FOF #1840 – To Russia With Love

Aug 7, 2013 · 1985 views

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As Russia escalates its horrific crackdown on LGBT people, there’s a lot of talk happening about how to best support LGBT Russians, with some calling the Vodka Boycott misguided because it doesn’t take into consideration the wishes of actual Russian gay activists.

Joining us today is Andy Thayer from Chicago’s Gay Liberation Network, who has tirelessly fought  for years to bring attention to the situation happening in Russia and has even been arrested several times for participating in Pride parades in Moscow.


  1. Andy is awesome! So refreshing to hear an actual intelligent, articulate LGBT activist. I’m so tired of the smug Dan Savage being held up as the representative of all things vaguely gay and political. I’ve never found him funny or insightful. Photos of NYC bar hunks dumping bottles of vodka are simply embarrassing and stupid. Yes, it may make more people aware of the situation in Russia, but it needs to be paired with pressure on political leaders and in coalition with Russian activists.

    I appreciate that both Lady Bunny and Andy don’t give Hillary Clinton a pass: the majority of misinformed gays love her simply because she is a woman and they want their diva bitch. Hillary will inevitably crush anyone, Democrat or Republican, if she chooses to run in 2016, so we need to be real with her now, as she will soon ascend to greater power. I am down for candidate Elizabeth Warren, but I some how see it devolving into a really ugly sexist battle because she is an unabashed liberal AND a woman. Clinton has survived a tsunami of misogyny for 20+ years and is accepted as a conservative democrat. I can’t think of any other women who could win nationally at this point, except maybe Kristen Gillabrand, Clinton’s New York Senate protege, but that would be a risk.

    Obama cancelled his meeting with Putin today – but the given reason was Snowden (and partially Syria). If the Obama Administration had better standing on human rights, it could have a bit more pull in Russia on LGBT rights and the Olympics. Unfortunately, I’m sure Putin is doing his best Mr. Burns impression right now. Obama is becoming ineffectual on the international stage.

    I really want this president to do well! I’ve always believed him a secret liberal hurt by his desire to play nice and appease everyone. But he is no better than Bush on domestic spying and needless murder abroad.

    • So well said.

      If the Obama Administration had better standing on human rights, it could have a bit more pull in Russia on LGBT rights and the Olympics. Unfortunately, I’m sure Putin is doing his best Mr. Burns impression right now. Obama is becoming ineffectual on the international stage.

      This is why the whole NSA corruption matters in a wide variety of ways.

  2. Tom says:

    Okay I had a very strong reaction to the tone of this podcast which I though was entirely whiney and negative focusing primarily on Mr. Thayer. Normally when I complain to someone I don’t like to slag them in a public forum and prefer to do it publicly so I emailed Marc and Fausto complaining about this episode.

    Marc was wrote back, supporting Mr. Thayer and graciously asked specifically what my problems were which I replied with a lengthy email. I heard back from both Marc and Fausto, again supporting their guest (and adding some comments that gives me a little more respect for Mr. Thayer) asking me to post it here. I’ve trimmed out a few sentences that didn’t really apply to the rest. I realize a lot of people will disagree with me.

    I debated whether or not to post it since I really don’t like criticizing someone so much and so publicly. Mr. Thayer, I can certainly understand if you took offense at me for doing this in public and if you do, I apologize. To anyone else who may complain about what follows, I probably won’t respond to complaints by restating what I’ve already said. I won’t say anything unless I have something new to contribute to the dialogue. What follows is my second email to Fausto and Marc. Any sorry for it being so long and unable to edit myself.

    “Thanks for responding, Marc and wise calm words even though I was complaining!

    In general, I got the sense from him that everything is black or white, all or nothing, right or wrong and life is much more nuanced than that and there are shades of gray. I think on a lot of issues you will never please everyone but you need to be a little more sensitive and open to the viewpoints of those who disagree with you and much less than the judgmental feeling I got from him. When you people too much that you need to work with it’s hard to them to come to the table for a consensus with them.

    Take Ground Zero, for example (even though it wasn’t talked about). Some victims felt nothing should be done with the site, that it should remain hallowed ground forever. Other victims felt something should be rebuilt there to show the world you can’t stop us, that we’ll rebuild. I really felt sorry for the decision makers on what would happen to the site because there were very high emotions and no way to please everyone but you stay sensitive to opposing viewpoints .

