While the world will be watching the Olympic Games in Sochi, GLAAD will continue to raise the profile of LGBT Russians, as a resource to the mainstream media to continue to include Russia's anti-LGBT laws. For journalists reporting on Sochi, GLAAD has prepared the Olympic Playbook for Media, with background information, story ideas, pitfalls to avoid, and profiles of Russian and LGBT spokespeople. For more information, visit www.glaad.org/russia.
Oleg Dusaev and Dmitriy Stepanov met in 2007 and eventually moved in to a quiet part of Moscow together. Oleg was a newspaper and radio journalist. Dmitriy was finishing up his post-graduate program in psychology and eventually joined a private practice in Moscow. The couple lived a very low key social life, went together to movie theaters, some theatrical performances and restaurants, usually accompanied by some of the close friends. The couple was not publically out, mainly because of Oleg's high-profile position in the media.
Even though they had not come out publically, the couple was repeatedly harassed. In one instance, Dmitriy was attacked and suffered a concussion in the middle of the afternoon on the street not far from the place where they were renting an apartment. There were attempts to break into their apartment, even while they were home, with anti-gay slurs repeated over and over.
After a number of instances of harassment and violence, Oleg came out in a statement on Facebook. Following the statement, he found his work environment had become significantly less friendly. A few days later, he was told that his contract with the TV station would not be renewed. The couple also received increasingly disturbing and threatening text messages on their mobile phones and many derogatory comments on their social media accounts. One text message stated, “Advising you to stop giving rotten interviews. Or do you want us to find ways to shut you up permanently. Think.”
The couple vacationed in New York City, where they took advantage of marriage equality in New York State and were married. News about their wedding spread, prompting even more violent reactions. The day before Oleg and Dmitriy were planning to return to Moscow, a Russian newspaper published an article on its front page about Oleg and Dmitriy’s wedding titled “Sodom and Humor.”
Oleg and Dmitriy did not plan to stay in the United States, but after seeing the violent and extremist reactions, believed that returning to Russia was not a safe option for them. They have begun applying for an asylum in the United States.
The couple currently lives in New York. Under the US system, asylum seekers can neither work nor receive government assistance for at least 150 days after submitting their application. Despite all these challenges, the couple remains steadfast in their love and support for one another.