Russian Rainbow

by Brenna Holeman

Russia Red

Russian Red in Yekaterinburg

Russia Orange

Russian Orange in Listvyanka

Russia Yellow

Russian Yellow in Yekaterinburg

Russia Green

Russian Green in Yekaterinburg

Russia Blue

Russian Blue in Ulan Ude

Russia Indigo

Russian Indigo (it’s a stretch, I know) in St. Petersburg

Russia Violet

Russian Violet on The Trans-Siberian

When I was a little girl, I used to love watching the Olympics. My favourite sports to watch in the winter games were figure skating, speed skating, ski jumping, hockey, and luge. It was a pretty big event in my household; for both the summer and winter games, my whole family would crowd around and watch the events on TV. One of my biggest regrets in life is not being in Canada when we won the gold medal for hockey in the Vancouver 2010 games.

I rarely get political on this blog; I’ve always maintained it’s not a place for that. I felt a need to write about what’s going on in Russia, though, because it absolutely breaks my heart. I have no tolerance whatsoever for homophobia, and what is happening (and what has been happening for decades) in Russia is despicable. Click here to see a video explaining the abuse, but please be warned that it is very graphic.

I have been to Russia twice. I lived in Russia for one summer, volunteering in the city of Yaroslavl and travelling nearby. Then, three years later, I took the Trans-Siberian through the country, from Ulan Ude to Moscow and on to St. Petersburg. I saw the country though tourist eyes, and was treated with respect and kindness by my host families and friends. I also claim Russian heritage; my grandfather was a Russian Jew born in St. Petersburg. Though he moved to Canada when he was young, I was always so intrigued by his background and his childhood, and of my extended family still in the motherland. Being the picture of stereotypical Russian stoicism, he never spoke about it, not to me, and very rarely even to my mother.

This is all to say that I am disgusted by what is happening in Russia, both as a tourist who has loved my time spent in the country and as one with Russian blood. I am proud and impressed, though, that so many countries, companies, and athletes are making their voices heard in the fight for LGBT rights. I don’t know that not watching the Olympics this year will contribute in any positive way; I don’t want to punish the athletes for the host country’s faults. Here is a very chilling video (again, graphic) on discrimination and the Olympics… which also calls out many other countries for their horrific laws, as Russia is certainly not alone in its homophobia. Hate crimes are carried out every day in countries like yours and mine.

And so, for Russia, a rainbow. A rainbow to represent the LGBT community I’m proud to be a part of and support. A rainbow to represent the equality that all people in the world should have, without question or without fear. A rainbow to represent what I hope will, in only a few years time, be seen as a dark spot in history, a time when we weren’t allowed to love whoever we chose to love. A rainbow to represent the support I have for all of those fighting for equality in Russia, for whom every day is a struggle.

Will you be watching the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi? 

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Katie February 8, 2014 - 8:35 pm

Lovely post. Sometimes it’s so hard to believe that it’s 2014 — even (and sometimes especially) here in the U.S. — when there are still people fighting for equal rights. I won’t be watching, but that’s because I don’t have cable. Like you said, I don’t think it’s right to punish the athletes for the faults of the host country.

Brenna Holeman February 9, 2014 - 1:49 pm

I know – I honestly cannot believe that it still happens. I just don’t understand why anybody cares who someone chooses to love. I won’t be watching either, but mainly because I don’t even have a TV here in London; I would love to support Canada if I could. I’m sure I’ll catch some of it online, though.

Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki February 8, 2014 - 11:43 pm

I love this post! The Russian rainbow, great idea! I have been just sadden by what I have been hearing about Russia and the treatment of the LGBT community! Love the support shown in this post!

Brenna Holeman February 9, 2014 - 1:48 pm

Thank you for your comment, I’m glad there are so many others who support the community.

Emy February 9, 2014 - 11:28 am

I’ve never been into the olympics games, so I’m not going to watch them this year either.
I love Russia but yeah… This is impossible to overlook what’s happening there.
And not only the awful things related to the LGBT community, but simply the fact that Russia isn’t a democracy. And as someone who values freedom probably more than anything that is heartbreaking.
We can only hope for things to change, and I think that creating bounds with the country while having the people and the politicians speaking up and making themselves heard on issues that are important and need to be adressed..

Brenna Holeman February 9, 2014 - 1:54 pm

I agree. There are so many countries – not just Russia – that punish homosexuality. There are so many countries that aren’t democracies either (they often go hand in hand, I think). I really do hope in the future this will all be a terrible, distant memory that the next generations will never repeat…

Thank you for your comment, Emy.

Zalie February 9, 2014 - 10:21 pm

I am really glad that you brought this up on your blog. I would like to hope that by educating more people about what is happening in Russia( and the rest of the world), it may make some sort of a difference. That being said, a lot of people know what is going on and couldn’t care less. I still can’t believe that such horror exists around the world in this day and age. How can people be so offended and care so much about how other people choose to live their life and whom they choose to live it with? It is simply appalling to me 🙁

Brenna Holeman February 10, 2014 - 2:00 am

Thanks for your comment, Zalie. I totally agree. It boggles my mind that some people just can’t let other people be happy and free.

Joseph Ellis February 10, 2014 - 4:38 pm

Brenna, just read this post and saw the video. Its deeply saddening. The worlds gone mad. This breaks my heart 🙁

Brenna Holeman February 10, 2014 - 4:52 pm

I know, it’s so awful. Thank you for your comment and support, I think this world needs all the support it can get.

Helen February 10, 2014 - 11:36 pm

Wonderful post as always Brenna. Love that you’ve put it in the context of the rainbow flag too! 🙂 Wonderfully creative way to highlight the issue that so many people are (unbelievably in this day and age) still fighting for equality. x

Brenna Holeman February 11, 2014 - 12:22 am

Thank you, Helen x

Suzan July 22, 2015 - 9:26 am

Although I saw it a bit later, but thanks for the post, Brenna. It’s still relevant.
I was actually watching the games cause I love sports so much, but totally agree with you on the discrimination issue! We used an opportunity, quickly got visa’s trough Travel all Russia agency and went to Sochi for the last week of the Olympic games and we didn’t see anything strange, but I guess it’s because there were so many foreigners. I think that on matters like this we need to give Russia and countries as such a little more time, they’re always a bit behind and it’s normal, we used to be huge racists couple of decades ago.

Brenna Holeman July 22, 2015 - 1:01 pm

Thanks for your comment, Suzan. I guess I have a different attitude than you – I don’t think anyone deserves any more time when it comes to matters like these (including race, because I’m assuming the “we” in your last sentence is referring to Americans, and in my opinion race is still a huge issue in America). The time to change is right now.


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