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Campaign of Hate

Gay porn superstar’s documentary offers a look at LGBT life in Russia

By David-Elijah Nahmod - April 23, 2015

Photos courtesy of Jeff Dorta.

While Michael Lucas might be better known for his work in the adult film industry, it’s his documentaries that are earning him global notoriety.

Those who hesitate to take Lucas’ filmmaking seriously due to his gay porn superstardom might want to think again: He is a superb interviewer who asks his subjects tough and intelligent questions.

In his most recent project, Campaign of Hate: Russia & Gay Propaganda, Lucas offers a chilling look at the anti-gay horrors currently being perpetrated by the Vladimir Putin regime in Russia.

In this feature-length documentary, Lucas puts a face on the besieged LGBT community in Russia and exposes the magnitude of the problem. His work in here is as good, if not better, than anything that might air on CNN.

Interviewees include lesbian journalist Masha Gessen, who lived in Russia with her partner and their two children. The kids talk on camera, expressing their deep sadness and bewilderment that anyone would be against the loving family they’re a part of.

Gessen, who has reported bravely from the front lines of war zones, is suddenly fearful because Putin wants to take children away from LGBT-identified parents. Gessen states on camera that the family may move to New York so that they can stay together. (Lucas verified to Echo that this has since occurred.)

“More than half the people I interviewed have left Russia and are now living in America, including Masha Gessen,” Lucas said. “They were the only openly gay family in Russia and became a target.”

Photo courtesy of Jeff Dorta.

While some community members want to flee the country, others are determined to stay and fight. A small but hearty band of gay men and lesbians stage a kiss-in on a city street, and are promptly beaten while the police look the other way. Later, an LGBT film festival receives bomb threats.

A number of victims share stories of being beaten on the street as pedestrians walk idly by while the police look the other way.

“It’s unusual not to have been gay bashed,” states one young man in the film.

Lucas shows great courage, strength, and restraint during a sit-down interview with Vitaly Milonov, a Russian lawmaker who uses words like “sick” and “filthy,” to describe LGBT people.

“The guy loves to be on camera,” Lucas said, regarding Milonov agreeing to appear in a pro-gay film. “He became very well known because of this topic and has made a career from it. I don’t think that he and his office did a very thorough background check. So I guess as far as he was concerned it was just another outlet for them to spew their anti-gay propaganda.”

According to Lucas, this all began with the passing of Russia’s “gay propaganda” law in June 2013 which makes it a criminal offense to present homosexuality in a positive light to anyone under age 18.

Lucas added that, not only was his trip to Russia dangerous, Campaign of Hate will not be shown in Russia.

“Going to Russia in general is not very safe,” he said. “Of course when you go to film politicians about gay people it gets dangerous. ”

Ultimately, Lucas gives audiences an international perspective on the modern-day LGBT movement. Campaign of Hate: Russia & Gay Propaganda is now available on DVD and iTunes.

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How to talk about transgender issues

So how do we talk about transgender issues (even if you're not transgender)? There are three main things to remember when discussing transgender issues today, so before getting into the meat and potatoes of it all, let's keep these things in mind:

  1. It is not a political discussion, it is a human rights discussion.
  2. There is a rich history rooted in transgender rights that must be considered when discussing these issues.
  3. Humanization should always be at the forefront of the conversation.

Before going into any conversation, no matter who it's with, try to keep these things in mind before you say something that may be inappropriate, misguided, or just plain wrong. Even those with the best intentions can mess up; remember that it is always ok to admit when you do not know something or when you are wrong. That being said, let's get into it.

sign with a 'friendly for all genders' image showing a person in a wheelchair, and a person with half a dress and pants on.

Transgender bathroom bills

commons.wikimedia.org

So whether you choose to become a transgender activist or if you just want to be a better ally, this easy talking point will generally keep you in line and on the safe side of conversations while still putting forth the effort to encourage and better represent transgender rights.

Easy, all-around approach: This will work for almost all transgender issues and expand on the previous three rules; firstly, trans issues are not a debate. When discussing with someone, do not indulge in hypotheticals and always remember that transgender people are the exact same as anyone else, with the exact same feelings. Keeping this in mind, let's use the bathroom bill as an example. When discussing this issue, one should humanize, de-politicize, and normalize the conversation. How does one employ this, though? Here is an example of how the conversation may go.

Person 1: I don't want men in the women's restroom, they will rape my daughters.

So this statement is clearly based on reactionary conversation perpetuated by anti-transgender ideals. This means that the person probably has a misconception of the history and oppression of transgender people. They also show concern for their family, which is a step towards humanization, despite the misconception. Here would be an appropriate response that helps to humanize, de-politicize, and normalize the conversation.

Person 2: I don't want men in the women's restroom, either, which is why we need to make sure people who identify as women are using the women's restroom. There has never been a documented case where a transgender person has raped either a man or woman in a public restroom. And by forcing people to use a restroom that does not match their gender identity, it is promoting violence, as there is a strong history of physical violence against transgender people.

By only saying about three sentences, you are able to do the previous steps while discussing the issue in a civil manner without opening it up to debate. The key to this is to keep it short and sweet, stating both the truth and an ally's stance to support the transgender community. It's critical to make sure that what you say is backed with confidence, though, which is why this second approach is more encouraged as it gives the person speaking more confidence in their opinion.

gif of a man in a suit talking about number 1. Number 1 GIF by PragerU Giphy

The second approach: backed by facts and history, is the exact same as before, but this approach leaves the other person with more questions about their stance and gives them something to consider. Before going into this approach, however, it is important to keep in mind that you are not debating the existence of trans people, nor are you trying to change someone's mind. That is not the goal; the goal is simply to get your opinion across in a way that honors both the trans community and their ideas. Let's take the same example as before but add the new sentiments.

Person 1: I don't want men in the women's restrooms, they will rape my daughters.

Person 2: There has never been a documented case of a transgender person raping anyone in a public restroom, and the only published cases of such were proven to be false. Further, when people say things like this, they are perpetuating violence against transgender people, which has historically (and still does) oppressed and insight further physical violence against them. And honestly, the most common reason there is this stance is because the person typically does not know a trans person and may not even know a person who does know a trans person. But the truth is, they probably do. The probability is more likely that the transgender people around them are just not comfortable enough in the environment to come out and speak up about their gender identity. And yes, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it is quite sad that some people's opinion does not invite civil discussion but instead incites violence.

This approach is more confrontational, which requires more confidence when using it in a conversation, but it still holds true to all of the previous rules and sentiments. It adds truth based on history, which is an important aspect of trans rights as it reminds people of where we were/ where we are currently with human rights. These ideas can be transferred to most all trans issues and will honor the transgender movement and your allyship. The last thing to keep in mind is the person or reason you are standing up for/with trans rights. The passion -the compassion will shine through in conversation if you keep your reasoning close to heart. Whether it is because of a transgender friend, family member, or just because of your moral values, if you put your emotions into your reasoning, it will create more compelling statements, especially if the statement is well versed with the facts.

Tips to Remember When Discussing Transgender Issues

  1. Transgender issues are not political, they are human rights issues
  2. There is a rich history behind transgender issues
  3. Humanize transgender people through our words and ideas and don't forget to include:
    • 3(b). The facts
    • 3(c).The confidence
    • 3(d). The inspiration behind the support for transgender rights

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Photo courtesy of Amazon Prime

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