Elton John Defends Russian LGBT Community in Open Letter to Vladimir Putin
By Shannon Carlin
Elton John isn’t one to stay quiet. So after hearing about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent statements linking homosexuality to pedophilia, he decided he needed to address the foreign leader directly.
In the 7-paragraph statement, which went up today (Jan. 22) on his website, John states that “vicious homophobia has been legitimised by this legislation and given extremists the cover to abuse people’s basic human rights.” The legislation John is referring to is a law Putin signed last year that classifies “homosexual propaganda” as pornography, which means anyone who is gay or supports gay right is subject to arrest and fines.
John goes on to talk about his experience in the country last December when he arrived to play a show in Moscow, noting that he was “welcomed as an openly gay foreigner,” but wanted to understand “first-hand what difference the legislation had made to Russian LGBT in their own country.”
“The people I met in Moscow – gay men and lesbians in their 20′s, 30′s and 40′s - told me stories about receiving threats from vigilante groups who would ‘cure’ them of homosexuality by dousing them with urine or beating them up,” John writes. “One young man was stalked outside a gay club by someone posing as a taxi driver who tried to garrotte him with a guitar string because he was a “sodomite.” Everyone shared stories of verbal and physical abuse – at work, in bars and restaurants or in the street – since the legislation came into force last June. And, some of the vital work providing HIV prevention information to the gay community has been labelled “homosexual propaganda” and shut down.”
While John says it is clear foreigners are not subject to the law—something Putin has confirmed—he says the legislation has increased the amount of hate crimes towards the LGBT community.
“President Putin asserts that this was not the intention, but it is undoubtedly the effect that this law has had by promoting misunderstanding and ignorance,” John writes. “In particular, it is very disappointing that the law explicitly links homosexuality with child sex abuse, which countless studies have shown to be conclusively wrong.”
John ends his note by saying the people of Moscow had no intention of “forcing their sexuality on anyone” and that he would be more than willing to speak with Putin about the repercussions of the law.
“I would welcome the opportunity to introduce President Putin to some Russians who deserve to be heard, and who deserve to be treated in their own country with the same respect and warm welcome that I received on my last visit,” he writes.
While in Russia last December, John condemned the country’s anti-gay laws from the stage calling the laws “inhumane” and “isolating.” He also dedicated the show to Vladislav Tornovoi, a 23-year-old man who was reportedly tortured and murdered last spring for being gay.
Since Gaga’s 2012 performance in St. Petersburg where she defended gay rights from the stage, she has been under investigation for entering Russia illegally. A promoter for that show is being fined for violating a local law against exposing children to “harmful information” after a local resident claimed that her 13-year-old daughter was subjected to “an imitation of sexual intercourse between women and advocacy of alcohol consumption.”
Read John’s full statement to President Putin here.
(JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD/AFP/Getty Images)