Would Anti-LGBT Russia Have Given Asylum To Bradley Manning?

It’s a very interesting time in the news for Russia. On the one hand, they’re giving asylum to a man who blew the whistle on American mass surveillance. On the other hand, they just passed a law that’s grounds to throw the other big American whistleblower into a different sort of asylum. Where to begin?

How Russia might treat the two whistleblowers differently is just one thing that comes to mind. Edward Snowden’s presumably straight and cisgendered, whereas Bradley Manning was at one point a gay man, probably now identifies as female (and may or may not label herself straight), but is in any case the kind of person who would be persecuted under Russian law. Manning came first, and Snowden learned from Manning that he should run from the US. Had it been the other way around, Manning probably wouldn’t have Russia as an option.

But that’s just a hook to get us thinking about this whole situation. It’s odd timing to have Russia both gaining and losing human rights high ground against the US. They took in a man persecuted for revealing abuses of the right to privacy, while at the same time persecuting their own people for loving each other.

Of course, neither government actually has any moral high ground. The Kremlin has done, and still does, its fair share of invading privacy. I’m sure they would kill to have the kinds of capabilities the NSA has. Across the Pacific, Washington is only just now — kicking and screaming — barely starting to give a crap about LGBT people. That is, at least the ones who are fortunate enough to be considering marriage; poor LGBT people in the US have disproportionate issues with homelessness, mental illness, and sexual abuse that are being completely ignored.

This is all pure realpolitik: Russia tries to make the US look bad by protecting Snowden, the US returns the favor by fanning the flames of righteous indignation about Russia’s anti-gay laws as they prepare to host the Olympics. Both objectively righteous things to do, done for cynical reasons. It’s a war of culture and diplomatic clout, back and forth, over and over again as they try to gain more market share over the planet.

The truth is, all governments are bastards. Every government throws stones around its glass house. We can be thankful that Russia gave asylum to a whistleblower in order to spite the US. We can be thankful that American politicians have to cater to the LGBT base in order to get elected so they can rake in the bribes from lobbyists. But that doesn’t make either of them the “good guy.”

Although, if you think Russia’s bad for LGBT people, just imagine what could be done by a country that’s collecting every email ever written. I’m very happy that I have the right to marry my boyfriend, let alone that I can walk down the street holding his hand without getting beaten to death by an angry mob. I also know how precarious that is. One crisis, plus one loudmouth naming homosexuality as a scapegoat, could throw the United States back into the 1950s. Except this time, anybody at the NSA could type a few terms into a search box, and find all of the people who had ever posted to the Men Seeking Men section of Craigslist back when it was legal.

I am thankful that the Kremlin doesn’t have that capability. I am thankful that they don’t have the political capital with Washington to ask if they can borrow the data that the NSA has inevitably collected on Russian citizens. It would be genocide.

But my government does have that capability. All they have to do is develop the will to persecute LGBT people again, and I’ll have a black bag over my head by next Friday.


  1. Caleb Lanik

    Hell, we don’t even need a real excuse to decide to outlaw homosexuality, just for the Ds to badly fuck up an election. If the Rs gain a large enough majority we can expect to see constitutional amendments regarding “morality” inside of two weeks.

    1. Anti-RepubliCRAT

      Caleb: Sorry, but bullshit. When it comes to the ones in office, Ds are just as fucked up as Rs.
      Both vote as they’re told by the lobbyists that pay them, > 90% of the time. It’s as if you’re trying to scare people away from voting third party.

      Gay rights is front and center in the political arena because is serves both parties as a fantastically effective rallying tool **and distraction from the wholesale theft etc that’s going on**.

      (That doesn’t mean it’s not an important issue. It is. And, I’m very pro-LGBT rights.)

      Would the Rs in congress now flat out outlaw homosexuality if they had the votes? No way. It would be political suicide.

  2. Um...

    Look, this isn’t ad hominem, but really?

    Just because you’re homosexual, or a supporter of alternative sexuality as a valid choice, doesn’t make this remotely newsworthy. Soapboxing is welcome, soapboxing completely unrelated to the topical environment isn’t.

    1. Amy

      You’re saying that the unique perspective of a minority group isn’t worthy of being widely read, because it’s the unique perspective of a minority group. That’s pretty much the definition of ad hominem.

