Brittney Griner, LGBTQ icon imprisoned by Putin’s don’t say gay regime

On February 11, a court in St. Petersburg dismissed a lawsuit by the Russian Ministry of Justice. The government wanted to switch off the Russian LGBT network, one of the country’s most powerful queer rights organizations, for allegedly promoting “LGBT views”.

As of 1993, it is no longer illegal to be LGBTQ in Russia, but since the passage of the “gay propaganda” law in 2013, it has been illegal to talk about it in the presence of minors.

That’s right, Vladimir Putin first created a “don’t say gay” law.

Spotted portrait illustration by LZ Granderson

opinion columnist

LZ Granderson

LZ Granderson writes about culture, politics, sports and life in America.

In 2017, the European Court of Human Rights, of which Russia is a member, ruled that the law was illegal. But that condemnation hasn’t done much to change the Kremlin’s attitude toward its LGBTQ population.

I bring this up because the WNBA’s Brittney Griner, which came out in 2013, has been flown into this hostile environment since turning pro. What many of the league’s queer players and their families and friends are juggling isn’t just the emotional and physical toll of an almost uninterrupted 12-month game schedule between the WNBA and international games. It tries to do all of this while you worry about your spouse visiting you or meeting someone who met you on a dating app.

Griner, who wrote about her coming-out process in her 2014 book In My Skin: My Life On and Off the Basketball Court, was arrested on February 17 on drug-related charges, just days after Putin’s government tried to embrace LGBTQ people close network for exchange on LGBTQ issues. On Thursday a Russian court extended her detention until May 19th. The US Department of State on Friday made a statement Demanding access to Griner, he said, “We have repeatedly asked for consular access to these detainees and he has been consistently denied access.”

Even before the war, it was difficult to get imprisoned Americans home from Russia. In 2020, Marine veteran Trevor Reed was there sentenced to nine years in prison for allegedly attacking police officers in Moscow. And Paul Whelan, an executive in corporate security, is Serving a 16-year prison sentence because of espionage allegations.

One of the most recent reports of Griner’s condition comes from a state-backed prison watchdog group that rarely challenges Russian authorities on important issues. The whole situation breaks my heart for Griner and her loved ones. One of the most visible lesbians on the planet, she’s being held in a country whose government ignores reports of queer people “cleansed” in Chechnya in 2017.

2018 the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe reported “clear evidence of the successive purges against LGBTI people” and recommended that “the Russian Federation should set up a special investigative committee…to conduct an effective, impartial and transparent investigation into the allegations.”

I’m sure Putin started the investigation immediately.

“My desire to live authentically was often at odds with my need to please,” Griner wrote in her autobiography. “I want to be me, but I also want to make the people around me happy. It’s a tug of war that’s consumed me over the years, but one I’m finally coming to terms with.

“I think anyone who has ever struggled to find a different path while trying to adapt can appreciate the difficulties of this journey and the lessons learned along the way. “

Given the US’ global leadership on sanctions against Russia and military aid to Ukraine, it’s hard not to see Griner as one Political prisoner in Russia. I pray that their personal plight will not become further entangled in the war in Ukraine. As she is queer and incarcerated by a government fighting to keep that word from being spoken, her imprisonment should be a subject of intense attention in this country.

Perhaps some elected officials who are eyeing their own version of a don’t say gay law under the guise of protecting children should pause for a moment. They follow Putin’s example.

Is the man who bombed a Ukrainian children’s hospital Is a truce really exemplary, is it for the good of children?

@LZ Granderson Brittney Griner, LGBTQ icon imprisoned by Putin’s don’t say gay regime

Caroline Bleakley

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