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When Global LGBTQ Advocacy Became Entangled with New Cold War Sentiment: A Call for Examining Russian Queer Experience

Gender in IR
Michele Rivkin-Fish
Cassandra Hartblay


In the lead-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, LGBTQ rights became a central theme in Western media proclamations of a new Cold War.1 The focus on Russia’s anti-gay politics was subsequently overshadowed by the crisis between Russia and Ukraine, which has dramatically altered Russia’s image on the world stage and ended the “reset” era of U.S.–Russian relations. However, questions remain about the impact that global LGBTQ protests have had on relations between the West and Russia, on the way that Russian citizens perceive democracy movements in general, and on Russian LGBTQ outcomes in particular. We argue that the rush by Western advocates to condemn Russia’s repression of gay rights has foreclosed reflection on two important questions: have Western, human rights–based LGBTQ advocates considered the specific character of Russian queer experiences, and what do Russian LGBTQ activists believe necessary for combatting homophobia in their society?