By Lori Heine
We’re accustomed to thinking of the Olympics as a magical time. For two weeks, the host city becomes a magical place. This may be especially true this year, because the president of Russia, hosting the Sochi winter games, recently revealed that he is on “friendly terms” with gay people. Given his government’s antagonistic attitude toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, this seems an astonishing revelation. Many will find it hard to believe Putin’s very special gay friends are anything but imaginary. Putin even apparently expresses admiration for openly gay entertainer Elton John, who Putin calls an “extraordinary person, [and] a distinguished musician.”
“I myself know some people who are gay – we are on friendly terms,” Putin declared to BBC journalist Andrew Marr on Sunday. He has told George Stephanopoulos of ABC the same thing. The Russian president took pains to say, “I am not prejudiced in any way.” As proof of this, he cited awards he has given to LGBT Russians who “achieve great success.”
We can only conclude, however, that Putin’s very special, invisible gay friends are not very nice. He doesn’t trust them around children. Thus does Russian law ban “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” that minors might see or hear, and thus has he warned LGBT athletes and others coming to the games to stay away from the kiddies.
This has, Putin insists, “nothing to do with persecuting individuals for their sexual orientation.” It merely stigmatizes all sexual minorities as potential child molesters. Nothing personal, don’t you know. And nothing that some hard-line social conservative politicians and activists don’t wholeheartedly support.
Russia’s head of state would have us believe that he has nothing against LGBT people. He likes us so much that he wishes we were all – like his gay friends – invisible.