The town of Sochi is totally devoid of gay people says its mayor. The declaration was made by Sochi mayor Anatoly Pakhomov when he was asked by a reporter if gay athletes would be required to conceal their sexual orientation when visiting the town. The mayor replied “No, we just say that it is your business, it’s your life; but it’s not accepted here in the Caucasus where we live. We do not have them in our city.”
The mayor then went on to assert that the reason why the town has no gay people is because he doesn’t know any of them. “I am not sure,” he replied when asked how he could be certain the town is composed only of straight people and no gays. “I don’t bloody know them,” he said.
Some of Sochi’s residents beg to differ with the mayor’s assessment though. One community member said there are at least two gay clubs in the city as well as a strong gay community. Others have come forward to report that there are many gay clubs all over Russia.
While Pakhomov was unable to provide any studies or data to prove his claim, he’s sticking to his assertion. Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, may agree. He recently issued a plea to any gays who will be traveling to Sochi for the Winter Games that they “leave the children in peace.”
Both Pakhomov and Putin’s statements seem indicative of a lack of knowledge about the presence of gays in Russia and about the gay community overall. According to research in the field of human sexuality, homosexuality is common and hereditary. Currently, there is no known pocket or region where it’s been proven that there are no gay people. Homosexual behavior is a natural part of the animal kingdom and has been widely observed in at least 1,500 animal species as well. Therefore, the mayor’s claims about there being no gay people in Sochi are more than likely totally unsubstantiated.
Putin’s request to the gay community to “leave the children in peace” is interpreted by many to be a reference to gay people having a higher incidence of pedophilia than adults who are straight. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, there is no difference between straight and gay people when it comes to abusing children. Specifically, they state “homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men are.” Additional research has shown that pedophiles have a distinct orientation that is independent of either a homosexual or heterosexual identity.
Russia enacted a “gay propaganda” law in June 2013 which forbids spreading of information about “relations not conductive to procreation.” The law does not, however, cover the presumably large amount of sexual activities in Russia that are not conductive to procreation among straight people.
Pakhomov’s comments have sparked international ridicule, especially on social media, where many took to the internet to express their displeasure combined with apparent amusement. One person on Facebook asked “Ha! Is this The Onion?” referring to a popular satire website that creates comical news stories. Another person said “He went to every Gay club in town and couldn’t get picked up. Therefore logic dictates…”
Sochi officially has no gay people says the mayor, leading some into peals of unrestrained laughter and making Pakhomov the subject of scorn by many. The U.S. has been watching the story of Russia’s attitudes toward gays for the last year, and the 2014 games should prove interesting for gay and human rights activists the world over.
By: Rebecca Savatio