Elena Kostyuchenko: Homophobia Is the Cause

"Islamo-, homo-, xenophobia kill. #Orlando." Spontaneous memorial outside the US Consulate in St. Petersburg, June 13, 2016. Photo by Vadim F. Lurie
“Islamo-, homo-, xeno- phobia kill. #Orlando.” Spontaneous memorial to the victims of the Orlando shooting outside the US Consulate in St. Petersburg, Russia, June 13, 2016. Photo by Vadim F. Lurie

Elena Kostyuchenko
Facebook
June 13, 2016

I have received lots of comments assessing my worth as a woman and a daughter, and a lot of the usual fare, such as “I wish you were dead” and “You’re not human beings.” But there is one more thing I would like to discuss.

When you write that “terrorists only need an excuse,” “the sexual orientation of the victims doesn’t matter,” and “I am mourning too, so how am I different from you?” you are closing your eyes to the cause of the murders.

Homophobia is the cause.

I don’t like the word. It is abstract, but it does a fair job of explaining how, in the last two years, nineteen of my acquaintances have been assaulted, two have been raped, and two have been murdered, and how over twenty people I know have been forced to leave the country. These have been people from my circle of friends, which is not so huge. Laws have been passed against us. We are unequal and officially deemed unequal according to Article 6.21 of the Russian Administrative Offenses Code. We do not have the right to marry and have joint custody of children. We do not have the right to visit each other in prison or hospitals. For the past three years, in the Russian hinterlands, there have been neo-Nazi groups operating who prey exclusively on LGBT. Television has vigorously inflamed the atmosphere of hatred and fear. There was a break, which lasted a year, for the Ukrainian war, but now we are the number one public enemies. Just watch the news.

I am glad you can live without noticing this, that it doesn’t concern you. I would also be glad not to know all the particulars, for example, how a bullet from a trauma pistol penetrates the eye, and the sound it makes, or what it is like to file a complaint against a guy your father brought over to “fix” you, or how to dial 911, because someone is trying to open your door, but the cops refuse to show up. And you sit there till morning with a little knife in your hand listening to someone trying to pick your lock. And then, in the morning, when the fuss has died down, you close the door, leave the house, and never go back there again. These are the things people close to me have gone through. Maybe your colleagues and friends have gone through some of these things. I am even certain they have.

I know how long a broken nose takes to heal (I can even compare, because noses get broken often), what it is like to get hit by a stone, a bottle, and a chunk of pavement, what it is like when your girlfriend is found strangled in a car, what it is like when the doctors say you can expect to go deaf, because the auditory nerves die off after a blow to the temple (I can tell you about that in detail: I went through it myself), what it is like when you are doused with urine and videotaped, what it is like when you are called into the director’s office and fired, forced to switch schools, universities, the place you work. I even know what it is like when your classmates rape you behind a garage. I know what it is like when a cop spits in your face while his buddies are suffocating your friend, and you cannot do a thing, because your arms are pinned behind your back, and all this is accompanied by jubilant cries of “faggots!” I know what it is like to dream of buying a plot of land, surrounding it with a fence three meters high, and raising your children in this cage, because it is the only way you can guarantee their safety.

Any conversation on the topic ends with the advice to “not stick your neck out.” When mass murders occur, the same attitude leads to comments that “it doesn’t matter what your orientation is.”

No, you really don’t know how my mom felt when she heard about the shooting at the gay club, or what I feel when I realize I have no way of reassuring her. “Everything will be okay.” Are you kidding?

The orientation of the people who were killed matters.

If it doesn’t matter to you, then you could give a fuck about the cause of the murders and why these murders happen again and again and again.

Elena Kostyuchenko is a journalist with Novaya Gazeta newspaper and a Russian LGBT rights activist. Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade AS for the heads-up

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