Watch: Homophobic Russian Ad Targets Same-Sex Families with Lies and Stereotypes

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday June 4, 2020

An ad created by a pro-Putin group in Russia stages what looks at first to be a heartwarming scene: A smiling worker at an orphanage happily tells the camera that a young boy in her car is about to meet his new parents.

When the parents turn out to be a same-sex couple, the camera lingers on the child's downcast face while the "mom" — a man depicted as wearing women's garb — shows the boy a dress, evidently indicating that this is to be his new wardrobe.

The suggestion that the men intend to force a non-innate gender identity on the child smacks of a number of anti-LGBTQ lies spread by homophobic organizations for decades. The falsehood that gays and lesbians somehow "turn" children gay is an especially pernicious slander that ignores a body of scientific evidence indicating that sexuality is hard-wired and unchangeable, whether a person is heterosexual or homosexual.

The moment also brings to mind anti-trans claims positing that parents "force" their transgender children to adopt modes of dress and behavior more typically associated with the opposite gender. Such claims also ignore science, which has shown differences in the brains of transgender people that are in line with their innate gender identities.

In reality, a number of studies show that the children of same-sex parents are just as happy and well-adjusted as peers with mixed-gender parents, and may enjoy greater academic achievement.

The ad is an example of the sort of propaganda that's allowed in Russia even as any public expression of same-sex affection or support for marriage equality is penalized under the country's notorious 2013 "no homo promo" law, a draconian measure that pretends to "protect" children from exposure to the fact that LGBTQ people exist. In practice, the law has given cover to anti-LGBTQ sentiments and abuses.

CNN offered this background on the ad:

At issue is a national vote that would amend the constitution and reset the clock on presidential term limits, allowing Putin to stay on as president past 2024, when his second consecutive term in office comes to an end, among other things.

LGTBQ groups pushed back on the ad, Reuters reported, with advocacy group Stimul issuing a condemnation:

"This video incites hatred and hostility towards a group of people on the basis of belonging to the LGBT community, it degrades the dignity of a person (and) is frankly discriminatory in nature."

The head of Patriot Media Group, which owns the tabloid that produced the ad, told the press that the spot was intended to "get out the vote" for a referendum on the amendments that is slated to take place July 1, but was not meant to denigrate gays.

"I agree that the topic is ambiguous, but the point of this video is not in campaigning against homosexuals, as some representatives of the opposition are trying to paint it," CNN quoted Nikolay Stolyarchuk as saying.

Such political ads seem to be commonplace in Russia. In 2018's presidential election — which brought Russian president Vladimir Putin to power for his second term — presented voters in Russia with a nightmare scenario in which Putin lost the election, triggering massive social changed including the return of the military draft, mandatory adoption of LGBTQ youth by unwilling straight couples, and Soviet-style control over daily life.

The new anti-LGBTQ ad was taken down, but not before circulating on social media. Watch the clip in the tweet below from news outlet Coda Story, which claims to provide "Depth, context, and continuity through original, on-the-ground reporting" and cover "disinformation, authoritarian technology and the war on science."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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