The endless and horrifying news of Russia’s human rights violations is enough to make one’s head spin. The images of brutality against the country’s LGBT citizens that have gone viral have broken my already cold heart.
If you’re like me you’re probably left wondering, what the hell is up with Russia and this Vladimir Putin-things-up-his-ass guy? If he is going to be so strongly influenced by the archaic Russian Orthodox Christian church, he might as well just burn witches at the stake and continue to believe the world is flat. Call me crazy, but when Neo Nazis start rallying for your cause I think it might be a sign that things are “no bueno.”
Oprah Winfrey once said that Maya Angelou once said, “I come as one, but I stand as 10,000.” We in the LGBT community must remember our brothers and sisters around the world who are not only fighting for their rights, but for their lives and we must do whatever we can to help them.
Imagine for a second the debilitating fear our Russian LGBT brothers and sisters are living with knowing who they intrinsically are is punishable under their country’s law and how they have no rights to protect themselves from the vile, violent acts that are being committed against them.
So what can we do to help? Do I have to sell off my entire collection of Matryoshka dolls and replace them with one of those killer dolls from The Conjuring by Marie Osmond? She’s down with the gays.
I’ve heard President Obama, certain athletes and my pedicurist say LGBT athletes should go and compete at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, even with our knowledge of these deplorable human rights violations and that “it is the ones who attend that will be remembered”…or do they mean beaten and arrested?
Let’s be honest, an Olympic medal is an award, a prestigious one, but an award nonetheless. It’s an Oscar, a Grammy, a Tony…and possibly to some, a Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award. Is it really more important to win an award than to take a stand for the human rights of hundreds of thousands?
I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but the global gay rights movement is a tad more important than being endorsed on the side of a cereal box, or even worse, morbidly embarrassing myself, my nation and God doing the Paso Doble on Dancing With the Stars.
Furthermore, I highly doubt some innocent gay youth, who was lured online by a bunch of skinheads, scared to death, humiliated and tortured really feels “supported” when someone skates around in a swan inspired unitard to Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work.”
Considering that merely talking about anything pro-gay is punishable by law, an LGBT person winning a medal will certainly not be covered by Russian television broadcasts, nor will it be written about in the Russian news. That same tortured youth or any other Russian citizen wouldn’t even be aware that a gay person stood on the podium let alone competed.
Whether an athlete makes the personal choice to compete or not, the real responsibility in this horrific mess lies with the IOC. It is the IOC’s job to ensure the safety and well being for all participants and, by not speaking out for LGBT human rights, shame on the IOC for putting attendees in a precarious situation.
It is imperative we contact the IOC to force Russia to protect LGBT participants.
One powerful way to pressure the IOC to take a stand against Russia’s persecution of LGBT people is to use the influence of its sponsors. Reach out to NBC, McDonalds, Panasonic, Coca-Cola, Omega, Samsung, G.E., Dow, P&G, Atos and Visa to let them know how you feel.
It boggles my mind to think the IOC and the billion dollar corporations it has as sponsors are putting money into the economy of a country whose human rights are non-existent. What kind of precedent is the IOC setting? I look forward to 2018 with bated breath. If we are lucky, maybe the IOC and its sponsors will choose a host country that’s gung ho for child sex trafficking, or at the very least, some female genital mutilation.
Until these corporations stand up for international LGBT equality and force the IOC to do the right thing, let us be unrelenting in making our voices heard. Basic human rights are more important than the advertising of a McGriddle, or a burp-inducing beverage. And while we’re at it Micky D’s, your support of these Russian Winter Olympics, I gotta tell you — I’m not lovin’ it!
Whether it’s as a private citizen, an Olympic athlete, a CEO of a sponsoring company, or a member of the IOC, it’s time to take a stand for something much bigger than oneself.
And if all else fails, you can always send Vladimir Putin a dildo.
John Carroll is a Broadway performer, writer and activist. For more information on him, go to TheJohnCarroll.com.