Approximately 100 supporters of the LGBTQ community gathered in the afternoon on September 8 in front of Montreal’s Russian consulate, and embraced in a kiss with a political message. The ‘kiss-in,’ entitled “To Russia with Love,” was one of over 50 worldwide, and was organized as a response to anti-gay legislation in Russia, passed in June of this year, that bans so-called queer “propaganda.”
The kissing went off as planned – anything from the modest peck to the less-modest championship tonsil-hockey game – under waving rainbow flags and in front of a slew of cameras. After the main event – the simultaneous kissing – couples could have a personal kissing picture taken by a hired photographer.
The main reaction towards Russia’s laws by many at the kiss-in was one of disappointment. “It drags the world back,” said Alex Stein-Tremblay, an attendee. “You’d think these rights would be universal by now.”
But McGill student Zane Wolf, who attended the kiss-in, saw some light in the legislation: it showed him that support for LGBTQ rights has grown enough to worry conservative views. “For me, it’s a hoorah that gay rights are winning.”
While most of the kissers came from the LGBTQ community, their heterosexual allies also showed up to protest what they saw as not just a violation of LGBTQ rights, but of human rights in general. The laws have resulted in increased brutality against LGBTQ activists and their allies, as well as those who organize and participate in pride parades or other public displays of solidarity.
Kat Coric, a local artist who has worked as an LGBTQ activist for the last 20 years, organized the event after hearing about the other kiss-ins. “Sometimes, if it’s not affecting you personally, you feel like you don’t have to be involved, but because it’s such a global issue and it is a human rights issue, I believe that everybody should be involved,” said Coric. “I find that in today’s day and age a person should be judged by his mind and his soul, not his bed.”
The kiss-in is just a light-hearted part of a global effort to put pressure on governments and the International Olympics Committee (IOC) to take action against these laws, especially as the Sochi Winter Olympics in February draw closer. If the laws remain in place, it could spell hostility towards LGBTQ athletes and attendees of the games.
Activist Dan Savage, behind the It Gets Better Project, has spearheaded a campaign to boycott Stoli vodka, while several athletes have come out individually against the laws. However, the IOC has refused to move the games or take a political stance, instead only asking Russia that the laws not be applied against foreign athletes.
For Coric, educating people at the grassroots level is one of the most important and immediate measures people can take against the laws. “What I do,” said Coric, “is one by one try and alert people and see if they’ve heard about it. I find, unless you’re LGBTQ, you may not have even heard about this. I find it’s important to get news out to the heterosexual world as well.”