Anti-Gay Horrors, All But Forgotten

From a horrifying, maddening article in the New Yorker by the great Masha Gessen: “In October, 2017, a young man named Maxim Lapunov spoke at a press conference in Moscow. Flanked by LGBT and human rights activists, Lapunov, shaky but collected, told the story of being kidnapped in the street in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, and being held by the police for twelve days and tortured. ‘They started beating me with batons,’ he said. ‘I’m not sure how long it lasted, but it was a long time…. They hit my legs, hips, buttocks, back. They would hit me until I fell down, let me catch my breath, make me stand up, and start over.’”

Lapunov, Gessen notes, “is the only person to come forward as a victim of the anti-gay purges in Chechnya.”

But he is scarcely alone in being victimized. (See related Gay City news story here.)

According to Gessen, “What happened to Lapunov is by no means exceptional: kidnapping, torture, and even extrajudicial killings are the norm in Chechnya, as it is the norm for Russian federal authorities to ignore these practices.”

She cites a report by an Austrian academic, Wolfgang Benedek: “The report focuses on the anti-gay persecutions, which, it suggests, are incited by the Russian federal law against so-called propaganda of homosexuality, but also on trumped-up prosecutions and on extrajudicial killings. Twenty-seven men were killed in Grozny on one night in January 2017, the report indicates; they were suspected of ‘terrorist’ activity and summarily executed. Two cases of torture are given as examples of a general practice: ‘Khizir Ezhiev, a senior economics lecturer at the Grozny State Oil Technical University, who reportedly was abducted, tortured and killed, after having participated in a group on social media which was critical of the [Chechen] Republic’s leader, Mr. [Ramzan] Kadyrov. Another case is the reported abduction and torture of Khusein Betelgeriev, a former senior faculty member at the Chechen State University.’”

As Benedek writes, “Reports of a general practice of humiliation, inhuman treatment, and torture in order to obtain confessions are confirmed by victims and witnesses, in particular with regard to certain groups like LGBT persons, alleged drug users, Islamists, and suspected terrorists, including human rights defenders and journalists. The use of electric shocks is a constant pattern which anybody picked up by the police has to expect. Cases of kidnapping and enforced disappearances exist in the context of extra-judicial killings and during the illegal detentions after which people might reappear.”

Gessen’s conclusion is depressing, to say the least: “Following an initial wave of international attention in 2017 to the fate of LGBT Chechens, when Canada and several European countries welcomed more than a hundred refugees, offers of protection have dried up. Dozens of currently displaced LGBT Chechens will continue to struggle to find a safe haven.”

In other words, it has been over a year since these horrors came to light, and since then — nothing. Not a damn thing. It’s an international disgrace.

From the terrifying to the ridiculous:

You’re the Queer in My Coffee… Well, Starbucks has done it again. The company that gave the world the horrific Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino has taken a perfectly good holiday and destroyed it by designing and handing out deliberately offensive coffee cups to mark the occasion.

Never let it be said that Vanessa Wong of BuzzFeed News is slacking off. No ma’am. She’s relentlessly pursuing the hidden truth of the Starbucks coffee cup design, no matter who gets hurt.

“People are saying Starbucks new Holiday cup is totally gay,”“>she writes aggressively.

The design in question is a busy affair with a Christmas tree visible — a totally decorated Christmas tree I might add — and a group of packages all tied together with a ribbon, and of course the famous green-colored Starbucks logo of a crowned woman with long flowing hair (a two-tailed mermaid, as it turns out — who knew?). But none of that is the least bit offensively gay-themed. It’s the two arms reaching down from the top of the cup, with their hands holding each other, and the lovely if cartoonish heart between them, that’s causing the uproar.

It must be acknowledged that Starbucks introduced the new cup design for the holidays in a video containing a same-sex couple holding hands. But whether the hands are the same hands as on the coffee cup is a completely different matter. Some observers (hand-picked by Wong) ran to Twitter to opine that the two hands on the upper edge of the cup belonged to the very same same-sex couple seen holding hands in the video. As one user said provocatively, “I’m going w/ the hand holders are gay.”

Not content to leave the commentary to tweets, Wong did extensive field research to get to the bottom of the controversy. She walked over to BuzzFeed News’ equivalent of a water cooler and pounced on an expert. “‘I can attest to the lesbianism of The Hands,’ my gay BuzzFeed colleague said upon careful inspection,” she writes oh-so-confidently before rushing back to Twitter, where she found this snide comment: “‘I can’t tell the genders of the people holding hands, on this cup, could be an abomination, better not risk it,’ followed enigmatically by a laughing emoji.”

“We reached out to Starbucks, which did not confirm or deny if the hands belong to a same-sex couple,” Wong continues. “But if the Babadook and Pennywise are gay icons of the Halloween season, maybe Starbucks Ladies can take over the role this Christmas.” (The key question here is whether the Babadook and Pennywise are indeed the gay icons of the Halloween season. I’m still unwilling to give up Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, but then I’m so old I can remember Herbert Hoover’s funeral.)

Starbucks obviously wasn’t in on the joke. As Wong reports, “The company said in an emailed statement: ‘Each year during the holidays we aim to bring our customers an experience that inspires the spirit of the season, and we will continue to embrace and welcome customers from all backgrounds and religions in our stores around the world.’”

To paraphrase Bette’s comment to Victor Buono in “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”: How nice. For them.

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