As the Sochi games have came to a close, the Olympic flame illuminating the faces of Russia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community has already began to slowly extinguish. In a year’s time, few will be trying to light it again.
And while we are all continuing on with our lives, LGBTQ Russians are still suffering. They are still being fined for celebrating who they are under the guise of protecting Russia’s children. They are still being arrested for protesting that ignorance. They are still the victims of vicious hate crimes that leave many fearing for not only their safety, but for their lives, with no protection from the country they call home.
I deeply admire those in Russia who have chosen to speak out anyway, whose courage has been documented by the spotlight the Sochi games has brought. But now that the games are over, few journalists are left in Russia continuing to share their stories. Without that coverage, it is easy for many to forget about these ongoing human rights violations.
In the fight for equality, the message many see is the only one they are being given. As of late, that message has been of the rapid pace of marriage equality in which same-sex marriage bans seem to be crumbling state after state after state across the country. Many Americans flip on their TVs, see these breaking news stories and take this as proof the world is accepting of the LGBTQ community.
Not even in America can these headlines deliver that message honestly.
Last week, Britney Cosby and Crystal Jackson, a lesbian couple from Texas, were found murdered outside a convenience store. Cosby died of blunt force trauma while Jackson was shot to death. Cosby’s father was arrested in conjunction with the crime after police found blood in the home he shared with his daughter and a copy of the Quran open to a page depicting homosexuality as a sin.
In Russia, neo-Nazi groups like Occupy Pedophilia are still leading the charge on an anti-gay manhunt. They are luring LGBTQ Russians away from safety and into life-threatening situations where they strip them naked, point a gun to their head and force them to apologize for being who they are. They tend to videotape this torture and post it online like they have hundreds of times before, and they do so without fear of consequence.
In an age where news from anywhere in the world can break instantly in the palm of our hands, journalism has a huge impact on this movement. As journalists, we tend to focus more on the milestones than the people involved in the struggle to make them happen. And when those milestones are reached — when all 50 states have finally secured marriage equality — where will that coverage in America go? Will it disappear completely or will dedicated journalists continue finding LGBTQ stories that need to be told? Will that coverage stop at America or will it transcend borders?
If the coverage of the Sochi games is any indication, it will take radical change within the ranks of journalists. It will take reporters choosing to provide in-depth coverage to the stories many in the mainstream media have left behind. Without that coverage, without that constant reminder that the world isn’t as tolerant as it appears to be, worldwide LGBTQ equality could hit a standstill.