Johnny’s World: Russia

July 18, 2013 8:21 AM15 comments

jworld This column is in response to the overwhelming amount of questions and tweets I received about my personal feelings concerning Russia’s anti-gay laws, officially written into law on my 29th birthday.

It is no secret that I am a very public cheerleader of Russia, U.S.-Russia relations, and Russia’s continued growth as a democracy. I have been gifted and worn Russian uniforms and clothes for years. I collect Russian porcelain, Fabergé eggs, and photos of Red Square and Saint Basil’s Cathedral. I speak, read, and write in the Russian language. My dream since I was a little boy was to one day own property in Moscow. I married into a family of Soviet descent. I have Russian channel packages added to my premium cable to improve my comprehension skills. If it were the ’60s or ’70s, I would most likely be arrested as a traitor or for spying.

I have been asked thousands of times why I love Russia and why I am such an emphatic Russophile, but to be honest there is no distinct reason. The way snow settles on the subtle curves of the Orthodox churches, the glamorous upper class, the fairy tales and old wives tales, the spoken history passed down by generations, the language, and the food, all these things are a part of my appreciation for a country so foreign to my own. I have over 25 Russian visas spanning two passports and a name change due to my marriage to my husband, Victor Weir-Voronov. I took his very Slavic last name out of respect for his family and heritage.

Something that is constantly brought to my mind is people’s fear of Russia – how Russians always play villains in American movies, and how it seems to love Russia is to love all of her governments. Russia is the only country that I find that to love her means to love Putin, Kruschev, Medvedev, Yeltsin, Stalin, Lenin, the KGB, and communism. Did many of us love America but hate Bush? Do millions of tourists love their trips to Italy without immediately being told it’s weird because that means they love Mussolini? To love a place is simply to love a place, but to love a government or political leader is a different love and support entirely. I love Russia, the country; the government of Russia is not associated with my appreciation.

I have performed many times in Russia, walked down the street, and kissed my husband in Red Square. I have worn flamboyant costumes there, and I have met with Russian LGBT citizens and support groups. I have a very large following in Russia, and I am always cheered for as a kindred spirit or even as a hometown hero when I’m on the ice performing to classical music or that of the much adored gay icon Lady Gaga. In theory, for all these acts I am a criminal.

The fact that I may never be issued a visa to the Russian Federation again in my lifetime; that I may never be able to take my children to a place I love so much; and of course the fact that I could be publicly humiliated, beaten up, arrested, charged, and expelled is a crushing blow. Due to this new law, I may not be able to safely enter Russia for the Olympic Games next February, or to perform with my friend and icon Evgeni Plushenko in his future tours. I may never meet the children of my many friends living in Russia, and I may never be able to work in Russia again. My heart is broken when I think of my amazing fans in Russia who have supported my career since the beginning, fans I may never be able to perform for again. I am especially worried for my brothers and sisters who were born, just like me, slightly different.

Despite my heartache, I will fight for my right to go to Russia. I will fight to perform there. I will fight to show the government how strong my community is. I will proudly go to Russia – God willing I slip through the cracks and get a visa – and hold my head high. Should I get arrested, I will be arrested with the pride that I am myself, never flinching, and I will be strong for the oppressed community of beautiful people who I can call brothers. I will be strong for the country, not for the government.

Discrimination is something held behind the eyes of the ignorant. Hatred is a skill taught by others. Life is a gift worth living, no matter the cost. Pray for our friends in Russia that one day, they will all be free.

  • MeredithMinerReese

    Johnny, I am heart broken FOR you and Victor. I fear for your safety and those that live and work there. I pray that you are able to enter the country without ridicule, without hatred and as you always are, fearless. Despite your fearlessness, I and so many others are worried and if you do go, I think I can speak for masses of people that we will be nervous wrecks waiting for you to come home safely. I admire you so much… and will pray for your beloved Russia that it’s government can see more clearly like so many of us do.

  • AB

    Beautifully expressed. I hope many people read this, not only to get an explanation of your love for Russia, but to get a sense of how unjust laws can affect lives.

