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Russian Ignorance of LGBT Science

by Alison Hudson

August 22, 2013

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Donate Late last week, a truly reprehensible video starting going viral on the Internet. Originally posted by a Russian hate site, the video began to go viral when it hit YouTube. Thankfully, YouTube pulled the video (apparently, a film featuring the brutal beating of a woman is a TOS violation), but this Russian-language website still has the video up for those morbidly curious [NSFW, and a trigger warning].

The video is only the latest in a spate of recent LGBT bullying videos that have come out of Russia, part of the larger anti-LGBT stance that the country has taken of late. Or, rather, the anti-LGBT stance that has become prominent of late. Attention to the issue has gained international press in part because of a recent threat by Russian officials that they would enforce their stringint anti-gay laws on Olympic athletes during the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi (a claim they later backpeddaled on). A recent poll found that nearly three quarters of the Russian population feel homosexuality should be rejected by society. And of course there have been the videos and other digital hate propaganda flowing from Russian language websites.

In truth, Russia has long been intolerant of sexual and gender variance. This violently anti-LGBT culture in Russia stems, according to columnist Laurie Essig, from an ignorance of science.
In Russia, in part because of the academic isolation of Stalininsm, science and the law went their own way. The homosexual was never “born” but rather learned behavior that could be “cured.” Russian science has always insisted that homosexuality is something that can be reoriented. [...] Medical “cures” for homosexuality in the 1990s included anti-psychotic drugs or hormone treatments. Some patients were put into a diabetic coma with the hope that they’d wake up and have changed their sexual preference. Women whose desire for other women could not be cured were often prescribed a sex change since, according to the logic of Russian psychiatry, they must really be men.
Things have not improved in the 21st century, and this cultural scientific illiteracy concerning the nature of gender and sexual variance is feeding the violence and hate.

This is not to say that we in the United States are completely advanced on the issue of LGBT science. After all, even in 2013 it's still a politically controversial move to ban the pseudoscience of reparative therapy. But at least we have advanced beyond the dangerously uninformed views of homosexuality that seem to be fueling Russian bigotry.

We're all familiar with What's the Harm?, the website that catalogs people hurt by beliefs and pseudosciences. Surely, Russia's views on sexual and gender variance deserve their own entry. We as a society need to do more to promote sound science, not only domestically but abroad; not only for intellectual advancement, but also to stem the tide of truly heinous things humanity sometimes perpetrates in the shadow of scientific ignorance.

by Alison Hudson

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