At a banquet in Portland on Friday night, I had the pleasure of being seated next Dmitri Bartenev, of Moscow Gay Pride, which bravely attempted to stage its first-ever Pride march earlier this year, despite the parade having been banned by Moscow's mayor. The marchers proceeded anyway, attempting to lay a wreath of flowers at Russia's Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier. Russia's religious leaders had called for violence against the marchers, who were attacked along the route by skinheads, resulting in many injuries. Police arrested 50-100 of the marchers for violating the mayor's edict banning gay people from gathering in public.
At a meeting before our banquet, when Bartenev introduced himself to a room of 200 gay activists, the entire group lept to their feet with a sustained and tearful ovation. Bartenev is a lawyer and works in Russia to advance the causes of people with mental disabilities, including gay people who have been charged with being mentally unfit due to their homosexuality. He recently won a landmark case in St.Petersburg, defending a soldier who'd been discharged as mentally ill because he was gay.
As you can see by the picture, Bartenev was a little apprehensive to try the "giant bug" on his plate, but I was glad to give him instructions on how to eat his first lobster, and proud just to sit next him. Dmitri Bartenev, gay hero.