      God forbid you ever find out that this blog also has posts about the unique problems intellectual property causes for black people. You might graduate to saying “I’m not racist, but…”

      1. jcm

        this isn’t about minorities. this is about the whole picture. governments spy on ALL, and discriminate accordingly based on circumstance (as THEY see fit), since we all fall on many different “minorities” at one time. Said that, still this article seems biased and kinda pointless since “both governments suck, but mine sucks better and WE win!” is the exact us-everything-you-can-do-i-can-do-better attitude used to justify this kind of thing, and the writer falls into 2 segment groups: gay and american, both of them “winners” by american standards. So those damn homophobic “ruskies” can’t even spy well… would be a better title.

  3. Corwin

    What’s hilarious is that Russia passed anti-gay laws because their government thinks that Russians are mostly homophobic.

    Democracy at work.

  4. Free Internet

    The truth is, governments are not representitive of the people. I wouldnt expect Russia to leap to this overnight given the history of the soviets right back to the revolution..IMO Russia is at this time representitive of the wants of big business. The western world however, should be; given our history, but has morphed into a comglomerate. Where is the voice of the day to day stuff? Lets look at wars…..where is the voice of the average person who wants peace. It has to be silenced in order to keep “the order” – the fact is war keeps people employed and makes money. We, and I mean each and every one of us, has allowed the world order to become a “thing” that serves a few. No one person is guilty. But all of us are guilty of allowing the world to become a factory for our children to work in. We can do better.

  5. Just Me

    It is no crime to be gay in Russia.

    For sure Russia is not heaven on earth, but the law against “gay propaganda” does not make it hell as well, even not for gay people.

    They can be gay, they can have a gay sex life, … None of this is prohibited.

    They can just not for example publicly state that being gay is normal. While this is an opinion which is suppressed by this law. This opinion if taken as a fact is in my opinion wrong anyway and damaging to a society if this opinion becomes mainstream.

    This is just my opinion and some may find this homophobic, but this does not change anything at all.

    1. me


      More people should actually *read what’s in the law* before they start bashing it… Because it makes you look stupid if you bash it for something that isn’t there.

    2. viyana

      Your excellent grammar identifies you as a Russian paid homophobic shill. (To everyone else: yes, they exist, and are funded by the state. In fact, comment trolling was publicly announced as one of the functions of the newly founded Rossiya Segodnya with Dmitry Kiselev, known in the West for his open homophobia and nothing else, as its head.)

      You are a dumbass. You are an ass which is also dumb. Opinions should be backed by facts. There is plenty of evidence gay people are just as healthy and sane as heterosexual people (when not persecuted), and children in gay families do just as well as in heterosexual families (slightly better, in fact, because a larger percentage of them are planned pregnancies or adoptions, and gay parents are more sensitive to a child’s problems with e.g. bullying). So you have to either prove homosexual relationships are damaging to society or stuff your opinion back into your ass where it belongs.

      For the international audience, I would like to remark that the law is implemented as described in the original article. As in, you can be sued for the crime of “being gay” in public where children might be present and “adopt your perverted standard of behavior”. Just today, an activist was fined following a report written by a boy under his father’s supervision, in which the boy claimed to have read news reports of the protest on the internet.

      If you happen to be gay, being together in public, displays of affection, saying “my husband / my wife” in reference to your significant other, and of course insisting you’re *not* a child rapist if one of those assholes says you are are all grounds for fines and imprisonment. (Of course, if you’re the President snogging the very gay and very skeezy Orthodox Patriarch in public, it’s okay.)

  6. Me2

    The Pirate Bay just turned 10 and this garbage is published instead? Please don’t write any more of this and take your gay agenda elsewhere.

    And what is it with trying to smear Manning? He deserves your support there in the USA not more smears.

    1. d.

      Who’s smearing Manning? S/he has stated these things about his/her identity. Do you suppose that you know better than Manning how s/he should identify?

  7. Anonymous trans-woman

    I really appreciate it, Zaqcqary, that you took the effort to write an article on the Anti-LGBT Russia. Thanks! It is sad though that some of your readers are homophobic, transphobic and want to increase discrimination of LGBT people by silencing them, just like Russia did.

    As far as I know it is not illegal to be gay in Russia. You are just not allowed to talk about the existence of homosexuality or otherwise show that it exists. Their reason for this legislation? They have a ‘democratic problem’ and gay people don’t get kids.

    Russia does not prosecute LGBT people, but they did outlaw them, because I do not see Russia prosecuting the murderers and torturers of LGBT people. These two acts are now becoming mainstream.

