Thomas Roberts is in Moscow this week to host the Miss Universe pageant, a glamorous gig previously turned down by fellow power gay Andy Cohen due to Russia’s markedly homophobic actions and attitudes towards its LGBT citizens. Though he faced criticism for taking the job, the openly gay MSNBC anchor defended his decision:
Boycotting and vilifying from the outside is too easy. Rather, I choose to offer my support of the LGBT community in Russia by going to Moscow and hosting this event as a journalist, an anchor and a man who happens to be gay. Let people see I am no different than anyone else.
On his first day in the former Soviet Union, Roberts sat down with Anton Krasovsky, the Russian journalist who earlier this year lost his job only hours after coming out publicly on air. Still without a job or money, Krasovsky is also without any regrets.
“I thought that it was my debt to Russian gay people,” Krasovsky says. “To Russian people, to all Russian people, because it’s not about gay rights, it’s about human rights.”
In the lead-up to the 2014 Winter Olympic in Sochi this coming February, global attention has been focused on Russia and its treatment of LGBT people. Over the summer, the government passed a vaguely-worded law banning so-called gay “propaganda” around children.
After facing some mild pressure from the International Olympic Committee, Russian government officials and President Vladimir Putin repeatedly assured the world that gays would be treated no differently, as long as they abide by the law.
But according to Roberts — and common sense — gay people are treated differently by the very definition of the propaganda law: “It’s really a taboo subject here in Russia to bring up the fact that these propaganda laws even exist, to discuss that there is a distinction between the classes and right now because of the anti-propaganda laws it does make the LGBT community a second class citizen.”
Roberts, who is in Moscow with his husband Patrick Abner, has a unique opportunity to be visible — to show that he is “no different from anyone else” — and hopefully he’ll make the most of it. Of course, he should also be careful as just a few days ago two Norwegian journalists were detained for allegedly painting an unflattering portrait of the Sochi Olympics.
Roberts will continue to speak with other LGBT Russians, like Anton Krasovsky, and shed some (questionably unflattering?) light on Russia’s anti-gay laws until that giant tiara is placed gingerly on a giant stack of hair for the rest of the week.