Russian Pride

Russian Pride

Yesterday, Norwich Pride reached the grand old age of 10 and the streets of the city throbbed to the fabulous in their multi-coloured glory. We came, we saw, we partied along with the mums, dads, kids and grandparents. Summer is Pride season and rainbow flags have been flying across the realm. Sadiq Khan, London’s Muslim Mayor, danced across a giant flag during London Pride and even the sleepy Suffolk town of Beccles flew one from the Town Hall. It’s about inclusion, right?

Not in Russia it’s not. In Russia the rainbow flag is subversive gay propaganda opening the floodgates to kiddie-fiddlers, making ladies of the lads, lads of the ladies and bringing Mother Russia to her knees. Waving it can land you in the clink, or worse. The term ‘Russian bear’ doesn’t refer to a hairy mary bopping round a bum-bag to Abba’s Dancing Queen, and it takes a brave soul to be out and proud. And so a band of rainbow comrades employed a little cunning to get their point across at the recent World Cup. Big respect to Norwich’s very own Di Cunningham, chair of Pride in Football, who rolled out the Three Lions Pride flag at England games. I’ve read Di and her team got a bit of low-level hassle from the authorities, but as the flag was endorsed by the English Football Association and supported by the UK Government, the Ruskies let it go. No one was going to provoke an international incident at Putin’s big showcase.

More subtle was a group of activists from Spain, The Netherlands, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia who roamed the streets, squares and subways of Moscow wearing their national kits which just happened to make up – you guessed it – the rainbow flag. Now that’s what I call a result.

Images courtesy of The Hidden Flag #thehiddenflag

 

They Think It’s All Over

Come on EnglandA young inexperienced England Team crashes out of the 2014 World Cup, Mexican and Brazilian fans chant homophobic abuse, Croatian and Russian fans unfurl neo-Nazi banners and finger-licking FIFA are mired in accusations of palm-greasing over the staging of the 2022 competition in Qatar, a filthy rich absolute monarchy with no football tradition and summertime temperatures in the withering forties. And so, it’s business as usual for the beautiful game. Timely then, to re-post my 2012 piece from a happier time for British sport, Rainbow Sporting Heroes…

Rainbow Sporting Heroes

Gareth Thomas and Perking the Pansies

As Olympic fever goes into hyperdrive, I was thinking about homophobia in sport, particularly the beautiful game. Even though the likes of David Beckham are in touch with their feminine side and Eric Cantona is prone to writing a poetic line or two, there are no fairies in top flight football, apparently. Why is this, I wonder? Even rugby, the butchest of sports, has the wonderful Gareth Thomas quietly waving his rainbow flag. There was Justin Fashanu a few years back, of course, but his revelation led to excommunication by the soccer establishment, misery and his eventual suicide. It was a shameful episode. More…

 

Bearded Men in Dresses

Conchita Wurst’s hair-raising victory at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest was historic for two reasons:

  1. A country not associated with the Balkans, Baltic and/or the former Soviet Union actually won for a change; and
  2. She was a he in a frock and whiskers (just in case you hadn’t noticed).

Naturally, the Russian Orthodox Church (among other right wing reactionaries) is outraged by the swirling cesspit of sodomites that the contest has become. After all, real bearded men don’t wear dresses do they?

Men in Frocks

Blast from the Past

I was busying myself with morning admin when my tippy-tappying  was interrupted by an old Seventies tune on Radio 2, the summertime hit ‘Beach Baby’ by the group First Class. They were a one hit wonder and hearing the track brought adolescent memories flooding back of picking up Radio 1 on a transistor radio as I crossed the North Sea in an old Russian rust-bucket. It was the year of  the Fall of Saigon, the end of Portugal’s empire, the first Yorkshire Ripper murder, the election of the Iron Lady as Tory leader, the establishment of the ‘Turkish Federated State of North Cyprus,’ the foundation of Microsoft, the nationalisation of British Leyland and my Soviet tour in my very own Bolan curls and loon pants look. Cue the bubble gum pop and an old post from our Turkey days about my youthful misadventures. It’s worth a second recital.