  • Lady Lisa

    This new law in Mother Russia was really awful to hear, and it’s sad that their government could have such a narrow-minded view about something that exists (and has always existed), all throughout the world. Of course, they have their reasons, but reasons are always subject to the reality that you’re dealing with. I surely hope you get a visa in order to compete at the Olympic Games. Not to let you in would be to insult the very sport they love so much, I think. It’s amazing Johnny, how you, just as one person, can lend so much hope and strength to so many, many people in Russia.
    ~ Keep kissing for freedom!

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  • Guest

    「けっしてひるまず、僕が『兄弟』と呼ぶことができる美しい人々が集う、虐げられたコミュニティーのために、僕は強くなる。ロシア政府のためではなく、ロシアという国のために強くなる。」

    • NanallyS

      ロシアから本当にありがとうございます!!!

  • MartinR80

    Very well written, Johnny Weir! Honest, heartfelt and engaging. I can only hope it won’t be in the practice as terrible as it sounds in theory.

  • SuenChiS

    Jonny, you’re just too awesome!!! I’m greatly proud that such a super-talented, morally strong and sincere man loves my country and is interested in its language (which is so difficult) in spite of all strange and even tragic decisions of our government.

    I just wanted to add that this and suchlike narrow-minded decisions of Russian government, as a rule, don’t reflect the feelings of most people in Russia.

    Yes, Russians aren’t actually for gay marriage, because here people are very conservative, they are basically traditionalists in all concerning marriage. Most Russians don’t like the idea of gay parades, as they think it’s propaganda, and moreover – it’s frequently taken for some form of discrimination towards heterosexuals.

    BUT!

    In real life, most Russians are quite tolerant towards gay couples (especially young people – if they are not too much into modern Russian Orthodox Christianity, which has become somewhat hard to distinguish from our government in its strangeness). Their real feelings are best depicted with one phrase: “Let them live and act as they want… just don’t show off too much, and everything will be just fine”.

    Shortely said, most people in Russia don’t seem to like homosexuality as a phenomenon, but they do understand that some people are just gay, and that’s it. And if this gay person is a good man, everyone will love and respect him. That’s true. For example, the Russians really love such great artists as Johnny Weir-Voronov, or Elton John, or Stephen Fry and respect them greatly, though anyone knows they’re straight gay.

    Honestly said, we Russians do really like good people, even if they are of another religion, political views, sexual orientation and so on. And, just as it always happens in Russia, this recent so-called “law” evoke a strong feeling of sympathy towards gay even among quite intolerant people. And you know why? Just because our people really hate our government which just uses the highly-discussed in press themes of gay people, “humiliation of believer’s feelings” and what-not in order not to discuss economical issues.

    • NanallyS

      That’s why we love you, Johnny, and we are very proud of you. It’s an honour for us that such a unique and talented artist has such warm feelings towards Russia. THANK YOU!!!)))))))

      P.S. Excuse me – the post above is also mine, but I made something wrong in the settings of my profile, and not that’s it… :D the world is so complicated, after all… =)

    • MartinR80

      Do you mean the “good” ones are OK with gays as long as they hide?

      Being conservative is not a good excuse to discriminate against a minority. I hope you re-read what you wrote and think about it and maybe realize how everything you’ve written here is exactly what is wrong with Russians attitude, and why they let Putin and the leaders of that extremist Church pass laws like the “Propaganda” one.

      You said:

      “Most Russians don’t like the idea of gay parades, as they think it’s
      propaganda, and moreover – it’s frequently taken for some form of
      discrimination towards heterosexuals.”

      You are justifying this nonsense! A parade is not Propaganda, whatever you, Putin and the Church mean with that. You don’t become gay for acknowledging the existence of gay people, and respecting their right to be! How a very small minority gaining some basic human rights, including the right to express themselves discriminates against the immense majority of the population which is heterosexual?

      I don’t doubt you mean well, but you’re sadly just repeating the brainwashing PROPAGANDA sell to Russian people by Putin and the Church.

      • NanallyS

        You see, I didn’t write about my own attitude (which is slightly different from average), and I also didn’t want to get anyone’s sympathy towards Russia and the Russians. I just tried to be honest and to tell the truth.

        In different countries people are different. Maybe in future the Russians will change somehow. But at the moment the situation is like this.

