The hubbub over Russia’s very recent and very repugnant anti-gay laws, spearheaded by Putin himself, shows no signs of abating. In fact, while cooler heads have prevailed in the proposed boycott of the Winter Olympics in Sochi (it now seems certain it wouldn’t help the LGBT cause), excitement is building over the prospect of a pro-gay demonstration during the Opening Ceremony. The idea is, as gay and gay-friendly athletes marched in the Parade of Nations, they would, in a show of solidarity on live television, quietly raise rainbow flags.
Tilda Swinton did just that one month ago. In front of the Kremlin and a police car in Red Square, she held up a large rainbow flag and grinned triumphantly to the camera. The photo — taken by artist Sandro Kopp, her also-unconventional partner — instantly went viral. (Other tourists shouldn’t do the same unless they’re prepared to spend two weeks in detention.)
But aside from the very important business of the Winter Olympics, there is the smaller business of the Miss Universe Pageant. The competition is scheduled for November 9 in Moscow, and will be televised everywhere. That presents a problem for the organizers. Last year they showed courage by allowing transgender contestant Jenna Talackova to enter the Miss Universe Canada pageant, reversing a previous policy.
Can they be expected to rise to the occasion again? New Jersey resident Francesco Pascuzzi is putting them to the test. He’s started a petition on Change.org, saying in no uncertain terms, “As a lifelong pageant fan, I’m shocked and disappointed that the Miss Universe Organization has chosen to host its competition this year in Russia, where LGBTQ people are under attack.” He’s demanding the location be moved from Russia. While it would be unreasonable to demand that the Winter Olympics relocate, Miss Universe? Not so much.
If Taylor Swift’s tween fans can intimidate Abercrombie & Fitch into removing tank tops from stores, surely millions of reasonably enlightened adults can put the heat on Miss Universe, a Trump company. Sure, the pageant is ridiculous in its own right and has plenty of other message problems, but here is an opportunity to reach otherwise unreachable gay and straight folks around the world, particularly in Russia and Eastern European countries, with the memo that it’s ok to be gay!