“Get us the hell out of here,” pleads Russian gay activist Gessen

Mike Signorile did a chilling interview yesterday with Russian journalist and activist Masha Gessen, who thinks things have gotten so bad in Russia that our only hope at this point is to help get as many Russian LGBT exiles out of the country as possible: “get us the hell out of here.”

You can listen to that snippet of the interview here:

In the interview, portions of which Mike posted online, Gessen explains that she and her partner have already sent their oldest child, who is adopted, out of Russia, to avoid any chance that he might be taken away from them after the parliament banned gay adoption earlier this summer.

Russian journalist and activist Masha Gessen speaking at the Queer Nation NY RUSA LGBT Town Hall Meeting, August 21, 2013.

Russian journalist and activist Masha Gessen speaking at the Queer Nation NY RUSA LGBT Town Hall Meeting, August 21, 2013.

But because the Russian parliament is now considering legislation that would permit the authorities to take all children from gay parents, even their biological children, Gessen told Signorile that she had to have a very uncomfortable conversation with her 11 year old daughter this week:

“I had a horrible conversation with my daughter this morning,” Gessen said. “I got the news of this bill while I was sending her off to school. I said, ‘They’ve finally filed the bill.’ Obviously we’ve talked about this at length in the family, and we expected something like this would show up. And she’s 11. She sat there thinking. After about 15 minutes she said, ‘Can I stay with my other mom if they take me away from you?’ She can’t grasp this, that they’re trying to outlaw our whole family, that there isn’t the option of going with one or the other.”

Not surprisingly, former Russian gay activist Nikolai Alexeyev criticized Gessen’s concerns about the safety of her children.

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First, as Gessen notes in the video, several weeks ago Alexeyev criticized her concerns about the possibility of such a law being passed.  In fact, shortly after Alexeyev said the law would never happen, the Russian legislature is now debating such a law.  And this isn’t the first time of late that Alexeyev has completely misstated the law of the land.  (More on that below.)

Also, oddly, Alexeyev is upset about not being asked for comment when he declared only a week or so ago that he would no longer speak to what he calls “western” media, especially media in America, like HuffPost:

alexeyev-interviews

Thus, there would be no way for Alexeyev to comment, as he already made clear he did not wish to be contacted, and would say no if he were.

Nonetheless, Mike Signorile, who did the interview with Gessen, did in fact approach Alexeyev for an interview, which Alexeyev of course refused because he doesn’t do interviews with Americans.  Signorile even has a copy of their Facebook conversation, in which Alexeyev turned down the interview he now complains he didn’t get:

signorile-on-alexyev

Which begs the question of why, then, Alexeyev is expressing surprise at not being able to comment on an interview he declined to do?  It almost comes across as disinformation.

This is part of an ongoing series of erratic comments, and behavior, from Alexeyev over the past three weeks, during which he had a social media meltdown that included repeated anti-semitic comments about “kikes,” yids,” and the “Jewish mafia” trying to control the world, in addition to odd comments about Jewish vodka being distilled from sperm.  Sadly, he also now regularly criticizes other gay activists, in Russia and abroad (he yesterday called the Russian LGBT activists who met with President Obama “traitors”), while at the same time defending anti-gays, which earned him the title of “Putin’s defender” from Spanish paper El Pais.

One recent example of Alexeyev inexplicably, and ultimately incorrectly, trying to dismiss concerns about Russia’s anti-gay crackdown, was his comments given a week ago to a Kremlin propaganda network in which Alexeyev claimed Russia’s draconian anti-gay “propaganda” law would never been applied in practice, and thus, in his opinion, gay and trans Russians don’t deserve asylum in America and other countries. He repeated those comments on Twitter:

alexeyev-asylum

Putting aside for a moment why a “gay rights activist” would try to undermine asylum requests by gay and trans people abroad, there’s something even more damning here.  Less than 24 hours after Alexeyev claimed that gay propaganda laws will not be applied in Russia, those very same laws were applied, and used to charge a 24 year old gay Russian protester.

Gessen commented on Alexeyev’s bizarre behavior during the interview with Signorile:

“I have great respect for some of the work Nikolai Alexeyev has done in the past,” Gessen said, offering her beliefs on what might have happened to him. “And I have had disagreements with him on many occasions in the past. What I do know is that he’s given every sign of working for the Kremlin right now. Whether he was coerced or blackmailed into doing that through threat of arrest, which exists, through the search of his apartment, which occurred, or seduced by money, at this point he’s being used as a spokesperson by the Kremlin.” (Alexeyev declined a request for an interview.)

You can listen to Gessen’s comments about Alexeyev here:

And in fact, almost simultaneous with Gessen’s comments about Alexeyev came this series of tweets from Alexeyev, in which he almost appears gleeful that G20 leaders were unable to get any pro-LGBT concessions out of Vladimir Putin.  What’s more, Alexeyev seems almost proud of Putin for not helping the country’s gay community :

alexeyev-putin-gay-obamaIt’s clear which Russian gay activist the world should be listening to: Gessen.  Gessen has been right about this entire thing from the beginning, and she brings a journalist’s, and an adult’s, cold hard analysis to the worsening situation in Russia.

I do, however, think that Alexeyev has become a useful barometer of Kremlin opinion.  And thus, the more irate Alexeyev becomes about any particular issue (say, Obama meeting with LGBT activists during the G20, or Gessen’s concern about the new proposed law to take children away from gay parents), the more this may be an indication of Kremlin concern about that issue, and frankly, a sign that we should keep doing what we’re doing.

Call it the “Alexeyev Rule”: Listen to what he has to say, then do the opposite.

Putting his antics aside for a moment, it seems clear that one of our upcoming goals is going to need to be making sure US and European asylum laws are up to the task of helping gay and trans Russian exiles.  Which means gays may have just become relevant to immigration reform once again.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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