Nikolay Alexandrovich Alexeyev, the face of Russian LGBT rights, retires.

In an email sent to supporters last week, the 34-year-old said he would no longer head Moscow Pride and GayRussia.ru but gave little reason for his decision.

In a Facebook post, he wrote:

Dear friends … today on 21 October 2011, one year anniversary of the European Court of Human Rights verdict in the case of illegality of Moscow Pride bans, I decided to resign from the positions of the head of Russian LGBT Human Rights Project GayRussia.ru and head of Moscow Pride Organizing Committee. From midnight 21 October 2011 in Moscow and up to the decision on the new leadership, Project GayRussia.ru will be headed by Nikolay Baev and Moscow Pride Organizing Committee by Alexander Naumchik.

Speaking to UKGayNews.org.uk, he added:

It is true that I am fed up, and that is why I decided to step down. I also decided not to give any further comments on my decision.

Mr Baev, who will take over GayRussia.ru, said:

The reason [for Alexeyev’s resignation] is totally personal. He just decided to change his activity and lifestyle, and he has a full right to this.

Alexeyev, a former journalist, turned his attention to full-time gay rights campaigning in 2005, setting up GayRussia.ru and making plans for a Pride march in Moscow.

He has appeared regularly on Russian television and has been honoured for his work by LGBT organisations worldwide.

He has been arrested on numerous occasions for holding illegal Pride marches and gay rights demonstrations and launched lawsuits against Moscow authorities for banning the events.

Last September, the campaigner was arrested at Domodedovo Airport in Moscow while boarding a plane to Geneva.

He says he was kidnapped and possibly drugged by Russian security forces who detained him for more than two days and used his phone to send fake messages claiming he was dropping his legal challenges.

Related:
Russian judge: Court ruling on gay pride ban culturally insensitive.
The Army of One – Nikolay Alexandrovich Alexeyev

Update: Nepal Constitution Aims High.

Update relevant to Nepal Constitution Aims High.

Prime minister Jhalanath Khanal resigned last Sunday due to several conflicts in the constitution writing process. So far no replacement have been announced, and the fact that it took seven months to choose prime minister Khanal – it might take some time to find a new one. There are still some political unrest in Nepal, but it´s on the right track.

Nepal Constitution Aims High.

A draft constitution for Nepal would enshrine LGBT rights advances as breathtaking as the heights of Mount Everest if lawmakers are willing to adopt the document.

Following centuries of monarchy and a decade-long civil war that ended in 2006, Nepal has emerged as a democratic republic with one of the world´s most progressive stances on LGBT rights, which could be promulgated in a new constitution this year unless the government further delays its implementation.

Extended once last year, the constitution´s deadline was put off by three months more in late May. Lawmakers disagree on broad questions of government structure, not the LGBT content – some of the most inclusive language of any nation.

The LGBT issues are pretty well formulated in the draft, and there is no opposition, so we don’t need to worry about that. Our concern is about how long it will take to have the constitution, says Sunil Pant, Nepal´s first openly gay elected official and a member of the interim constituent assembly writing the document.

Pant, who is pushing for adoption of the constitution this year, says the draft proposes citizenship rights for “third gender” individuals, who identify as neither male nor female; bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; calls for government affirmative action in support of LGBT people; and proposes gender-neutral language on the rights to work, health, education, and marriage, the latter also being drafted in a separate law directed by a supreme court ruling.

Pant, founder of the LGBT network the Blue Diamond Society and the tourism company Pink Mountain Travels and Tours, attributes the success to a receptive private sector, lack of sensational media, and the Hindu religious tradition, which has  deities that challenge binary gender norms. He also cites the movement´s organizational acumen, and he believes the pace and quality of change will allow Nepal to implement its constitution whenever it is finally adopted.

Nepal´s situation is likely to differ from that of South-Africa, which has a notably progressive constitution, but a disconnect between law and reality.

Queer World: Norway

Through history…

The 20th of May 1950 Norway’s first LGBT organisation was established, called The Federal of 1948 – Norwegian Section of The Danish Federal of 1948. Rolf Løvaas was elected as chairman. The 29th of November 1952 there are demands to pull out of the Danish Federal and form an independent Norwegian organisation. The board stepped down, and a new board was formed. David Meyer – a pseudonym – was elected chairman of the board. Then on the 1st of February 1953 the name of the organisation changed to The Norwegian Federal of 1948.

The next step in LGBT history in Norway is the broadcast of the first radio show about homosexuality the 15th of June 1965. The broadcast was led by Liv Haavik and lasted for 80 minutes. Producer Torlof Elster considered it an important theme and gave her as much broadcast time she wanted.

