Russia's anti-gay "propaganda" law has sparked international discussion about its blatant, violating attempt to completely silence the LGBT community in Russia. The upcoming book Gay Propaganda, edited by Masha Gessen and Joseph Huff-Hannon, provides a platform from which those voices can be heard.
Together, Masha—a journalist, author of Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot, open lesbian, and mother who left Russia because of the propaganda law—and Joseph, who is a writer and founding campaigner of All Out, use original interviews and testimonials to create a portrait of what it means to be gay in Russia under President Vladimir Putin. Gay Propaganda includes stories form gay couples raising their children, people living in exile to escape the anti-LGBT climate, advocates who have been arrested, and the owners of the only gay bar in Sochi.
Discussion about the anti-gay law in public forums is becoming increasingly difficult, as news and social media outlets are now being charged as criminal.
"This is how the work of trying to make LGBT people in Russia disappear is playing out: a bureaucratic battle against websites, against journalism, against free speech, and against storytelling. It's a battle against millions of Russians and it's a depressing spectacle to watch," Joseph wrote in a recent op-ed for The Guardian.
In a statement, the book's publishing company OR Books referred to the law, signed by Putin, as "part of a political strategy by the ruling party to use prejudice to unite the country, following massive pro-democracy protests in 2011."
Targeting marginalized peoples as a strategy of distraction is a common trend throughout history and across the world. Platforms like GLAAD's Global Voices and Gay Propaganda serve to counter such a dehumanizing and vilifying practice by allowing those groups to reclaim ownership over their realities.
"Projects like Gay Propaganda are the most potent weapon in the fight against anti-LGBT prejudice," said Rep. Barney Frank, former congressman and first congressperson to voluntarily come out as gay. He added that the book is "putting the reality of who we are against the caricatures presented by our prejudiced opponents."
Gay Propaganda will be released as a paperback next week in English and Russian, and will be available as a free ebook in Russian. During the Olympic Games in Sochi, GLAAD will be sharing some of the stories from within the book as a way to highlight the lives of LGBT people in Russia. You can already check out GLAAD's own profile of one of the couples featured in the book, Oleg and Dmitriy.
To learn more about the situation in Russia, check out glaad.org/Russia.