Journalists in Kyrgyzstan pick up on the topics related to homosexuality or transsexuality whenever they have a chance. There were attempts to address this issue which did not have much reaction from the media.
Recent coverage of a press conference about first brochure in Kyrgyz language about realities for homosexual and bisexual people in Kyrgyzstan turned out quite diverse. It ranged from a positive BBC article in Kyrgyz language to a very negative reaction from a journalist in ‘Beliy Parohod’ newspaper which is posted below. Kyrgyz language newspaper ‘Alibi’ quotes Dzhypar Dzheksheev, Head Representative of national commission on UNESCO affairs in Kyrgyzstan saying:
“In my understanding the Kyrgyz people must respect its traditions and not imitate the Western culture. Leaning on democracy and blaming it for everything, the Muslim people should not shut their eyes on such issues. I do not agree with this [state of affairs]. I consider this disgrace. And we must not agree with them [LGBT community] just because they say so – we must never forget our roots. “
The homophobic reactions did not go unnoticed, human rights organizations. LGBT activists picked up the issue and are planning to send out a number of open letters to the newspapers, UNESCO and Kyrgyz media representative urging them to address homophobia in the mass media and of their employees.
Text of the Beliy Parohod Article
Slavic Gays and Kyrgyz Gays: Attack of the Minorities?
I was recently party to a small conflict. I ended up embroiled in an argument with people who call themselves “representatives of non-traditional sexual orientation”. Indeed, they don’t just call themselves that; they’re demanding complete “freedom of self-expression” for themselves in Kyrgyzstan. I am against this, which I made clear to these citizens, and which is what I am now going to tell you about.
The final straw
I’m say immediately that I was brought up in the spirit of tolerance, and that I am convinced that cultural and racial diversity is the key to the harmonious existence of humanity and any nation. I also maintain that there should be equal rights and freedoms for men and women in society. But what should I think about those people who identify themselves as being of a non-traditional sexual orientation?
Like the overwhelming majority of my fellow citizens, I am of normal or (as is demanded by easily offended sexual minorities) traditional sexual orientation. I like women. What can I do about it? And for the time being I was OK with f… gays, or, put better, I was tolerant in a well-cultured manner. You don’t touch me, and I won’t touch you. A sort of implicit truce.
However, recently this other party have in an excessively active way started to violate this same truce, sticking their noses into my (and not only my) life, demanding that we pay attention to them. I put up with it, I really did. But, as often happens, it was the final straw that decided everything, and thanks to which I sat down to write this article.
This final straw was a press-conference held by activists from gay and lesbian organisations. The pretext was quite interesting: the NGO Labrys, which is where members of the latter sexual minority go, has, as is noted in the press release, published “the first booklet about homosexuality in Kyrgyzstan in Kyrgyz”. However, our conversation was somewhat more substantial.
So then, what exactly are our Kyrgyzstani gays and lesbians unhappy about? In the first instance, of course, discrimination. “Homosexuals in the Republic are very often forced to hide their orientation,” explained Syikat Sultanalieva, the project’s information coordinator. “Our booklet is a kind of ‘pioneer’ in terms of educating people about homosexuality and related issues in Kyrgyzstan and is beneficial for all of society.”
One could argue about the benefit, which is what we’ll do a little later on. Meanwhile, about the booklet: It includes information about the history of the homosexual movement in Kyrgyzstan in a style similar to the Soviet “likbez” anti-illiteracy campaign of the 1920s and 1930s. Mainly, though, it contains descriptions of the personal experiences of gays, lesbians and bisexuals. Something like this for example: ‘Arina, 30 yeasr old: “I’ve been interested in women since I was little. As a child I would pull their hair ribbons, trying to get them to pay attention to me any way I could. When I began to feel erotically attracted to women I thought that there was no-one like me in the entire world. But then later I meet a lesbian girl and my happiness knew no bounds.”’
