My family is thinking of traveling to St. Petersburg and Moscow this summer. We are a two-dad family with white gay male dads and two daughters, one African American and one Native American. Any opinions on whether we will be safe? Comfortable? Any thoughts welcome. Thanks.
This is just my response based on general knowledge, not personal experience.
Yes, Russia is not as welcome as many countries regarding same sex relationships (Maybe that is understated). I would be careful about open displays of affection, or assess any actions that may cause similar issues. Not fair, not right, but reality.
Anyone traveling with minors, outside of a male/female couple with same name passports and same name passports for the kids, should carry some legal documentation showing guardianship rights for those children. Even a Dad traveling with a minor Daughter or Son should have something.
If the Daughters are closer to teenagers than toddlers, it only reinforces the need for documentation.
This may help also from the USA State Department
Those amazing destinations on my "bucket list", too. I have traveled a fair amount and my husband and I (I'm female) are Caucasian, still Russia is one of those destinations that I'm a little tentative about for myself. I think I'd be even more concerned if my family structure was more like yours. If you decide that these are places you'd really like to travel too, I'm wondering if you might be more comfortable and safer with some kind of cruise or tour group. A cruise/tour provides you safety in numbers and they would have the knowledge and experience to help to ensure a safe trip. And, I agree that you would really want to ensure that your documentation is in order. I would also make copies of the documentation and bring a paper and digital copy.
Thanks so much "Jazz," Jules and Paul. I really appreciate your input.
I have visited both Moscow and St Petersburg independently , on several trips in the last three years , and while I have followed the information about anti gay and other anti minority sentiment , I found no daily evidence of that . After all , there is no overt characteristic to assess one's sexual orientation on a momentary basis . In addition , the areas which you are likely to visit , are peopled by visitors from many different parts of the world . I found these places no different than any other large European city .
Its gotten a whole lot better: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Russia
But I would suppose there are two questions. First, will you be discriminated against and second, even if you can hide your identity, do you really want to be around people you have to hide it from. How will they know? Everyone who sees me with my significant other knows my orientation; cause I modestly, but freely, express it with my significant other. I would refuse to go to a place where I had to hide it. My significant other and I are also interracial and I don't quite know how to hide that?? Makeup? For my "holiday" i would think one would prefer a place where one didn't have to look over one's shoulder in fear that someone "might know".
I can't speak to how you would be treated, but I would be afraid of the effect on your daughters if there were an "incident". I know you may have experienced that in the U.S. but it might be scarier if it happened in Russia. A vacation should be fun and relaxing and memorable in a good way and there are plenty of other places to visit that should be more tolerant than Russia is reputed to be.
I would agree with Jules that for you a cruise or a tour would be the best option. While it gives you the chance to see the country, it also ensures your safety, and the guides will look after you. Most of them are experienced in dealing with all kinds of people, so if you go with a tour, the locals will most likely pay no attention to your family. Still, I would probably not suggest expressing too much affection in public...
I have a few friends (also same sex couples) who went to Russia with a cruise and took a private tour in St Petersburg. They loved it and didn't have any trouble whatsoever.
Agree with posters who suggest taking a tour. It will be safe and comfortable, just as you want. Also, on a tour you are mostly at places where there are more tourists than locals. I heard Russia is not that intolerant nowadays though.
The other reason I think a tour would be a good idea is for the kids. They will learn a lot, and I'm sure it will be an interesting experience for all of you.
Good luck with your planning!
James, every time one posts a link to a Wikipedia article, Encyclopedia Brittanica weeps, and a Russian troll somewhere gets his wings. For the record, this is the second time you post that link in this very conversation.
OP: if Wikipedia, state department travel advisories, and media articles are where you prefer to get your information from - that's totally OK, and people have provided a fair share of those in this thread.
If you prefer info from real people with relevant background and actual experience on the ground - why not send a quick message to someone like happyfrogtravels (https://happyfrogtravels.com/gay-russia-quite-pink-surprise/) - the guy is fabulous and usually responds within days.
Alternatively, I could give you contacts of a half a dozen queer acquaintances of mine who have been to Russia over the past 3 years or so, as well as some Russian LGBT friends (some are what people usually call "activists", others - not so much) who actually live there. I talked to a couple of them when this topic was first posted - and they said, time and schedule permitting, they'd be happy to answer any questions and/or show the OP's family around.
