; after our third or fourth date, we were already in a relationship. I knew I had fallen in love with her in the first few weeks we met. We didn’t explain it to each other, we just recognized it, and we moved in with each other in three months.
How to say this, she knows what’s true and what’s false. She sees in black and white, she doesn’t have grey colors. I really like this, even though it’s hard. We’re totally opposite people. She’s a very organized person, prepares her schedule weeks in advance. If something happens on our way to the airport, for example, it’s not a big deal to me, I’ll figure something out, but she gets stressed out. The main thing is I can rely on her. I feel her support. I miss her, a lot.
When we first started talking about having kids, this new law to take kids away from gay couples hadn’t been discussed yet. Yelena was actually in the process, and we have friends who are expecting at this moment. But now… well, we’ll see.