    And closer to (my) home, there is Greece, where the third largest political party is fascist, where members of parliament attack mayors and where LGBT people are put into concentration camps, after being forced to undergo medical examinations.

    I hope that when the hatred from Russia or Greece have spread to my country, I have sufficient time to flee and hope that there is still a country left to flee to.

    1. me

      BS. The law doesn’t ban talking about homosexuality. It only bans *publicly* equating it to normal relationships. You’re free to say privately whatever you want. You’re free to talk about it publicly – as long as you don’t claim it’s normal, or encourage people to try it.

      And Russia has a serious problem with criminal violence. People get beaten for whatever reason, and perpetrators often don’t get caught. Only a tiny minority of the victims are “sexually nontraditional”. So stop playing the victim card, as you don’t have the ground to do so.

  8. mijj


    > “Russia tries to make the US look bad by protecting Snowden”


    Despite having a cool little beard, you’re grinding away with your own personal nationalistic agenda (i don’t care what party you belong to). Exposed by actual events rather than imaginary ones.

    Snowden was forced to stay in Russia by US shennanigans. This wasn’t forced by Russia. It was all 100% US dumbass.

    When on the one side criminal activity takes place and is found out, excuses of the form “well, they’re all as bad as each other” usually rear their ugly heads.

    But no way are US and Russia equivalent.

    Russia behaved in a responsible way according to law. The US made no legal request for Russia to hand over Snowden. Russia wasn’t making calculated efforts. It was all frustrated-power tantrums from the US. This cold-war frame being set up is just a US ploy to try and get out of the hole it dug for itself.

    I guess we’re in the beginning of an era of concerted onslaught of anti-Russia propaganda in an attempt to divert attention from our Western governments’ criminal actions against the people. Perhaps the thinking is: if we can make everyone hate Russia, then people will enjoy being spied upon and manipulated.

    1. gurra

      “I guess we’re in the beginning of an era of concerted onslaught of anti-Russia propaganda in an attempt to divert attention from our Western governments’ criminal actions against the people.”

      I agree with you. At least, that seems to be the plan in Sweden according to mass medias’ last few weeks of reporting.

      1. frz

        Well, afaik, it has been done by american goverment more than one time in history already. McCarthy, for example, or “first Red Scare”. But most people don’t learn.
        Same here, in Russia – “USA is a main enemy”-card over and over. And we, actually, have a real problems, but somehow, no one seems to notice it. Mission

    2. d.

      I think you’re missing the point here.

      This isn’t about slandering Russia. The article very clearly makes the point that neither of the two countries, US or Russia, are the “good guys” in this. It’s naïve to think that Russia gave asylum to Snowden because they care about people’s rights – Russia certainly has a history of censorship and surveillance themselves.

      Instead of trying to present USA as the “evil empire” and Russia as a “hero” for protecting Snowden, it’s better if we look at things calmly and make rational arguments for why NSA’s surveillance methods are bad and infringing of our rights.

      Even if we commend Russian government for offering asylum to Snowden, it doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything they do. We can be grateful to them for doing this one thing right, and still critcize them for being horrible on other issues.

  9. d.

    If I told you you have the right to live, you just don’t have the right to breathe the air here, it would make no difference.

    It’s no good saying “you can be gay, as long as you keep it all hidden and don’t mention it to anyone”. LGBT people deserve the same rights as everyone else.

    It’s also never ok to censor political speech – by banning even public discourse of LGBT rights, they take away even any possibility of trying to fix things from LGBT people. That’s oppressive censorship, which is not ok.

    1. d.

      Oops, this was meant as a response to “Just Me”

  10. i_err

    I really don’t understand why does this article exist?
    Russia has made fool of itself so we need to throw more shit at USA? Is that it?

    “Although, if you think Russia’s bad for LGBT people, just imagine what could be done by a country that’s collecting every email ever written.” – Zacqary
    Russia only needs to see everything written by people in it. That is something it already monitors – as part of it’s laws. They are mirrored, it’s just their reach is limited, and technology slightly less sophisticated. The use of censorship&espionage capabilities is widespread. they also want to extend their reach by (trying to) force major international services/pages like Google, Twitter, Facebook, etc to host all personal data in the territory of RF and giving Roskomnadzor full physical access to them.

    US laws are crap, courts are crap, but there is no need to prop up Russian Federation. Lack of First Sale Doctrine in software poducts is crap, IP laws are crap. International trade agreements US is trying to force thru back-door is bs… one could go on and on.

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