Political Awareness and Self-Blame in the Explanatory Narratives of LGBT People Amid the Anti-LGBT Campaign in Russia

Abstract

How do homo- and bisexual people explain the launch of a homophobia campaign that violates their basic human rights? Which narratives do they use to adjust to the hostile environment? On the basis of 77 in-depth problem-centered interviews with LGBT in Russia we explore the explanations they use to talk about their experience of a homophobia campaign. Respondents demonstrate their awareness of the political reasoning behind the campaign and explain it as a tool for electoral mobilization, the repression of pro-Western oriented opposition and as a part of biopolitical technologies adopted by the government to increase its control over people’s bodies and minds. Contrary to intuitive expectations, this political awareness does not protect the informants from self-blame, social escapism and moral suffering.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The Federal Law of 29.06.2013 № 135-FZ adds to the Administrative Code the Article on “Promotion of non-traditional sexual relations among juveniles.” Remarkable, that in the law propaganda or promotion is defined as “the formation of unconventional sexual settings, attractiveness of non-traditional sexual relations among juvenile”.

  2. 2.

    The interview seeds were originally settled in large cities such as St. Petersburg and Moscow and small towns in the South (Krasnodar), the Far East (Primorsky Region), the Povolzhye (Kirov Region, Udmurtia Republic, Samara Region), the Ural Mountains (Khanty-Mansiysk Region) and the Central part of Russia (Moscow Region). The responses of our regional interviewees significantly differ from the residents of Moscow and St. Petersburg. The former expressed а relatively deeper concern about sexual freedom and reported the discrimination more frequently, and expressed their concern for the safety of their LGBT partners.

  3. 3.

    According to his popular typology (Hirschman 1970), the change in any organization policy results in three general reactions: to exit the organization, to claim the reform or to accept it without complaints. The typology was proved to be complete and applicable to the political science needs (Hirschman 1978), being adjusted to typical political reactions.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Christopher Swader, Elena Zdravomyslova, Alexander Kondakov, Leonid Polischuk, participants of the international workshop “Love and Sex after Communism” at Uppsala University, and three anonymous reviewers for detailed analysis and valuable advice. We are also thankful to Gleb Musikhin and Masha Udensiva-Brenner for their valuable comments, to Dmitrii Tolkachev for his excellent research assistance and Varvara Ganshina and Ilya Lomakin for their help with data analysis. All mistakes are our own. We are eternally grateful to our informants for their personal courage and agreement to participate in our research.

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Soboleva, I.V., Bakhmetjev, Y.A. Political Awareness and Self-Blame in the Explanatory Narratives of LGBT People Amid the Anti-LGBT Campaign in Russia. Sexuality & Culture 19, 275–296 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-014-9268-8

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Keywords

  • LGBT
  • Homophobia
  • Anti-gay campaign in Russia
  • Narrative analysis
  • Protests in Russia