Sweet Swedes and Wretched Russians

I recalled my first visit to Stockholm when I was a hormonal adolescent. The little local grammar school I attended laid on the most incredible journeys designed to broaden horizons and expand the mind. One early morning in 1975 twenty or so sweaty boys boarded  a train at Victoria Station and headed for the coast. We sailed on the morning tide to Flanders where we began our grand passage across the great North European PlainMore…

The Last Taboo

Norwich Pride Lions
Out and Proud Lion at Norwich City Hall – Image courtesy of Norwich Pride on Facebook

The twilight world of the homosexual has emerged from the dark alleys of my fumbling pretty-boy years and gone very high street. Talented lesbians and gay men from every mince of life have broken out of the ghetto and now muck about in the mainstream without hiding their sexuality under a bushel or running scared of the sleazy Sunday scandal rags. No one cares what you do between the sheets – well, not in Britain anyway – and it just doesn’t sell copy anymore, not even in the Sunday Mail. No, hypocrisy is the sin that pisses people off the most these days. Even in the macho world of sport there are tentative signs that the love that dares not speak its name is whispering in the showers without causing a stir in the scrum or a tirade from the terraces.

All of this should cheer up the war-weary. Nobody ever won their rights by asking nicely and saying please and it’s taken hand-to-hand combat with the hard of hearing to get this far. Long decades of agitation have finally paid off.  There’s no room for complacency of course. There were 5,000 reported homophobic attacks last year and we must all guard against a moral backlash – think the Russian descent into religious conservatism as an example. But now that gay people have become so ordinary and everyday, what’s the point to an entire sub-culture dedicated to difference and enforced separation? Who needs a gay bar when you’ll get a hearty welcome down your local even when you’ve got your arm around the boyf?

Or will you?

This post briefly went out as a ‘ghost post’ a few weeks ago when I inadvertently pressed the wrong key and suffered a bad case of premature publication. Hence some of the comments. Oops!

Putin’s Law

Putin

With the introduction of a vaguely worded law in Russia banning the promotion of homosexuality to minors (i.e. the very mention of it will attract a sliding scale of fines and repeated violations may result in a stint in the clink), the chattering classes have called for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on Russia’s Black Sea Coast. The idea is to give Tsar Putin and his Russian Orthodox cabal a good kick up the arse. I can’t see it amounting to much. After all, the soccer World Cup circus will be coming to town in Qatar in 2022, a gulf state with a less than sparkling record on human rights of any kind and we seem happy to do brisk business with a host of nasty little regimes around the globe. Let not conscience get in the way of the beautiful game or making a few shillings. The new Russian Law is similar in word and intent to the much-hated Section 28, enacted by the Thatcher Government in 1988 and only abolished in 2003 (now being reintroduced through the back door in some self-governing schools – along with creationism, no doubt). Section 28 was a vicious little side swipe from the Iron Lady’s handbag, tossed in to appease the swivel-eyed loons out in the shires. It was largely ineffectual in the real world and I’m hoping against hope that punitive Putin’s decree will go the same way. But then, Russia isn’t Britain.

pink triangleSo what can be done? I have huge admiration for the two Swedish athletes, Emma Green Tregaro and Moa Hjelmer, who painted their nails the colours of the rainbow while competing at this year’s World Athletics Championship in Moscow. It was a subtle rebuke but still caused quite a brouhaha. Nice one, ladies. How about Winter Olympians displaying the pink triangle (on their nails, a fake tattoo on their hands, whatever)? Personally, I think this would send a more powerful and historically resonant message. The pink triangle was the badge that gay people wore on their ragged uniforms in the death camps before the Nazis herded them into the gas chambers (just as Jews wore the Star of David and other ‘enemies’ of the state had their own emblems). Simple, effective and very televisual. Just a thought.

From Russia with Hate

I’m incensed, really pissed off. The parliament of St Petersburg, Russia’s cultural capital and second largest city, has just passed a law making it a crime to write, speak, discuss or meet about anything ‘gay’ (and I don’t mean happy). Offenders face a fine of up to $16,700.  Is this the action of a sophisticated, civilised, European nation?  I hardly think so. And some people think Muslim nations are backward. I can’t see this nasty little law ever being proposed in Turkey.

Take a look at the clever video below from the people at All Out. I hope it persuades you to lend your support. There is a chance that the Governor of St Petersburg will veto the bill. Please do what you can to convince him that this stupid law damages the international reputation of this great city, a city that I visited when I was 14 years old.