However, a large part of the booklet is taken up with complaints about the “injustice” of the wider world. They don’t accept us! They discriminate against us! They sack us from work! Overall, it has to be said, these “non-traditional women” are a very easily offended and insulted lot. For example, journalists were strictly prohibited from using the words “homosexualist” and “homosexualism”, since apparently they are the legacy of the totalitarian past in which homosexuality was considered an illness. It’s a different time nowadays: it turns out that now it is correct to say “homosexual” and “homosexuality”. So when I sinfully reverted to using the first variants, I was politely but firmly corrected. Although as far as I’m concerned whatever you call gays they’re still gays. And there’s nothing one can do about it.
How I was accused of being a Fascist
On to my conversation with them. I’ll retell it word-for-word as far as possible, without any polish as they say. Having heard my fill of weighty words about discrimination, I couldn’t stand it any longer:
“Could you possibly give concrete examples of this discrimination? At least a few. For example, how homosexualists are treated when applying for jobs.”
“Firstly, I would request that you use the word “homosexuals”. It’s a question of etiquette,” responded the (fe-?)male Alex Mamytov, the project’s coordinator. And with regards to discrimination, I’ll give you the following example: One girl with excellent skills and a good knowledge of the work wasn’t given the job she applied for. It wasn’t said openly, but she was told during unofficial chats that she was too openly lesbian.”
“So she openly presented herself as someone of non-traditional sexual orientation? Excuse me, but that’s already propaganda. Well, OK, live and let her live as she wants to, but why when in Rome should she expect the Romans to do things her way?”
“I wouldn’t mix up the notion of propaganda with that of being able to talk openly about yourself. After all, we’re not say “Everyone should become a homosexual!”, that would be propaganda. And in this girl’s case it was simply that she had openly said she was gay in the media.”
“I would add,” added Anna Kirey, Chair of Labrys, “that in answer to the question of why one should talk about oneself at all, then it is necessary precisely because people in Kyrgyzstan think that homosexuals and bisexuals do not exist. And if we don’t talk about it, then people won’t know about us. And one more thing: If a girl wears casual unisex clothes and has short hair, then she’ll have problems at work and be told to wear a skirt or trouser suit. It’s the same for young gay men. They have the rules of correct behaviour forced on them, and that’s not right.”
“The point here is about freedom of expression,” Mamytov added. (Yes, it’s that my words put them on the defensive!) “And if there is no such freedom, then that’s already fascism. And speaking out against such a freedom is also fascism.”
I couldn’t contain myself: “So in order to protect the rights of a minority, you want to violate the rights of the majority? If a tradition is rooted in society, why should it be forcibly uprooted? Especially in an Eastern society. What’s the reason for this?”
“Not all traditions are good,” parried Alex. “There are traditions that violate human rights and discriminate against people.”
“But, for example, I find it unpleasant to be beside gays who are “expressing themselves” in all sorts of ways. You’re forcing this “company” on me. Surely that’s discrimination, moral violence against the majority?”
The minorities did not respond. They said only that they could speak with me after the press conference. Naturally I did not agree to this. Why? Read on…
So that was our discussion. Now let’s try and reflect on it. So, the question: do we need to give people of a non-traditional sexual orientation the right to openly express their “difference”? My opponents made all sorts of references to democracy, which, apparently, protects the rights and freedoms of all citizens. So their demand is something like “give us complete freedom!” I have already written about this and will repeat it again: demanding complete freedom is absurd. Man stopped being an animal and founded civilisation precisely through the constant and unbreaking creation of “infreedoms” – placing boundaries and limitations on savagery. Imagine that all these “infreedoms” suddenly disappeared and the liberal utopia of the free individual actually came about. What sort of picture would we see when all those “chains of oppression” – the family, duty, the state – collapse? We would see something more terrifying than fighting to survive in the jungle.
