In 2013, Russian made news around the world, introducing federal laws banning ‘homosexual propaganda’. The laws effectively made a crime of gay activism, reducing non-heterosexuals to second-class citizens.
While Australia discusses the prospect of gay people having the right to marry, there are many other countries where gay people are deprived of even more basic rights. Russia might have earned international headlines for its 2013 laws, but the situation is even worse elsewhere. There are 73 countries where homosexuality is punishable with a prison sentence.
For this conversation, we’re bringing Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen together with queer author and icon Dennis Altman for a broader conversation about queer rights. The pair will discuss gay rights and gender diversity, locally and across the globe. How helpful is the language of human rights for discussing the oppression of LGBT people? How do populist, anti-Western sentiments play into the oppression of gay people in non-western countries? What do we know about the displacement of gay and gender diverse people across the world? And how optimistic can we be about a brighter future?
Presented in partnership with La Trobe University.
Masha Gessen is an acclaimed Russian-American journalist and the author of ten books of nonfiction, including bestsellers The Man Without a Face and Words Will Break Cement. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Vanity Fair, and many other publications, and has received numerous awards.
Her most recent book is The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, which won the 2017 National Book Award for nonfiction. She is a staff writer at The New Yorker. A longtime resident of Moscow, she now lives in New York.
Dennis Altman is professor of politics and director of the Institute for Human Security at LaTrobe University in Melbourne.
He is the son of Jewish refugees, and a writer and academic who first came to attention with the publication of his book Homosexual: Oppression & Liberation in 1972. This book, which has often been compared to Greer’s Female Eunuch and Singer’s Animal Liberation, was the first serious analysis to emerge from the gay liberation movement, and was published in seven countries, with a readership which continues today. (In 2012 University of Queensland Press issued a 40th anniversary edition, and an anthology based on the book, After Homosexual, was published in 2014.)
Since then, Altman has written 13 books exploring sexuality, politics and their interrelationships in Australia, the United States and now globally. These include The Homosexualization of America; AIDS and the New Puritanism; Rehearsals for Change; Gore Vidal’s America and Fifty First State?, as well as a novel (The Comfort of Men) and memoirs (Defying Gravity). His book Global Sex (Chicago U.P, 2001), has been translated into five languages including Spanish, Turkish and Japanese. Most recently has co-edited Why Human Security Matters (Allen & Unwin), Thinking Politically about HIV (Routledge) and How to Vote Progressive in Australia (Monash University Press). The End of the Homosexual? was published by UQP in 2013, and in 2016 Polity published Queer Wars (co-authored with Jonathan Symons).
Anna Brown is the Human Rights Law Centre's Director of Advocacy and Strategic Litigation. She's worked with the HRLC since 2011, and has led much of the Centre’s work on LGBTI rights, police accountability, protester rights, and equality law reform.
Her work has included strategic litigation to advance marriage equality (Cth v ACT); recognise sex and gender diversity (Norrie’s case), and efforts to strengthen protection of political expression and assembly (Muldoon v Melbourne City Council; Attorney-General of SA v City of Adelaide).