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Pride House Will Spearhead Same-Sex Hand Holding As Protest At The Sochi Games

by Jean Ann Esselink on August 15, 2013

in 2014 Winter Olympics,Jean Ann Esselink,News

Post image for Pride House Will Spearhead Same-Sex Hand Holding As Protest At The Sochi Games

Yesterday, the coalition of international sports and human rights groups behind Pride House, announced a new initiative aimed at protesting the Russian treatment of gays: same-sex hand holding. 

At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Pride House created a space where the LGBT athletes and visitors could gather to celebrate the games and learn about the long history of LGBT athletes. A Pride House was planned for the 2014 Winter Olympics too but they were barred from the Sochi Olympics by a Russian court. That hasn’t meant they’ve gone away. Quite the opposite. Never has their mission to educate and change hearts and minds been more clear.

The first thing the Pride House coalition did in developing a response to the Russian anti-gay posture, was to ask their Russian members for ideas. “Any response, no matter how well-meaning, would be inappropriate without the input of LGBT sportspeople in Russia” explained Lou Englefield, Director of Pride Sports UK. In fact, it was Konstanin Yablotskiy, a Pride House member from the Russian LGBT Sports Federation, who came up with the concept: hand holding. Same-sex hand holding by athletes, coaches, sponsors, spectators and visitors to the games. The group wants everyone to hold hands “at every opportunity”.

“Long after the 2014 Olympics,” Yablotskiy observed, “we in Russia will continue to live under this horrible law. For a few weeks we have the opportunity to bring the attention of the world to the situation in Russia. The Same-Sex Hand-Holding Initiative enables everyone to get involved with a simple yet iconic gesture. We know from gestures like Usain Bolt’s lightning stance the impact of such images that are simple, replicable, and identifiable”.

qpridehousefoundationObviously, the more people who participate, the harder it will be for the Russians to respond. It’s hard not to think about the impact of a Parade of Nations during the Opening Ceremonies, where hand-holding athletes march into a stadium full of hand-holding spectators. But even while they encourage everyone in Sochi to hand hold with a friend, they are urging caution. The new Russian propaganda law could land same-sex hand-holders in jail, and/or deported. Pride House says same-sex hand holding should be done only in public view where there are witnesses, especially witnesses from the international press.

Pride House says it will have T-shirts, posters, web badges and pins to support the hand holding campaign available through their website in early October to help spread the word. They want to make the Sochi Olympics memorable not just for sport, but for the response of the international community to the Russian persecution of gays.

Pride House is betting the world can have an effect on public opinion in Russia, if we all just stand united, hand in hand.



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BJLincoln August 15, 2013 at 11:00 am

Simple and easy for everyone. Russia would find it hard to arrest a huge crowd for just holding hands.

bndkllr2 August 15, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Let this be a massive opposite of the cynical "Chick Fil A Appreciation Day" a year ago. Back then, the haters got thousands of people to stand in line showing off their anti-gay hate without having to admit it (Even people who aren't allowed to attend political protests could claim they were "only waiting in line for lunch").This time, we will have thousands of spectators, coaches and athletes holding hands to protest Russia's draconian law, and there will nothing Russia or Putin can do about it. Because everyone can simply claim they are standing together for their team/country.

111jw111 August 16, 2013 at 8:14 am

I propose a hand gesture as a symbol of protest against Putin's hateful laws: the Pride Pose. Athletes can hold one hand out horizontally, emulating the stripes of the Pride flag. Every athlete who appears on TV can show their support for equity, diversity and human rights by extending their hand.

souldancer August 18, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Keep us posted on this . . . and other ideas at:

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