Earlier this year 31-year-old Russian gay rights activist Slava Revin flew from Moscow to Washington, DC to seek political asylum. After receiving a death threat online from a man he believed was a police officer, Revin knew he couldn’t stay in a country increasingly dominated by widespread homophobic violence and anti-gay legislation.
Since arriving in the US, Revin has formed close links with the Russian LGBT expat community and stepped up his criticism of Vladimir Putin’s government. He has campaigned to end Philadelphia’s sister-city relationship with his hometown of Nizhny Novgorod and appeared in advocacy videos for Freedom House.‘I can’t just come here and keep my mouth shut,’he says.
Since Russia announced her controversial prohibition of “gay propaganda”last year, a huge number of LGBT Russians have contacted US Immigration to inquire about relocating to America. A record 44 such cases are being considered right now. In the last few months, asylum has been granted to eight exiled Russians.
However, there are no guarantees that Revin will be able to stay in his adopted country. His case is currently being considered and he hopes that the Center Global, a project run by The DC Center for the LGBT Community, will successfully represent him. He is also being advised by the Russian-Speaking American LGBT Association, whose founder and co-president Yelena Goltsman has this to say about Revin and dissidents like him: ‘People don’t just get up and leave their country. LGBT people are basically [the] new Jews.’
Revin takes the anti-Semitism analogy further when discussing Russia’s persecution of LGBTs. ‘Everyone forgot about the Jews in Germany in 1939. They intimidate and beat people and arrest activists.’
Although it hasn’t been easy for Revin to start a new life in a new country, he appreciates the American tolerance of LGBTs. He now lives in Dupont Circle, Washington DC’s famous gay quarter, where same-sex couples are free to hold hands and kiss in public. ‘Nobody cares here,’ says Revin, ‘unlike in Russia.’
Let us not forget how homosexuals where once persecuted by the Nazis. We do not need history to repeat its self.