Having grown up in Russia, New Republic senior editor Julia Ioffe is in a uniquely good position to cover the Sochi Olympics, which is why she’s writing regular dispatches from this year’s Winter Games. On Saturday, she published a piece about one of the sadder (yet more predictable) developments of the Games: foreign journalists are bombarding gay residents of Sochi with questions and requests for interviews. (She’s also manning the magazine’s Instagram feed.)
For Dmitry Kiselyov, the director of Russia’s massive new state media corporation—created in December to swallow up state media entities that show any hint of autonomy—laws are not enough. He’s concerned about organ donors, the possibility of a queer heart beating in a straight body.
When homosexuals die, he says, ‘their hearts should be burned.’
There are three faces of homophobia in Russia: that of the state, that of the Orthodox Church, that of the fringe. And yet they’re one—a kind of Trinity. The state passes laws; the church blesses them; the fringe puts them into action. The state is the mind of hate, the church, now, its heart; the fringe is made up of its many hands. Some use the courts; some use fists.
People, mostly nonwriters, are always surprised when I tell them I wrote so much growing up. They’re incredulous that I would write such a large volume of work, entire novels, and never submit them, or at least rework them (as if all of it wasn’t incredibly sophomoric, amateur as if it wasn’t written by a 14-year-old). But those words, I want to tell them, weren’t written for anyone else the audience who needed to see them and the audience for whom they were written was me.
Writing fiction was my emotional test kitchen.
The book documents its time, a time when homosexuality was illegal, and still described in medical books as a mental illness. It is one of the best firsthand accounts of what it was like to be gay in the mid-20th century — ostracized — separate from the mainstream world. It reveals, through its characters, how young men couldn’t admit, even to themselves, that they were what society deemed perverted.
10. Discover the internet. Discover Kate Bornstein. Discover that it’s not just you.
11. Cut your hair, but only a little.
12. Fall again for the girl in the picture in that magazine you’re still carrying, after seven more moves and one amazing partner and three splendid kids and all those years.
13. Stop pretending.
14. Blow up the world, clumsily. Break hearts, including your own.
Recommended Reading: Rafe Posey’s Rumpus essay, “Coming Out, Again and Again, in 27 Easy Steps.”
Our lives won’t be all kangaroos and blond ballet dancers. And difference can be painful, it can be felt like a disfigurement, and it’s easy to envy, at times, the ease of life for people in the majority. As O’Hara laments ‘you were made in the image of god / I was not / I was made in the image of a sissy truck-driver.’ But there’s joy in loving what you love, a purity in expressing it exactly in its unchecked, effusive and messy truth…
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