Russia's New Normal

Published: March 18, 2013

MOSCOW — It’s the sort of thing one hates hearing from one’s child. “You know, mom,” my 11-year-old daughter said, “It makes me particularly nervous when people make fun of gays.”

I knew exactly what she meant, and I said so: I’d felt the same way as a kid growing up in Moscow, when I heard an anti-Semitic remark. I always felt I had to respond, and I also felt like I would much rather disappear. “Nervous” — as in tense, threatened and angry — is not a bad word to describe the feeling.

In Russia, everyone is talking about homosexuality these days. Several municipalities have adopted laws banning “homosexual propaganda” — defined, essentially, as the claim that same-sex unions are not inferior to heterosexual ones — and the same measure is pending on the federal level, certain to pass in the next few months. In the adult world, this law-making insanity has had some positive consequences in addition to the infuriating ones: Many people have decided to come out of the closet, and some heterosexual opposition activists have felt compelled to take a stand on the issue.

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