THE oldest and largest gay media outlet in the US has named Russian President Vladimir Putin as Person of the Year, calling him the “single greatest threat to LGBTs in the world in 2014”.
The Advocate made the announcement earlier today (Thursday evening US time) on MSNBC’s The Last Word show, where editorial director Aaron Hicklin said Putin was chosen because “sometimes we have to shed a spotlight on people who misuse power”.
The Advocate, a bi-monthly publication, is often regarded as the most-respected LGBT news outlet in the US and is the only surviving LGBT masthead that was established before the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City.
Nine other people or organisations made the finalists list for Person of the Year, which included recently-outed Apple chief executive Tim Cook, Orange is the New Black star and trans* advocate Laverne Cox, openly-gay NFL player Michael Sam, How I Met Your Mother star Neil Patrick Harris, X-Men and Inception star and Academy Award nominee Ellen Page, and True Blood star and Academy Award winner Anna Paquin. (Click here for full list)
In the online feature article that accompanied the announcement, Jeremy Lybarger wrote of how the Russian leader’s childhood aspiration and subsequent career in the Soviet-era KGB secret police before he became a politician made him “hardwired to intimidate”.
“Nowhere is this tendency more apparent than in his crusade against LGBT Russians,” the story reads.
“Since winning a third term in 2012, Putin has become ever more autocratic, and his antigay ideology ever more extreme.
“In June 2013, he signed the infamous antigay propaganda bill that criminalises the ‘distribution of information…aimed at the formation among minors of nontraditional sexual attitudes,’with nontraditional meaning anything other than heterosexual.”
The article goes on to say how the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics helped intensify criticism on Putin’s homophobic laws, as well as his autocratic, increasingly racist and religious leadership style in general.
“Recent headlines offer little to celebrate… On September 18, Queerfest, an annual LGBT rights festival in St Petersburg, canceled most of its events after bomb threats and attacks that saw anti-gay protesters squirt festivalgoers with an unknown gas and green dye,” Lybarger writes.
“On September 25, the Constitutional Court of Russia upheld the antigay propaganda law. And of course LGBT Russians continue to be assaulted or murdered with tragic frequency.
“Despite encouraging developments such as the International Olympic Committee’s new mandate requiring prospective host cities to sign an anti-discrimination clause, Russia’s LGBT activists report few breakthroughs.
“What hope they have is precarious and underground.”
The announcement was met with mixed views, with many questioning or criticising The Advocate on its Facebook page for choosing Putin as the Person of the Year.