An anti-gay Russian politician who is a member of the State Duma, or lower house of parliament, is presenting a reality show where contestants have to guess which one of their housemates is gay in order to win a cash prize.
I’m Not Gay features eight men who move into a country house together and attempt, through various activities, to see which of them is most stereotypically masculine. From there, the housemates vote to eliminate a contestant they suspect is the gay among the straights.
If the men correctly guess, they share two million rubles, or approximately $28,030, among the remaining house guests. But if the gay man dodges detection, he wins the prize, according to the UK-based publication The Times.
“Finding a gay in our country is like finding a working McDonald’s,” Milonov says in a voiceover. “They definitely exist but there are very few of them and not everyone knows about them.”
Milonov, who has a history of making inflammatory remarks about LGBTQ people, tells the contestants in the first episode, which has been posted to YouTube, “I hope that you will quickly figure out the gay,” while making a throat-slitting gesture.
But at the end of the episode, after the housemates guess incorrectly and eliminate a straight contestant, Milonov says, “You killed an innocent person.”
That Milonov is involved in such a project is anything but shocking, given his public denunciations of homosexuality as harmful, and his attempts to cast LGBTQ individuals, especially gay men, as predatory. The 48-year-old politician authored Russia’s infamous anti-gay “propaganda” law, which prohibits exposing minors to “nontraditional relationships.”
The law — as all anti-LGBTQ edicts eventually do — goes far beyond its alleged original intent and prohibits the dissemination of information about — and positive or even neutral portrayals of — homosexuality or same-sex relationships.
Critics allege it has been used to censor movies with LGBTQ content, ban Pride marches, persecute various groups or organizations who advocate for equality, target health workers who seek to do outreach to LGBTQ people for the purposes of HIV testing and education, and even attempt to strip children away from their same-sex parents.
In the BBC documentary Reggie Yates’ Extreme Russia: Gay and Under Attack, when asked if he thought homosexuals were dangerous, Milonov responded, “A piece of shit is not dangerous, but it’s quite unpleasant to see on the streets. Homosexuality is disgusting. Homophobia is beautiful and natural.”
In 2014, Milonov spoke out about Apple CEO Tim Cook’s coming out. “What could he bring us?” he asked. “The Ebola virus, AIDS, gonorrhea? They all have unseemly ties over there.”
Even though homosexuality is not criminalized per se, Russia’s gay “propaganda” law is often used to censor LGBTQ content. Russia also offers no legal protections for citizens based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and does not have any hate crime statutes under which perpetrators of anti-LGBTQ violence can be prosecuted.
Same-sex marriage continues to be outlawed, and gay men are frequently ridiculed on television as effeminate, amoral, promiscuous individuals or stereotypical caricatures. President Vladimir Putin has even used campaign commercials casting homosexuality as a threat to the country’s stability to turn out conservative and populist-leaning voters ahead of key elections.
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