Homosexuality was illegal until 1972 when it was removed from the Penal Code. Gay and straight age of consent was made equal. Even though it now was legal it was considered and mental disorder until the Norwegian Psychiatric Association removed it from the list of mental illnesses in 1977.

In 1978 openly gay teachers get full rights and protection from discrimination guaranteed by the Department of Church and Education. Then in 1979 equal rights was introduced to the military – no D.A.D.T in Norway 🙂

In 1982 The Department of Social Affairs removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.

1992, and The Norwegian Federal of 1948 and other organisations became LLH, The National Association for lesbians and gays. In 1993 the Partnership Act is written into law. This gives gays the same rights and duties as married couples when in civil partnerships. With the exception of the right to adopt and to have the ceremony in a religious setting. In 1998 gays are included in a special anti discrimination act of the Work Environment Act – with the exception of positions in religious settings.

Marriage equality is written into law in 2008 and effective from the 1st of January 2009.

LGBT people in politics

Jon Reidar Øyan, Norwegian Labour Party
Håkon Haugli, Norwegian Labour Party
André Oktay Dahl, Conservative Party of Norway
Anette Trettebergstuen, Norwegian Labour Party
Erling Lae, Conservative Party of Norway
Bent Høie, Conservative Party of Norway
Wenche Lowzow, Conservative Party of Norway
Per-Kristian Foss, Conservative Party of Norway

Links point to their norwegian Wikipedia page.

Other famous LGBT people

Anne Holt, writer – lawyer – ex-politician
Karen-Christine “Kim” Friele, gay rights activist – writer
Sven Elvestad, writer
Trygve Hjorth-Johansen, journalist
Gudmund Vindland, writer
Anne Aasheim, journalist
Mia Hundvin, professional handballplayer
Anne Grete Preus, musician
Gro Hammerseng, professional handballplayer
Vibeke Skofterud, professional cross-country skiier
Sara Azmeh Rasmussen, writer
Frank Rossavik, news editor
Arnfinn Nordbø, writer
Sturla Berg-Johansen, comedian
Christen Sveaas, business mogul
Per Sundnes, tv-host
Arve Juritzen, tv-host – producer – publishing editor
Jan Thomas Mørch Husby, stylist
Karen Pinholt, leader LLH
Christine Koht, tv-host

Links point to their norwegian Wikipedia page.

Some statistics

Most statistics indicate that 3-5% of the norwegian population is gay. That´s somewhere between 150 – 250 000 people. That´s 1 in 20. These statistics are supported by surveys done in high schools, which shows that on average there is 1-2 – in each class –  seeing themselves as gay or bisexual.

As in most other countries some surveys tackling the issue of suicide, suspected gay or people with suppressed gay feelings are at a slight higher risk of actually committing suicide.

Homosexual relationships are widely accepted and protected by law in Norway. The last 10 years or so the coming out age have dropped dramatically. It´s now more or less normal to come out around 16, while in the 90´s it was more likely to be in the in the early 20´s while going to university.

But there are still problems surrounding the LGBT community in Norway. Homophobia is live and well, unfortunately. It´s bullying in schools, in the workplace and unprovoked acts of violence. But that’s a small ignorant part of the general public.

Gay youth in the US.

One of the outrageous ironies of the recent media reports of gay teen suicides (in the US) can be found in a less-reported but equally significant story of 2010. A landmark study published in the journal Pediatrics in June shattered long-held myths by concluding that children of lesbian parents are better adjusted than children of heterosexual parents. The kids of lesbian parents score higher all over the board. Higher on psychological measures of confidence and self-esteem, they excel academically, and are less likely to have behavioral problems. This long-term study, which focused on lesbian families because the gayby-boom started earlier with women, pointed to a variety of possible reasons, with family planning and an awareness of discrimination among them.

Breaking every nasty stereotype perpetuated by bigots, the kids of gay parents are in fact all right. The irony lies in the fact that it´s the children of straight parents who are very much in a full-blown crisis, be they gay and victims of bullying or the perpetrators of bullying themselves.

It´s hard to know if gay teen suicides are on the rise or if media reports – and the use of social media to get the news out – have focused more attention on them. But on thing is for certain: They´re happening at an unacceptable rate.

Columnist and author Dan Savage, the man behind the “It Gets Better Project” on YouTube, believes that despite the gains of the gay equality movement and the coming out of celebrities here and there, life is worse for LGBT teens today then it was 20 years ago, particularly for those living far from urban areas. While the gay political movement has made dramatic strides, most of those advances have been for adults in big cities. And at the same time, the religious right has come full force out of it´s own closet – condemning homosexuality and pushing therapy to cure the gays. In suburban and rural areas, preachers attack gays, ugly campaigns have been waged to bar gays for marrying, and politicians rail that gays shouldn´t be teaching in schools.

