A lesbian's perspective on Russia's concentration camps

Other | Friday 21st April 2017 | Charlotte Layton

We have come to expect the unexpected and take absolutely nothing for granted within this unpredictable and disconcerting era of Brexit, Trump and the continuing rise of the 'alt-right'.  

We have also become accustomed to Theresa May’s hypocrisy, as she proudly boasts of her Christian values, while reinforcing trade links with some of the most horrendous human rights abusers of the modern age.

May has come to represent a kind of selective principle, were most leaders choose to stay mute on the issues of basic equality and human rights.

With the flailing state the western world is finding itself in, I cannot be shocked at the recent news of Russian concentration camps for gay men, as the LGBT communities in Russia have been oppressed in the name of “family values” and the traditions of family life – whatever that actually looks like.

Despite homosexuality officially being removed from the Russian list of mental illness in 1999, almost all polls conducted in Russia since, have shown that the people of Russia still believe that homosexuality is in fact a mental illness, while also believing that gayness shouldn’t be tolerated within society.

Yet, as someone who falls into the LGBT community, the news is unsettling, but the resentment and hatred towards the LGBT community is nothing new. In the UK through out the 50s, 60s and early 70s, it was completely illegal to be gay of any sorts, if authorities accumulated information that proved you to have 'homosexual tendencies', medication and gay therapy was your better option. 

Despite being proven to have had no effect on ‘curing’ your gayness what-so-ever. At least with the option of therapy and faking your hetrosexualness, you still had your freedom, even if you did spiral into a deep depression. 

Yet, as we bathe in the glory of the progress we have made at home when it comes to LGBT acceptance, it is all without any mention that being a lesbian in today’s society is more widely accepted than being a gay man or bisexual.

It is also without the acknowledgment of turning a blind eye to the plight of those abroad who are endlessly fighting for basic human rights and their very survival, due to belonging to a sexual and gender minority group. 

The gay men of Russia’s Chechnyan Republic are being rounded up in the middle of the night by packs of burly mercenaries-styled police, taken from their slumber, or nabbed in brutal raids at underground gay social clubs.

Phones are searched and other suspected homosexuals are hunted down. The captured men are taken to what is described as old military or police buildings, which resemble something along the lines of modern day concentration camps. The prisoners are faced with electrocution, endless beatings and emotional torture with the indication of indefinite imprisonment.

Most of the men who have been rounded up by authorities are also being blackmailed in order to buy their freedom, where they are then hunted down again and imprisoned repeatedly, as though their life is nothing but a game.

A game in which they will subsequently lose, a handful of gay men have already died yet government officials have denied all allegations of abuse.

This is the first time since World War II in the history of the LGBT community, that homosexual men have been rounded up and kept in camps as a group of proclaimed 'undesirables' by authorities.

Yet, describing any minority as an 'undesirable' is the fear and ignorance of something that you just do not understand. Russia is clearly still reflecting the ideology of the ‘family first’ era, while seeing the LGBT community as an epidemic threat to the family life. All the while, acting upon some of Hitler’s early disciplines for the notorious concentration camps across Germany and Poland.

Yet, biologically speaking, anyone belonging to the LGBT community doesn’t see or feel love any differently to someone of a heterosexual preference.

Biologically and genetically speaking, any sexual orientation is determined before any one of us are even born, with the idea that not one person is entirely heterosexual or entirely gay either, which suggests that, like many other human tendencies, everyone is on a spectrum of sexuality. 

With marches and demonstrations happening world-wide in response to the brutality to the LGBT community in Russia, and the calling for Putin to address the issue, there is hope that someday, these men will obtain their basic human rights.

However, given Russia’s history and brutality to the LGBT community, it remains to be seen. Though the question remains: What did we do to deserve such brutality and abuse?