An odd story in the St. Petersburg Times that reads like a piece from the Onion. It tells the story of several gay foreigners living in Russia, and who scoff at the “crazy” notion of Russia being unsafe for gays.
Of course it’s safe, they tell the Russian paper. So long as no one knows you’re gay.
You see, in the same way that Nazi Germany was tolerant of Jews they couldn’t identify, Russians are tolerant of gays they think straight.
“I find it funny when people say it’s not safe to be a gay person in Russia,” said John, who has lived in Russia for four years.
“It’s perfectly safe, because no one would ever assume you could be gay. Especially your friends, people who like you — they would never think that about you,” he said, adding that even his flatmate of several years did not know about his sexual orientation and would likely be genuinely surprised if he found out.
Interesting definition of “safe.”
“Russia is palpably a more conservative country, and I was very conscious that being gay was not something I wished my colleagues, especially my Russian colleagues, to discover,” said Tom, 32, a British journalist who lived in Russia for almost six years before returning to Britain in December.
“It was not something I had bothered hiding in Britain, where I can discuss boyfriends and related issues in the office,” Tom said by email.
Tom said it was difficult to tell Russian friends about being gay and that he had to be very cautious about whom to tell, but that most people surprised him with their tolerance.
Here’s my favorite part of the story about the expats who try to say that Russia isn’t as bad as non-Russians are imagining:
All the expats interviewed for this story asked that their last names not be used because they could encounter problems with their employers for speaking with the press.
Smells like, freedom.
Oh and you might get the bejeesus beaten out of you if you go dancing:
Reports of attacks at gay clubs are not uncommon in Russia. Tom said the greatest risk he ever exposed himself to was going to his favorite gay club, where a group of thugs could break in and beat people up at any moment, despite strict security.
At least the article ends on an honest note, noting that Russia is pretty backwards when it comes to gay (and human) rights, and that eventually most of the ex-pats will move home in order to have a “normal” life.