I think we all know Russia is having a little bit of trouble when it comes to accepting gays, lesbians, bisexuals or transgenders (LGBT) and I think we also know this is an understatement.
Gays are constantly being harassed and attacked. In June 2013 the ‘federal anti-LGBT ‘propaganda’' law was adopted, so giving information about homosexuality is a crime. It makes discrimination against gays ‘legal’ and in a report published on the government’s website, transgenders and others with a ‘sexual preference disorder’ are banned from driving.
Which is why it’s so great that the world press photo of the year 2014 is one of a gay couple in St. Petersburg. The picture was taken by the Danish Mads Nissen. It shows Jonathan Jacques Louis and Alexander Semyonov embracing in a dark room in St. Petersburg.
Alessia Glaviano, senior editor of Vogue Italia and jury: “The photo has a message about love being an answer in the context of all that’s going on in the world. It’s about love as a global issue, in a way that transcends homosexuality. It sends out a strong message to the world, not just about homosexuality, but about equality, about gender, about being black or white, about all of the issues related to minorities.”
Mads Nissen talks about the story behind the picture. He met a young man in a bar when suddenly the man was being attacked by someone because he admitted that he was a ‘faggot’. Nissen says he didn’t know whether to cry or get into the fight. After that, he started to document aspects of homophobia in Russia.
“I met men who pretend to seduce gay men, capture them and torture them on video before putting it online – and there’s more than a hundred of these videos. I photographed a young lesbian couple who have three children and are facing up to losing them, just because they’re gay. I’ve photographed a young guy who had lost his eye after a homophobic attack.”
He met Jonathan and Alexander one day. They took him back to their apartment, did their ‘thing’ and Nissen was a witness. “It’s like a modern-day Romeo and Juliet. It’s a question about being with the one you want to love, and staying with someone come what may.”
I don’t know about you guys, but I am just in love with Mads Nissen’s view on this. He wasn’t afraid to jump into the story like others might be. I especially love the last part of his ‘confession’, where he says:
“To my knowledge, there isn’t a single religion that is tolerant of homosexuality. Not even the Dalai Lama. Why are they scared?”.