Russian Newscaster Reflects on Coming Out on Live TV
In defiance of Russian president Vladimir Putin and the virulently anti-gay bill a popular TV journalist outted himself on live TV last month.
Anton Krasovsky, 37, made the bold announcement on the KontrTV network, an Internet and cable television network he helped launch and that had full state support. Krasovsky was terminated from his position shortly after coming out.
"It happened in the end of the show," he tells EDGE. "I said: ’I’m gay, and I’m a person just like you, like president Putin.’ Then I added I might have to go and pack my things at work. And indeed it was the case. Still, I felt I needed to do it."
Now on vacation in Portugal with his boyfriend, Krasovsky explains to EDGE how the event unfolded.
"I can’t say I’d been preparing for this," he admits. "But just before the show, i.e. two hours before the fact, I already knew I would do it. We were discussing the law banning this so-called ’gay propaganda’ that our State Duma [the Russian parliament] was going to adopt. I was feeling very awkward then, because I felt I like a hypocrite, and hypocrisy is what I hate the most about people. The meaning of this whole story we are discussing now is that throughout my whole life I’ve been struggling with myself. And this, as you call it, ’coming out’ is just another battle with myself, with my own hypocrisy, my own lies and my own cowardice."
Krasovsky tells how stories concerning Russia’s anti-gay bill he was covering struck closer to home that he expected, particularly one that ran earlier this year about the death of a young gay teen.
"We live in a modern European country, yet we have a law that divides people up into types and categories and says that the basis of the declaration on human rights is a crime. On one side there were the supporters of the law, and on the other, gay men and lesbians," he said. "The supporters were like me - well-groomed, well-fed, blasé, and arrogant. The gay people, on the other hand, brought to mind a row of little sparrows on a frosty Siberian electric wire. And among them was a boy who looked very much like one who was killed. Practically single-handed he attacked the provincial gang of homophobes with the gay-pride flag. And he was trounced. He had his face smashed, and on my program. By a miserable ghoul just like me. A writer, I believe.
"I was in torment for several days," Krasovsky continues. "I would dream about this boy, I would see him at the adjoining table in a café; I would imagine that the bus waiting by my car in a traffic jam was packed with these boys. And in the end I understood that I’d had enough of being afraid, enough of feeling ashamed. I made a decision: It became quite clear to me that I had to stand by this boy, if not against the world, then at least against those overfed scumbags. Together, it wouldn’t be so frightening."
A Rising Tide
Krasovsky’s coming out is one in a growing series of high-profile salvos Russia and Putin are facing in response to the anti-gay statute, officially known as Article 6.21 of the Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Offenses. In a photo that went viral, actress Tilda Swindon bravely unfurled the colors in Red Square in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral. During an April conference in Amsterdam, Putin was greeted by a flock of rainbow flags flying half-mast at several sites on his visit, as well as thousands of protesters standing in solidarity with LGBTQ people.
At the recently concluded World Championships in Athletics in Moscow, American runner Rick Symmonds, a longtime supporter of LGBTQ issues, was one of the first to protest the law. Other athletes soon followed: Swedish high-jumper Emma Green-Tregaro was caught sporting rainbow colors on her fingernails, Finnish Minister of Culture & Sports Paavo Arhinmäki flew the flag directly, and Russian runners Kseniya Ryzhova and Tatyana Firova kissed on the winner’s podium.
Krasovsky admits, however, the immediate aftermath of his own addition to the protest wasn’t as photogenic. "There was a storm of applause from both the audience and the show’s staff," he recalls, "and I rushed to my dressing room and cried for 20 minutes from all the fucking surprise that the whole thing was."
For all the support, the official response was obliteration of Krasovsky’s professional presence. Within minutes, his corporate accounts and email was blocked, his face was removed from the station’s roster, as was his TV shows. By Krosovsky’s own words, it was as if he simply no longer existed, and in record time.
"Now they’ve put everything back, but you couldn’t say why, really," Krasovsky said.
As to the future of Article 6.21, Krasovsky is adamant in his opinion the law will be struck down, but not before Putin leaves the Kremlin. As Russia is set to host several high-profile events, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, the Sochi Olympics in 2014, and the World Cup Soccer tournament in 2018, the chances of open protests, and political embarrassments for the Kremlin, appear inevitable. Laws were proposed in 2004 and 2006, each time setting of a firestorm in the Duma; in response to the 2004 proposal Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov (now a Deputy Speaker of the State Duma and the President of Russia’s Olympic Committee) argued the bill "contradicts article 29 of the Russian Constitution, as well as articles 8, 10, and 14 of the European Convention on human rights."
Regarding his own future, Krasovsky is matter-of-fact ("I’m looking for a job"), but on his newfound notoriety as "the guy who came out on Russian TV," Krasovsky is more circumspect.
"I don’t really see myself as a star or celebrity," he says. "And I’ve never felt that. I live in Russia and couple of years ago, when I was anchor on the huge national TV channel, people recognized me on the street. But nobody came to me in gay clubs or restaurants around the world - and thank God for it."