The New Voices for LGBT Equality

Homophobia and anti-LGBT discrimination in various countries around the world is nothing new. But there's something about the moves by Russia to introduce new anti-LGBT legislation that has touched a nerve.

Homophobia and anti-LGBT discrimination in various countries around the world is nothing new.

But there's something about the moves by Russia to introduce new anti-LGBT legislation that has touched a nerve.

What's interesting is we are seeing new LGBT advocates and campaigners emerge - adding their voice of protest against Russia's backward step on human rights and equality.

One such campaigner is Danish actor Christian Vincent who has created the "It's Not Okay" initiative.

I recently spoke with Vincent at his home in Copenhagen.

Before becoming active in response to the laws of Russia, have you been at all political?

Honestly, not one bit. I always regarded myself as too stupid to understand politics. I still do. The difference is that I don't really care anymore. It is my human understanding that drove me to want to take some kind of action.

Has fighting for gay rights been important to you in the past?

Not on a larger scale. Being Danish I have some privileges regarding my sexuality. I did not really feel the need to fight for rights, seeing that I already had them. With time, I learned that this right and privilege did not come to me (or anyone) overnight, and I now have a lot of respect for all those groups and individuals who have made it possible for me to feel safe about who I am here.

What was it about the developments in Russia that made you want to take action?

It was the news about the groups luring young gays with fake dating profiles. I mean, just imagine it. Imagine how safe you feel having used a dating site many times before, it's basically standard procedure to get new acquaintances. And then you meet not just one guy. But a whole bunch of guys. Many of them holding you down as a session of torture and humiliation begins. I have seen no horror film scaring me as much as imagining myself in this situation.

This made me want to do something. I just had no idea what. Because I thought what probably anyone else thinks in this situation: What can I possibly do? And then I just did the simplest thing that came to mind. I spoke up.

Were you worried that people wouldn't respect your decision to take a stand against Russia? Almost like, "why would people listen to me?" "why is my voice relevant on this issue?"

I would be lying if I said "no". Those are my words, my voice, my face out there. And we've all seen what social media sharing can do.

The first weeks I didn't sleep or eat very much. I was a wreck. I could see the video had spread everywhere, and by this time, I knew I couldn't really take it back, elaborate or change what I have said. One could just either like the message or not.

Why is your voice relevant on this issue?

My voice is only relevant as far as to prove that you don't need to be anyone specific to make an actual difference - I come from a very small town, know little of politics, less of economy, I have dreams and personal issues like anyone else. My mother always told me I was never good at shutting up, so I guess I just took her advice.

What action have you taken to date in your protest against the Russian laws?

The "It's Not Okay" video has been screened at the human rights conference in Antwerp as a part of the World Out Games.

One of the studies at Aarhus University is using the "Not Okay" Project as a case study, and I have been invited to speak at a lecture.

Amnesty International Denmark and I are also starting a collaboration.

Hungarian magazine "Humen" will be recording a series of "Not Okay" videos during an event at the Wamp Design Center the 21st of September to show that Hungarian LGBT support the cause - and they are hoping that this will kick start the project in their country.

I have been invited to Budapest to speak about the project in November, something that has been made possible between the Hungarian sports organization FRIGO and the Italian ICONS.

So far, my video has been translated to Spanish, Russian, Hungarian and Italian - again something that has only been possible because of support and cooperation.

What sort of response have you received, both at home and in other countries?

The response has been overall positive, and I'm very surprised by how much especially other countries take very fast actions to support the message. Catalonia were the first to boost the awareness by interviewing me for a news segment while I was in Barcelona, and now Hungary are really showing a massive support by having "official" video recording and later the press conference.

Have you been surprised by the response you've received?

Yes, very. I had no idea what kind of attention my message would get - and at that time of the upload I honestly didn't have any plans with it what so ever. I mean, why should I have? I just expressed my opinion.

But I felt some kind of responsibility when I saw the amount of response, so I wanted to take the message further. And with the continuous support and cooperation I believe it was the right thing to do.

Are you limiting your protests specifically to Russia?

My personal cause is focused on Russia these days.

Of course there are something like 76 other countries with the same and worse conditions, but the reason I focus on Russia right now is because of the obvious deterioration in commitment to human rights. You have to remember, Russia did have a progress on LGBT rights until it drastically went another direction completely.

But the "Not Okay" project is not limited to anything. It's about speaking up for those who cannot.

What outcome are you hoping to achieve by protesting against the Russian laws?

Well, the dream would be that LGBTs in Russia would be able to feel safe on the streets and that hate-crimes would be regarded as a very criminal offence.

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