This simple act of holding hands on the streets of Russia was an experience fraught with fear, two men have revealed.
The duo, both straight actors, faced a barrage of abuse and physical intimidation whilst taking part in a social experiment for a YouTube show. Their aim was to contrast the equal marriage vote in the USA with the draconian state of LGBT rights in Russia.
While homosexuality is not illegal, President Vladimir Putin introduced a law in 2013 that bans symbols which promote "non-traditional" values. Putin's party United Russia also unveiled a "straight flag" last week to combat 'gay fever'.
The social experiment saw the men walk through the tourist areas of Moscow
Both men were branded "faggots" whilst walking through the streets and the video highlights violent incidences where they are shoved and pushed as onlookers demand they leave the country.
Nikita Rozhdesev, one of the filmmakers, told the Huffington Post UK: "We met a lot of angry people walking through Moscow.
"(But) Surprisingly, after we said that we are filming and that it was a social experiment and that we were not a gay couple, people would ask us what were we doing and why?
"No one even thought of NOT being in the video, because they believed that their reaction was right and they were proud of their actions."
The men didn't walk out of the tourist parts of the city as they were fearful the consequences would be worse
At the end of the film, the audience is asked "On one side of the world this is completely normal... What is your reaction?"
The film has over 5 million views on YouTube and can be seen on their channel here. Comments on the piece have ranged dramatically.
One user (shep689) wrote: "This is so disgusting. There's never an excuse to treat other people this horribly, especially when they have nothing to do with you or how you live your life. Russia should be ashamed - the rest of us certainly are."
Another person (ZedosCrib) commented: "Being gay is not normal, natural, nor is it "healthy" as some say, this video displays some sort of "when will we accept them?".
Useful websites and helplines:
- London Lesbian & Gay switchboard (LLGS) is a free confidential support & information helpline for LGBT communities throughout the UK | 0300 330 0630
- Manchester Lesbian and Gay Switchboard is a free support, information and referral service for the Manchester and North-West area | 0161 235 8000
- Stonewall for more information on other LGBT services and helplines | 08000 502020