You've received some good and diverse advice so far.
I'd like to suggest a slightly different approach to figuring this out, though.
How safe and comfortable are you at home? I'm not sure where you live, but I imagine there are parts of the USA where you might not feel safe or comfortable.
Before you decide on whether and how to make this trip, consider what degree of risk or discomfort would be acceptable to you. Are you and your husband/partner okay with never holding hands in public? Would you be willing to create a false narrative about your relationship at hotels, maybe sleeping in separate beds? Obviously you don't want to put your children in harm's way, but since there's a degree of danger in all things, from driving in a car to sending them off to school, everything is a calculated risk.
I'm not suggesting any particular answer to your question. I haven't been to Russia yet. I'm just suggesting that safety and comfort are relative, and once you get good and useful information about attitudes and laws in Russia and how they might affect you, take that into account before making a decision on how to proceed.
Here are some current articles. But to be fair, St. Petersburg exists on tourism, so I would suspect of any place in the USSR, it would be the safest. Just good fun like this sort of thing
But none of this in St. Pete.
Thank you, - what an impressive flurry of links.
I'm not sure if we the audience are expected to react to individual pieces or simply stand in awe of the sheer number of them.
I almost finished a lengthy post about the issue of selecting and assessing sources of information, the background of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, VoA, unian, and other propaganda outlets (propaganda in the good sense of the word, of course), and the fact that not a single statement that may qualify as independent analysis in the above post seems to hold true - but then I took two deep breaths and deleted it all :-)
Like I said, should the OP come back to this thread and look for first-hand information, I'll be happy to provide contacts.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Lane, pretty logical and well thought out. I don't make suggestions on subjects that are as subjective as this is; because as you illustrate, its a personal choice of risk assessment and personal ethics. What is the threshold of "dangerous", what is the personal value of the trip to weigh against any risk (real or perceived), what are my personal ethics vs how I will present myself and will I be supporting or enabling or legitimizing something I disagree with? Only you can answer those questions for yourself and you should be able to do it without receiving criticism.
The only problem is I see people talking in an empty room. oginther, the creater of this thread hasn't been back for over a month so appears to have gone elsewhere....
Nigel; has that ever stopped anyone?? ;-)
No. Folks aren't talking to an empty room. After a month of quiet, there has been a lot of activity in the past few days and I haven't had time to respond. I appreciate everyone's insight and advice. Thank you. We have decided not to visit Russia this summer -- Italy and The Netherlands instead. We travel a lot and have overwhelmingly positive or neutral interactions with people. It's not really a question of hiding our being gay. My husband and I don't have to be openly affectionate with each other but we can't hide our unusual grouping -- two older white men with two young girls of color who call us Daddy and Papa. We won't put them in the position of having to hide our relationship but we do have conversations about how people might perceive us and react to us. Sadly our deepest concern so far was in taking a cross country trip last summer in the US -- our own country. We decided to take that trip anyway because it was important (to experience the vastness and riches of the US; to visit the reservations where my older daughter's birth family are from, etc.), but given the recent increase in racialized and homophobic violence, there were times when we were on high alert. We had friends who thought we were nuts to venture into certain parts of the United States. We had a great trip, by the way, with only a couple scary stares to contend with during our 6 weeks on the road. I submitted my question to this forum about travel to Russia because I had read so much about legal actions and violence against LGBTQ people there -- more than other countries we've considered visiting except for some in Africa. We ultimately decided not to take the chance of exposing the girls to that kind of trauma, especially in a foreign country. As a couple people in this forum suggested, we weighed our desire to visit Russia against the potential for trauma to our kids. While, as American tourists, we probably would have been fine, as Cala noted in her comment in October, with so many great places to travel, why take the chance of an incident occurring in a country like Russia where so many people appear to have a strong bias against LGBTQ people and their appears to be little respect for the rule of law. Thanks again everyone for your kind comments, tips and advice. I really appreciate it.
oginther, kudos to you and I hope you and your family have a great trip. Lucky girls to have two great dads!
oginther, if it had been just you and your partner I could have seen some real beauty in going. You know most people like those you describe function mostly out of ignorance and the only way to defeat that is education, and what better education than example. I've seen some wonderful examples of that in my community and work place.
oginther, it seems a very appropriate time for this: thank you for being an inspiration.
Happy holidays and happy travels!