Image of Putin in drag challenges normalization of homophobia

Russian President Vladimir Putin is known for his homophobic policies. An image of Putin dressed in drag has been circling the Internet in an effort to defy these policies. (Alexei Nikolsky/AP Photo)

An image of Russian president Vladimir Putin dressed in drag has clogged every outlet of the Internet—and for all the right reasons. 

Russia has a track record of civil rights violations. Russia has both banned images of LGBTQ+ relationships under the guise of “propaganda” in 2013 and has proposed a bill that fines members of the community for showing public displays of affection. It’s obvious that Russia needs to become a more accepting nation for the sake of its citizens.

The image of Putin in drag makeup with a rainbow background was a direct protest against Putin’s anti-gay regime. The image was banned for implying that Putin may be gay or might support LGBTQ+ members that exist in the country he’s supposed to protect. A wild idea, truly. 

Homophobia in Russia is nothing new. The law banning homosexual “propaganda” in 2013 passed under the claim that it protects children and maintains traditional Russian values. If this propaganda is perpetuated by anyone, they may receive heavy fines or even jail time.

The image of Putin in drag first graced the Internet in 2013 as a response to the law when “gay rights protesters were beaten and arrested,” according to The Washington Post. Since then, countless images of Putin in makeup, drag or other forms that might imply a deviation from heteronormativity have surfaced. 

But it was only after such images were made illegal in Russia that it became a rallying cry around the world to stop homophobia. 

This image was banned alongside others that portrayed Putin in Nazi attire. This image of Putin in drag is somehow as bad as comparing him to Hitler. At this rate, it seems that this might be the path Russia follows as Putin shuts down websites that oppose him.

Totalitarianism is defined by a government putting limits on individual freedom, and any dissent toward the government is made illegal. 

Though there are many other facets that make up a totalitarian form of government, these two aspects of limiting the rights of the citizens are only the start of something that can become much worse. And it’s already gotten incredibly bad.

Chechnya, a federal subject of Russia that is largely Muslim, has also flooded the news for the worst possible reason: the mass incarcerations of hundreds of gay men that are then allegedly abused and murdered in Chechen prisons. 

When confronted, spokespeople of the Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov stated that these allegations are untrue because homosexuality doesn’t exist in the Muslim religion, so “you cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic,” according to The Independent.

There’s no fighting that argument. 

This and countless other reasons are why the image of Putin in drag is so important. Members of the LGBTQ+ community are being silenced, denied, arrested, beaten, abused, exiled and murdered for no reason.

If Putin isn’t going to allow critique of his presidency, then it’s up to us to do everything we can to fight the normalization of homophobia at all costs, even if it’s just “sharing” an image online. This is a defiance against the silencing of hundreds of people in order to raise awareness against the unjust laws of the Russian government.