        I don’t like your intonation like “you Russians are wrong”, etc. It’s like, you know, cultural tradition tracing back to the times of the USSR. In fact, the Russians don’t like ANY kind of sexual relationships, homo- or heterosexual, shown in public in too provocative way. But it doesn’t mean you’re actually to hide you are gay. You just shouldn’t show it in the streets, etc. Your colleages, your relatives, your friends may know that you’re gay, and they won’t mind it if they like you. But even they will be against kisses outdoors. That’s it.

        It seems to me that you’re thinking in stereotypes and that’s why you didn’t get what I was trying to convey. I think that the Russians don’t really get the idea of gay parades at all. “Why should gay people have a parade at all? What for?” – the pattern of thought is like that. Or, rather, it used to be. Now the reason has become painfully evident – to protest against this “law”. I guess now the attitude towards gay parades in Russian society has changed somehow.

        But the new “law” is really very fearful, and not only to gay people. Some time ago I was walking with my friend, whom I haven’t seen for ages, hand-to-hand. And suddenly I understood, that now even for that we could be arrested. (Though I haven’t heard of such cases yet, but still it’s quite possible).

        That’s it. I don’t really trying to make you like me, my folk or my country, because I don’t care for people who don’t like Russia. And I don’t defend our parliament, government, Putin, Church and so on – just remember that their decisions are (unfortunately!) first of all – OUR headache and not yours. But I wanted to say something true, as I’m viewing the situation “from the inside” I thought I could do it.

        And I also wanted to say to Johnny one more time, that we LOVE him! I don’t care what you, MartinR80 or anyone says, but I do really care about Johnny’s feelings, because he loves Russia, and it’s shameful that he may fall into some hardships in our country, where lots of people admire him greatly.

        Johnny, this “law” is not forever. You know that now everything in our country is changing very rapidly. I hope someday you will be able to hear some good news concerning Russian gay boys and girls. And I really hope someday we all will be able to live in peace. Just wait…

        • MartinR80

          But you were the one talking about how “most Russians” think and feel!

          It’s OK. I don’t really have any intention to have an argument, I just got carried away because what you wrote about “most Russians” sounds way too much like American Christian extremists.

          I hope everything will get better in Russia some day soon!

          • NanallyS

            :) I see))) sorry, I knew nothing about American Christian extremists and surely didn’t want to sound like them. And, surely enough, I must have been quite incorrect saying “most Russians”, because it’s just my personal impression of what most Russians think like. Saying “most Russians” I meant most of the people, whom I have met and talked to personally, or whose comments and articles I’ve read in the Internet, something like that.

            But you know, in the end people are all different, in Russia too. I know people who physically can’t stand an idea of even communicating with gay people, and I also know people who are really deeply convinced that homosexual men and women should have all rights and freedoms of heterosexual men and women. That’s it, people are all different here too.

            Personally I have lived in Moscow for 5 years, and though I’ve never seen gay couples, for example, kissing somewhere in a park, my friends did, – and I don’t think it could actually shock anyone in such a big city (in province, of course, everything is more complicated). As far a I know, no one of my friends is gay, but it would be very painful for me if I had I dear friend who suffered just because he was not like others. Personally I would love to see gay couples, for example, walking hand-in-hand and behaving freely, ’cause it’s just sweet!) I’m really glad when good people can be happy, whether they are gay, straight, Communist, Monarchist, rich, poor, Christian, Muslim – whatever. I just want everyone to live peacefully and respect each other. Make love, not war!

          • NanallyS

            And thank you! :)))

  • Ben McCord

    I have been anticipating this article. I can’t imagine how you feel. Like others have said, as a fan, I’m truly worried about your safety. That being said, I respect you so much and if any GLBT celebrity out there represents bravery, you are the one. Thanks for being an icon yourself.

  • Olga

    Well, to be honest, all that anti-gay laws in Russia are more in the air then on practice. I’m absolutely sure you will be able to come back, and perform, and stay as long as you want – all that histeria conserning the said law is concentrated mainly in St-Petersburg and around the single politician, generating more and more ridiculous draw laws. Just… it’s actualy not a good idea to make a march-parade with slogans and mottoes on the Red Square =)

    Sincerely yours, many hugs from Russia)

    P.S.: you’ve got such fabulous writing style, it’s always plessure to read you articles

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