    If you’re too strident and make it all or nothing you risk alienating your allies. In the 1980’s, when I was deluding myself that I was heterosexual and more conservative, I worked for a few Republicans in Congress. Like Obama I’ve evolved. Significantly. The first one I worked for was very conservative for the time although now he’d probably be drummed out of the party if he voted the same. He was antiabortion and he voted prolife most of the time. In the time I worked for him he only cast one vote that was “prochoice” and that was the Budget of which most of the document did not pertain to abortion. We got letters from people telling him they would never support him again. With a one strike, you’re out attitude they alienated one of the best allies they had and I fear Mr. Thayer risks doing the same.

    Those were just some general feelings, the perspective that I’m coming from. So let’s see if I can be more specific. (And at my age the memory is getting hazier so please forgive me if some of the recollection is slightly off):

    Boycotting vodka, the Olympics, dropping sister cities, denying visas to homophobic Russian politicians, etc. – I think his points about asking gays inside Russia what they want the outside world to do is a very valid point and something to be considered but you’re not going to get everyone to agree on everything and even so, going around and telling everyone this is what gays in Russia want just puts a bigger target on their back from people who don’t agree with them in an already hostile environment. Rather than say gays in Russia should dictate how you or I respond on this issue I prefer that we make our own, educated decisions that certainly take their viewpoints into consideration and if we disagree, it doesn’t mean we’re a bad person. It just means we disagree on this issue.

    Madonna, GaGa, etc. – In general, I don’t look gift horses in the mouth from those that support us. Unless someone is doing something that is so minimal that it really is nothing I prefer to appreciate what people do for our community rather than fixating on or complaining about what they haven’t done. No “Why haven’t they done xxxx?” or “They should do xxxx.” In most cases I don’t question those things because I don’t know the other considerations were in their mind when they decided to do what they do to support us. Just because what I would do differs from what they did means what I did was better. It just means it was different.

    Hillary Clinton – He didn’t like that she cut a ribbon with the homophobic mayor of Moscow. On foreign policy I agreed with a lot of his points pertaining to China, or Saudi Arabia but again, I think he has Mr. Thayer has oversimplified everything to wrong or right and the world stage is much more complex than that and just because someone isn’t with you 100% you shouldn’t vilify them. Sometimes you just have to hold your nose and do things that stink that you don’t want to do. I also found it very curious that he was attacking her for this. He was pretty adamant that any type of protest should first be approved by gays in Russia but nowhere in all of this did he cite they, they people who he feels should decide if the U.S. Secretary of State cuts a ribbon, had weighed in that she shouldn’t do this.

    A few words about some things just quickly touched on:

    Bradley Manning – I think we benefit from responsible whistleblowers keeping an eye on what government is doing. The government provides protection for whistleblowers. There is a process for it internally. I even think in some cases responsible whistleblowing requires stepping outside of that process. I don’t applaud what Manning did. He released either 700,000 documents or 700,000 pages of documents (again the memory). That wasn’t whistleblowing. That was a data dump of classified information. I don’t believe he actually went through each document to evaluate the impacts, good or bad, to our national security. Some, yes, but, 700,000? No and it was reckless. I have some issues with the way he was prosecuted, they held him way too long in confinement without a trial, etc., but I do think his crimes warrant time in jail instead of hailing him as a hero.

    Obamacare – Yes it’s very flawed and yes I think there are a lot of improvements to be made but instead of complaining about about the flaws in our health care system I celebrate that we were at least able to get something. The President cannot pass things by edict. He has to be able to get a majority in the House and a supermajority in the Senate. Anything that big takes compromise. I think the President may have compromised too much but I’m grateful for the efforts he put in there and prefer to concentrate on that.

    Finally, with respect to Mr. Thayer, I greatly admire his drive and I passion. I simply regret that he seems to overly focus on where we don’t agree rather than to focus on where we can come together stronger and build consensus.

    Anyway, Marc, this was much longer than I intended and if you make it through the whole thing I really have to commend you because, looking back, I’ve given you the email equivalent of verbal diarrhea! I guess you can tell how strongly this episode impacted me. Even though I gave you criticism I appreciate that you asked more questions rather than dismissing my comments and even though you may disagree with me I do respect your consideration and forthrightness in saying so.

  3. Complex analysis about the situation of gays, immigrants, and other minorities in Russia, which has NOT changed dramatically in recent weeks, as reported by longtime activist and journalist Scott Long:

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