Statement on collaboration with Russian institutions
UPDATED 09 September 2015. After going back and forth on this ever since the day I posted it some two years ago — and especially after taking to heart the expressed views of activist friends who remain in Russia — I’ve decided that engagement is preferable to isolation.
I think it’s best to leave the original post intact, both for the record (whatever that means) and as a reminder to myself that views and positions can and should evolve. I feel just as strongly as ever, if not more so, that the assaults, the harassment and the organized attacks on Pride parades and other public affirmations of queer identity that are officially tolerated in Russia are disgraceful, and ought not to be countenanced in any society. But then, I think much the same thing about police murders of black people in the US, or the brutal suppression of Tibetan identity by the Chinese government, and I continue to visit and accept paid work in both of those countries.
I’m still not entirely comfortable with my decision, to be frank. But the comment originally left on this post in the fall of 2013 has haunted me ever since, and deciding to visit Russia again will allow me to act upon the suggestion bound up in it. Please, as always, let me know if you have strong feelings about this either way; in the meantime, I’ll keep my fingers crossed that I’m doing right by everyone in Russia that doesn’t enjoy the luxury of choice. Thanks.
Like many people in (what for lack of a better term I’ll call) the contemporary Western urban design space, I’m intrigued by recent developments in Russia, and very much flattered by your invitations to visit, to speak and to collaborate.
Unfortunately, I am not able to accept such invitations at present. Although I myself am not gay, many people I care deeply about do happen to be, and given the present climate of violence and intolerance toward gay and lesbian people in Russia I cannot in good conscience visit the country while such people are not safe in their own homes or persons.
Obviously a decision like mine forecloses the possibility of direct engagement and dialogue, and may have the effect of isolating LGBT activists. I profoundly regret these unlooked-for consequences, as well as the missed opportunity to strengthen the various connections I made on my previous trip to Russia, for which I remain grateful.
As the volume of requests to visit Russia has picked up significantly recently, I figure I might save us all some time and trouble by making this public statement. I apologize for any inconvenience or regret my position may occasion, thank you for your gracious understanding, and look forward to the day I can revisit this decision in the light of a changed climate.