Hello, my name is Ruslan Porshnev. I represent the Russian LGBT project AntiDogma.
Why the name “AntiDogma”? According to the German humanitarian and philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach, “dogma is nothing but a prohibition to think.” This project is dedicated to social, moral and spiritual recovery of lesbians, gays, bi’s and transgender people, as well as implementing methods of non-violent resistance and refuting common prejudices about LGBT’s. In Russian, people with sexual orientations other than heterosexual are called ones with “nontraditional” orientation. The project’s logo, a paradoxical triangle inspired by M.C. Escher‘s drawings and impossible to construct in reality, resembles the “weirdness” of LGBT’s image in today’s Russia: it exists only on paper, screen and in people’s minds, but not in reality.
My first thoughts on a project like AntiDogma date back to the late 1990s. That’s when I first stumbled upon Rembert S. Truluck’s Steps to Recovery From Bible Abuse, dedicated to biblical verses used for religious condemnation of gays. In spite of the fact that there was barely anyone interested in a topic like that in the early times of post-Soviet Russia, Truluck’s website and his ideas caught my eye and eventually got me thinking. Needless to say, my sense of my own “nontraditional” sexuality during my personal soul-searching in a complete vacuum was perplexing then, too. Mind you, the 1990s in Russia was also a time when criminal prosecution of gays hadn’t been canceled until 1993 and psychiatric diagnosis wasn’t deleted until 1999.
Since the late 1990s, a couple of large and popular Russian LGBT web-projects have emerged onto the scene, featuring personals, news, literature, online shops, etc. However, what I had in mind then was a more educational and analytical, interdenominational project targeted at a wider audience than just gays, lesbians, bi’s and transgender people. The project intended to help everyone to get to know each others’ point of view and establish a comfortable place for peaceful, relaxed dialog. Even today it’s hard to imagine a straight Russian going into popular gay resources for accurate information or discussion on homosexuality. Partly it’s due to peculiar graphic material, and the promotion of services and goods of a rather explicit nature on these websites. Once I’ve discovered excellent blogs like Ex-Gay Watch and Jim Burroway’s Box Turtle Bulletin, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. One of the other project’s goals was to form an online community which would also include concerned straights. In time, I hope, this group would probably embrace relatives and friends of LGBT too.
Making An Impact In Russia
Although relatively young (a bit older than a year), AntiDogma has already been featured in a number of online and offline media. It got a warm welcome from general-audience magazines like TimeOut and from the more gay-oriented BesfFor and Kvir; also online from GayNews and Gay.ru. Specifically, TimeOut recently stated that “the most thorough gay LiveJournal community, Antidogma talks about homosexuality in a rare, decent tone. Here homosexuality is discussed from political, scientific and cultural points of view, and articles are backed up, if not with references to sound studies, then at least to Wikipedia”.
GayNews mentioned my personal request to officials on same-sex partnerships. The answer was that “this kind of partnerships is not on current agenda and interests of Russian Federation”. The current agenda was stated as “solving demographic problems”. And our annual 2006 ironic “hit list” of most homonegative occurrences in Russian mass-media (there were and are plenty) got into view of activists of Russian human rights portal HRO.Ru. This list featured Oscar-like nominations for the most outrageous homophobic or controversial episodes in press, TV, radio, politics, etc. Instead of Oscars, we “gave” the winners silly things (as New Year’s gifts) which reflected the stupidity of these speeches and controversies.
The Climate for LGBT’s In Russia Today
Sadly, most negativity comes from Russian Orthodox clergy, politicians and some celebrities as well. Calls to ban gays in education, prohibit gay protests in the streets, proposals to criminally prosecute so-called “gay propaganda” (which, of course, nobody can clearly define), restrictions for registering LGBT-oriented social organizations, blaming gays for the demographic crisis, refusing to consider same-sex partnerships and to acknowledge ones registered abroad — all this is widespread and common. According to a number of different nationally representative polls, the majority of Russians think that being gay is certainly not okay.
Countering the Myths
The project’s initial goal of providing accurate information and news for wider audiences proved itself right. Our substantial and easy to read FAQ on homosexuality continues to receive positive feedback from people of all kinds, regardless of orientation. At some point, a volunteer HIV expert, Tatiana Solomatina, Candidate of Medical Science, has joined the community, conducting a number of brilliant discussions and answering questions on possible risks and protection. Among our active members acting as moderators, there are professional psychologists Roman J.Karter and Daria Kutuzova, and also people with a background in psychiatry, like lj-user Kandinskiy. (That’s his LiveJournal user name. Conditions do not allow him to use his real name.)
Meanwhile, the membership has been growing steady: today there are more than 500 subscribers. Several articles, like “Myths and Facts On Gay Parades” (PDF), posts on hate crime victims from times of Nazi camps until present days and also about “Love in Action” shutting down, have reached Yandex Top 30 of all popular posts in Russian-spoken blogs.
This fact shows a great lack of and interest for well-balanced, thorough and unbiased analytics on LGBT’s targeted toward the general public. However, even a resource like that can often be unfairly accused of so called “gay propaganda” and “recruitment.” It needs to be mentioned that LiveJournal in today’s Russia, unlike other countries, acts heavily as an alternative news source, free from any kind of censorship. For those who don’t have a LiveJournal account, AntiDogma is available through RSS subscription.
AntiDogma is a non-commercial community, solely volunteer-operated and supported. We’re using the free LiveJournal service, but plan to move onto our own domain name www.anti-dogma.info soon and eventually expand further. Our community is also a part of the national Russian LGBT Network, consisting of several organizations throughout Russia, with headquarters in Moscow. It helps members to make coordinated position statements and requests to officials (English link). Also, the Network, formed in 2005, runs a project on monitoring of discrimination and conducts public events like conferences and pickets.
The Heterosexual Agenda
Among other popular articles at AntiDogma, there is a Russian-language version of Jim Burroway’s “The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing the Myths,” which I’d also like to introduce today for the Russian-speaking readers of Box Turtle Bulletin. I find this pamphlet’s approach and information extremely important for today’s Russian situation on LGBT rights.
There are already a bunch of homonegative projects like Love Against Homosexuality and Overcoming-X, which aggressively use many biased and flawed “masterpieces” of Paul Cameron, Jeffrey Satinover, Joseph Nicolosi and other so-called scientists in their public rhetoric. It seems like with the Russian Orthodox Church gaining more power there’s a lot more yet to come, so we better get ready. I’d like to thank Jim for letting me translate his work into Russian and introduce it to another large audience.
I’d be glad to answer any questions in comments. Thank you.
Ruslan has a partner and lives in the Southern Urals region of Russia, in Chelyabinsk. He holds a master’s degree in engineering and analytics, and he currently works in marketing communications.