This week as the media in Bishkek is functioning in a slow motion because of summer low news season, the journalists pick up the issue of homosexuality to fill the air and paper space. Channel 5 devoted a Friday evening air time to discussing homosexuality live with lesbians and gay men talking about their lives. Discussion about taking a decision to be open publicly among lesbian and bisexual women is unfolding on Labrys forum in Russian language.
‘Vecherniy Bishkek’ published an article last Friday about gay men and how ‘bright’ their lives are in Kyrgyzstan. The author uses derogatory language when referring to women in general and gay men. She also reveals the places common for visits among gay and bisexual men for meeting which puts them at risk. The journalist acknowledges that heterosexual men and women have negative reactions when seeing somebody expressing homosexual feelings. According to the author, women get angry because ‘the [gay] men are of no use’ and men get angry and can ‘fly off handle’ when seeing two men hugging. She also refers to homosexuality as ‘These are the kind of genetic jokes that Mother Nature plays on us, and no one is immune to them. An extra chromosome crawls out of left field, and it’s game over. Whether you’re a Muslim, a Jew, a Christian, or just a nudist, you’re in the same boat with everyone else: off to the gay community with you. ‘
The article is full of value judgements and the overall tone implies eccentricity and abnormality of the group of people that the journalist is describing.
Some human rights and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) organizations reacted to the article by sending letters to the journalist herself and to the editor of ‘Vecherniy ‘Bishkek’. The response is yet to follow but the LGBT crowds in Kyrgyzstan say that the letters are not effective means to hold the media accountable.
Homophobic and transphobic articles are common in Bishkek media but usually go without causing reactions. Some of the articles can be found at the blog of ‘Labrys’, an organization in Bishkek working with lesbian, bisexual women and transgender people.
The issue of homophobia, an irrational fear of homosexual or bisexual people or those who do not conform to stereotype male/female looks, is very relevant to how gender roles and gender expression are perceived in Kyrgyzstan. Cases of street violence against men with long hair, for example, are quite common. Crossing gender boundaries whether in looks, attitudes or behavior may result in social isolation and rejection. This goes not only for LGBT people but also for divorced women, peaceful men, people who are ‘over age’ for marriage.