The Continuing Case of Homophobia in Russia

The crisis isn’t over.

Still from HBO trailer.

In the lead-up to the winter Olympics, the plight of homosexuals in Russia received a great deal of media attention: Homophobic legislation had passed through the Duma in Moscow against international protests, and Olympic athletes were forced to compete under a cloud of controversy. Garry Kasparov and Lawrence O’Donnell chatted about it on MSNBC. The Daily Show covered the “homophobic Olympics.” Even Google got on board. And then the Olympics concluded and so, too, did most of the attention paid to the issue.

A new documentary from HBO hopes to change that. Narrated by Matt Bomer and airing on October 6, Hunted: The War Against Gays in Russia seeks to shed new light on the very much ongoing violence being perpetrated against LGBTQ people in Russia.

The documentary is as timely now as ever. On Friday, a Russian court upheld the law banning “gay propaganda.” Crimea, following its annexation by Russia, has adopted similar legislation. Russia has used homophobia to turn neighboring countries against the West (and has further spread homophobia throughout the region in the process). All of this creates a depressing backdrop for the main subject of the documentary, which is the rash of homophobic hate crimes spreading across the country. 

The Olympics are over. Coverage of LGBTQ issues in Russia is, if not over, then certainly decreased, having turned instead to Russia’s involvement in Ukraine. But homophobia in Russia, benefiting as it does from state sponsorship, is still going strong. If this documentary serves only to remind people of that, it will have done much more than offer Matt Bomer an opportunity to practice his voiceover skills.