Almost twenty years ago, I was beaten by three guys close to my house in Murcia, Spain. I put up a good fight, but they were three. The reason? They saw me holding hands with another guy.
Years later, one of these gentlemen came out of the closet. He was gay. That may seem surprising, but my experience (and the experience of some of my friends) seem to indicate that the fiercest homophobes are hidden gays who hate themselves so much that they project their hatred toward others.
It seems it may not be as crazy as it sounds, though. According to a study published a decade ago in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, “Lashing out may ultimately be an indicator of the person’s own internal conflict with sexual orientation”.
What does this have to do with Putin?
Ok, we all know Putin has been clamping down on LGBTQ+ rights for some time now. Unless you’ve been living in a cave (or in Russia perhaps), you don’t need me to elaborate on that. But in his latest speech, when talking about dissidents and pro-Western Russians, Putin used two very revealing terms:
These people “cannot live without oysters and gender freedom”.Vladimir Putin – Relentless protector of manliness and traditional values (Source: CNN).
He could have used a myriad of other words to epitomize his loathing for the Western values (“overconsumption”, “avarice”, “self-indulgence”, “decadence”, or… God forbid, even “freedom”!), but no, he chose these two. First, ”oysters”, which obviously tries to depict Westerns as rich snobs consumed by capitalist greed (funny thing is, I’ve never eaten an oyster, but I guess he’s tasted quite a few of them). And second, ”gender freedom”.
This is quite shocking. Half of the weight of the anti-Western madness in his head is fueled by his hate (fear?) of queer people.
You really have to feel your masculinity threatened to ban memes depicting you as a gay clown in makeup. Just saying.
It’s all about fear
This phobia, thinking that the mere knowledge of gender identity and sexual orientation can turn children into gays, lesbians, or “God knows what else”, may be laughable to me. Perhaps to a lot more people. But it is not so laughable in countries such as Russia, where LGBTQ+ rights are portrayed as existential threats to the nation, or the traditional values it defends.
There are people, yes, in the XXI century, who believe that if an NGO visits a school to talk about diversity, these kids will change their gender or sexual orientation. Bum! Instant gayfication! Those who are still straight after the talk are shown this rainbow cat gif for hours until their brains submit to queerness. Evil, right?
Putin need not worry, though, we have a saying in Spain ”not even the most powerful warlock can turn bread into bread”. 😈
What really worries me is that these stupid notions are not limited to Russia or other nations stuck in the narrative of the early XX century. The exact same foolish rhetoric is being used by politicians and governments of the European Union (Poland, Hungary, I am looking at you) and the US, justified by some vague “right of the fathers to choose”.
This is not new, the words ”freedom” and ”right” are usually abused to justify all kind of retrograde points of view. ”I’ve read that the COVID vaccine is dangerous (on FB), so it’s my right to not get the shot”, ”We are protecting the right of parents to decide how to educate their children (read, in a homophobic way)”, ”Not allowing me to carry a gun limits my freedom (to shoot someone?)”, ”If you teach my children about Darwin, they should have the right to also learn this absurd theory based on a religious book” … et cetera.
Why does this matter?
As we have seen, hatred can be easily exploited at scale. You just need to combine it with other concerns and anxieties, feed them to your population via propaganda, ban or prosecute all dissenting voices, and once these fears are embedded in the collective unconscious of your citizens, use them to justify your actions.
That’s tyrant 101.
Ukraine is a bleak example of what can happen if we let these fears wreak havoc. Wait, are you suggesting that Ukraine’s invasion has something to do with Putin’s homophobia? Well, in part, yes, absolutely. I don’t know to which extent Putin truly believes this fantastic tale of pro-Western Ukrainian gay nazis jeopardizing the traditional values and integrity of Russia, but a huge part of the Russian society believes it, because they have been fed with this propaganda for years and years.
Orwell laughed last.
can should we do?
Well, the right question is ”What should we have done?”. For decades, Europe and other Western countries have tolerated and endorsed these nations that live in denial of the XXI century. We have collectively turned a blind eye on them. Countries that still see feminism, atheism, freedom, LGBTQ+ rights, diversity, and democracy, as existential threats.
We have made business with them, played with them at the Olympics, developed a dependence on their gas, oil, and petrol, (instead of investing in green energy sources), ignored their blatant violation of human rights, and even genocides. I know, I know… you can sell a lot of iPhones in China.
But I think it’s about time that we demand other nations to comply with certain values if they want us to be friends with them.
… No, you are right, I know how the world works. But isn’t it a pretty dream?
“Microblogging pills” (MBP) are short posts containing random thoughts that cross my mind. Without necessarily any context or story behind them, raw and unedited.