The freedom of self-expression, which is allegedly an essential attribute of a democratic society, is a nonsense! Does that mean that people like Chikatilo and Shamil Basaev have the right to “free self-expression”? And that any restriction imposed upon them is fascist? If we follow our heroes’ logic, then yes is the answer: anything that encroaches on a person’s freedom should be mercilessly rooted out. Remember: it is only cultural boundaries that permit humans to remain people. But these same boundaries are already an “infreedom”…
Moving on to traditions. Yes, there are different traditions, good and bad. There are those that should be left in the past (for example, bride kidnapping). But there is also the notion of basic ethical values. These are more or less the same for all peoples. They are the very things that prevent humankind from destroying itself. These are values that have been gained over thousands of years of human society’s development, after a multitude of attempts and mistakes. The prohibition of murder, the obligation of society to care for its members, of parents to care for their children, and of children for their parents are some of these values, as is… the prohibition of same-sex marriages. A person’s meaning of life in all religions and cultures is to bring up a worthy descendant, a son or daughter, to pass on to him everything that is most precious that you yourself possess. As you see, a union between two men is not in a position to guarantee this. Thus, the demand to legalise same sex marriage is a violation of society’s ethical norms. The consequences can be most deplorable. Look at the West, where people have lost any sense of objective reality, where life is all about consumption, where, in the end, the number of suicides increases every year.
I’m not calling for people be jailed or shot just because he or she is gay or lesbian. But any public expression of their sexual orientation must be cut off at the very root.
A social disease
Sexual minorities do not tire of repeating that “homosexuality is not an illness”. Well, I refute that: it is an illness! And it’s quite an illness. I’ll stay silent about the physiological components involved (scientists are still arguing about it). But you will not convince me that homosexualism is not a social disease. This disaster has already defeated Western countries, and now it is aggressively attacking us as well. Public displays of their “inclinations”, thousands of gay clubs, mass gay parades… This is propaganda of the most real sort, which rains down on a person almost as soon as he starts out on life’s path. Imagine a teenager: maybe somewhere deep inside of him there is a “gay” kernel. But were he not surrounded by screaming adverts for homosexualism, then this kernel would gradually shrivel up and die. But no! This kernel is encouraged by his surroundings; it is made to grow. This is what’s dangerous.
Sergei Kara Murza put it well about the granting of rights to minorities: “We’re told that everyone’s right to some extent, and that the main thing is tolerance. What has this tolerance led to? To the particular characteristics of minorities gaining the status of RIGHTS. That’s a completely different matter, more like an AGREEMENT. An agreement changes in accordance with life’s changes, but rights, as an inalienable value, themselves form the basis of life. I’ll take homosexualism as an example. Love for people of the same sex is a vitally important value for a certain section of society. That’s the reality. But the permittance of homosexualism in a society that does not approve of such a sexual orientation is rationally made the subject of an agreement. It is, as it were, your personal business, esteemed homosexualists, but you should behave in accordance with the rights and privileges that are accepted in our society; don’t irritate people. It is another matter when homosexualism is moved into the ranks of a HUMAN RIGHT. Then the particularity of this minority immediately takes on a demonstrative and even political character. Organisations that start propagandise homosexualism in the media, in the arts and even in the education system arise. They start to wed homosexualist couples in churches, which inflicts great trauma on a large number of people of faith. As a result of elevating a specific minority’s value into the ranks of human rights (and therefore into a universal value) rather than uniting society a new ground for conflict is created.”
But this is what our gays and lesbians are calling for! They intend to enter into conflict with the overwhelming majority of society. Moreover, the conflict isn’t necessary and is pointless. Just sit quietly and “hang out” together! Why come crawling to us when we find it unpleasant? There’s no answer…
We’re already tolerated too much over the last 15 years. We’re being told to give up what little is left, that which is the only thing capable of saving Kyrgyzstan and put it on the path towards development: our cultural base, our values. Lose these, and what is left? Absolutely nothing! We’ll be dumb robots without tribe or kin. So you can accuse me of totalitarianism or even fascism, esteemed gays and lesbians, but I will still answer you thus: Respect my people, my country and my culture! I will not let you dirty them!
Translation: C. Wilkinson.