Savage may be on to something; As we have moved ahead with civil-rights movement for LGBT adults – marriage, employment nondiscrimination laws, adoption and gay parenting – the organized political movement has largely ignored the backlash our success has triggered and ignored how that backlash hurts gay youths. Sure, there are some excellent groups focused on these issues, such as the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. But many gay adults, unless they have children themselves, are far removed from these issues and often see fighting discrimination in their own lives as more important. It´s true, of course, that progress for LGBT adults helps everyone in the long run. If LGBT people had full civil rights – equal marriage rights and federal constitutional protections against discrimination – homophobia would diminish in society and young people would grow up in a better world. But we all know that equal rights and the hate will only grow worse in the meantime.

An example of this can be found in the 2010 Republican primary campaigns for a U.S. Senate seat from New Hampshire. The two Tea Party-backed candidates vying for the nomination ran on a platform of homophobia. Not only did both oppose all gay civil rights including marriage, they opposed adoption by gays and lesbians – an extreme position given that only one state, Florida, has banned such adoptions, and that ban was overturned in a state appeals court in recent months. New Hampshire already has full civil rights for gays, including marriage equality and antidiscrimination statues. And yet here were two candidates hell-bent on rolling those achievements back. And the winner of the Republican primary, Kelly Ayotte, actually made the Senate.

It will be many years before marriage equality and antidiscrimination protections come to every state. And the New Hampshire example shows that even after equality is won, it may be many years before antigay forces stop trying to strip away hard-earned rights of the LGBT community. We´ll be fighting for a long time. One battlefield will continue to be the schools, where young people will be targeted. And it´s not just the gay kids and those who are perceived to be gay who are under attack, it´s also those whose parents are gay who are being singled out as different by bullies.

The problem is only going to get worse unless there is a concerted effort to dramatically change the culture of schools. Often we´re dealing with the symptoms rather that the larger problem when it comes to bullying and homophobia.

In the research, ‘slut’ and ‘faggot’ are the two words used most by bullies, says Elizabeth Payne, who founded the Queering Education Research Institute at Syracuse University´s School of Education.

Through QuERRI´s Reduction of Stigma in Schools Program, Payne and her colleagues are doing the qualitative research that is much needed to get at the root of bullying. She believes we have a Band-Aid approach that punishes bullies rather than preventing them from developing in the first place.

Right now we focus on the individual kids´ problems. Conversations are about bullying prevention, and those things are important. But why has the effeminate male been the primary target of bullying for so many years? The problem with the bullying programs is that we reeducate the bully and then there´s another one right behind that one, because we haven´t really questioned the structure of the school itself. The football players and the cheerleaders are the most valued. It´s based on gender. We have to questions schools about how they´re privileging that, and the school needs to equally send those messages that it´s OK to excel at other things.

We also must battle a message that´s reinforced far beyond the schools through a popular culture that still values the macho male and demonizes those who are perceived as effeminate. A case in point is the is the controversy that erupted a few months ago after the trailer for the Ron Howard film ‘The Dilemma’ was shown in theaters. Star Vince Vaughn´s character jokes that ‘electric cars are gay’. The fact that he tries to clarify by saying, “I mean, not ‘homosexual’ gay, but ‘my parents are chaperoning the dance’ gay,” only underscores the ugliness of the message. “Gay” isn´t just a sexual orientation: it´s nerdy, weak and undesirable. When Hollywood and pop culture help to solidify the message coming from antigay politicians and preachers, it shouldn´t shock anyone that it plays out detrimentally among young people.

Not untill we address these larger and more challenging aspects of culture, in schools and beyond, will we see the bullying and suicides diminish. And changing the culture will have a positive effect – not just on LGBT youths, but on all kids, including the bullies. If there´s one thing all parents can glean from the landmark study of children of lesbian parents, it´s that teaching kids about difference and acceptance seems to be part of the mix in building self-esteem and confidence for all.

The Army of One – Nikolay Alexandrovich Alexeyev

After suffering through another quashed pride march, intimidation from the authorities, and an alleged government-sanctioned kidnapping, Nikolay Alexeyev needed some good news. The 32-year old Russian gay activist got just that on October 21, when the European Court on Human Rights ruled that Russia violated the European Convention on Human Rights when it banned three Moscow gay-pride festivals.

