Rainbow and Russian Forum Host Homophobia Roundtable



The event, named “Back in the Iron Closet” began with a clip from an ABC Nightline news report on violence against the LGBTQ+ community in Russia, which echoed a statement made by Pomerantsev that “number of people who think homosexuality is socially unacceptable.

“I lived in Russia for 16 years, and Professor Pomerantsev lived in Belarus for a long time and these are issues we were both concerned with,” DeCasper said. “This event expanded from originally discussing a play translated by Pomerantsev into a human rights conversation about these issues.”

There were 30 students in attendance in Lowenstein’s Student Lounge as the keynote speaker, documentary photographer Misha Friedman, presented a slideshow of gay couples and individuals he photographed across Russia for a feature originally published in Time Magazine.

“I wanted to show a face of the gay community in Russia that [the subjects] felt wasn’t always displayed in the mainstream media,” Friedman explained. “I focused on just photographing their lives and showing that they are not different from anyone else.”

Pomerantsev explained how the trend of increasing violence is a very strange development in Russian culture. “When I was growing up in the Soviet Union, I remember that you couldn’t go into a church because there would always be a KGB agent standing outside photographing people or writing down names,” he said.


“In the 90’s when I went to Moscow after moving to the [United] States, it was a much more accepting place than it is now. Now there is a law that states any outward display of homosexuality is illegal.”

Friedman closed his presentation by explaining that “even though this issue is cared about here in the [United] States, it doesn’t register as an issue in Russia.” Likewise, news coverage has “fallen off compared to when the mayor of Sochi said publicly, ‘there are no gays in Sochi.’”

The photograph series displayed is available online. The event was sponsored by the Modern Languages department along with Rainbow Alliance and Russian Forum. Also in attendance were representatives from the No More Fear foundation, a New York based nonprofit that focuses on providing legal and resettlement support to LBGTQ+ individuals seeking asylum in the United States.