The decision came shortly after Alexeyev, who was a plaintiff in the case, says he was detained without explanation by Russian government agents after he tried to board a plane for a routine trip to Geneva on September 15. He says he was abducted to the Russian city of Kashira and pressured to drop his lawsuits in the European Court, all while being verbally assaulted as a “faggot” and “pederast”. Alexeyev refused to back down, and he says he was booted out of a car in a rural area two days later.

The news spread abroad via Facebook, the Moscow-born activist says.

From Vancouver to San Fransisco to Berlin, supporters set up vigils and protested at Russian consulates.

I did not know so many people would care.

Less than two weeks later, on October 1, Alexeyev was back in action, organizing a picket at the Moscow office of Swiss International Air Lines, which he blames for being complicit in his apprehension at a Moscow airport.

A sea change seems to have taken place since the May 2009 gay-pride march, where 20 activists, including Alexeyev, were arrested and some were assaulted by the police. Alexeyev´s newest protest was officially sanctioned; Yuri Luzhkov, the city´s antigay mayor since 1992, had been fired by President Dmitry Medvedev days earlier, and the police actually protected gay protesters for the first time ever.

Alexeyev are encouraged by the recent changes, but remains aware of how deeply integrated homophobia is in the fabric of his nation.

Russia emerged from communism 20 years ago, just a few weeks after the fall of the USSR, the ideology we lived with for 70 years disappeared. The government tried to make use of the Russian Orthodox Church to impose Orthodox values on the society. The gays are a designed enemy for the church.

Still, he´s very appreciative of the progress, the realization of which has been nearly the singular focus of Alexeyev´s life since 2001, when he was kicked out of the prestigious Moscow State University for selecting gay rights as the focus of his Ph.D. thesis.

I was out of my mind after being sacked from the university, I decided then to fight against the system.

And he has seemingly succeeded on a unpresidented scale. Alexeyev´s good friend Peter Tatchell, a leading British gay rights activist says:

He is risking his life for the sake of liberty and freedom – for LGBT people and for all Russians.

As the most visible crusader for gay right in his country, Alexeyev recognizes that he´s assuming the mantle as Russia´s LGBT figurehead. He knows that a lot of countries lacks a parallel leader figure at the moment, and the reason, he says, may have to do with the high stakes.

America showed the way with Harvey Milk, but let´s remember his fight left him dead.

 

Poland – longs to belong.

This summer, Warsaw was centre-stage for the mother of all gay prides. It´s all a bit surreal if you think back to only a few years ago, when that same parade was marred by incident.

When in power, the Kaczynski twins ruled the republic of Poland by means of a severely conservative agenda, endorsed by – our best friends – the Catholic Church. That mixture proved a sinister cocktail, which was seriously lacking the vital ingredient of human rights. The gay pride that took place in Warsaw was disrupted on several occasions by right-wing extremist demonstrators who were freely able to vent their hate and aggression due to lack of a police force.

That was a few years back. Meanwhile, much has happened. The economic crisis has also left an indelible mark on Poland, whereby nationalism and allegiance to the church suddenly reached its limits with the Polish population. A single Hosti is not enough to feed an entire family, whereas strong ties with the more liberal-minded – and economically more potent – Western Europe seemed like a preferable alternative to that predicament. Add to that a plane crash on the 10th of April, in which virtually the entire government perished during a trip to an anniversary ceremony in the Russian forest of Katyn. Following the disaster, Jaroslaw Kaczynski tried to succeed his late brother as President of Poland, but was beaten in the elections by Bronislaw Komorowski, a more moderate president whose key election promise was a close collaboration with Western Europe.

Parochial Poland gets the middle finger

The airline tragedy notwithstanding, you´d have thought that the ensuing events would have been positive for gays in Poland. Some polish gay rights organisations are of a different opinion though:

“Previously, we knew the monster we were up against. Now the enemy is disguised as a benefactor, which is much more difficult to fight.”

For Westerners, it´s an almost incomprehensible victim status, but if you´ve been watching your back all your life, then it´s naturally rather difficult to just let go of that.

The platform for all their heartache was Europride 2010, which this time was being held in the Polish capitol Warsaw. The Europride (the mother of all prides in Europe) hit Poland for good reason. The organisers of the Polish gay pride were sick and tired of all the oppression, and demanded their right to ‘the freedom of peaceful assembly’ from the EU. The EU duly acknowledged this, and started exerting pressure on the Polish government. From that moment on, the gay pride in Warsaw could no longer be legally forbidden by the mayor, who is also officially obliged to offer protection to all those taking part in the parade. The Polish gays let out a cry of victory when marching past a handful of anti-gay demonstrators on the 17th of July – where the mayor incidentally was conspicuously absent throughout.