Remember the Russian ban on transsexual driving? The story was all over the LGBT blogosphere a few weeks ago.
Something called Towleroad reported, “The Russian government continues its steady persecution of LGBT citizens as Russian transgender people no longer qualify for driver’s licenses in the country under a new set of revisions to medical controls for drivers.”
Towleroad goes on to charge the new rules include driving prohibitions of “gender identity disorders” including transexualism and dual-role transvestitism.”
The Huffington Post chimed in, quoting Shaun Gaylord of Human Rights First, “Banning people from driving based on their gender identity or expression is ridiculous and just another example of the Russian regime’s methodical rollback of basic human rights for its citizens.”
But it wasn’t just the breathless LGBT advocates, the story went mainstream and global. The BBC reported, “Russia has listed transsexual and transgender people among those who will no longer qualify for driving licences. Fetishism, exhibitionism and voyeurism are also included as “mental disorders” now “barring people from driving.”
The National Post in Canada reported, “In a bizarre amendment to a law published this week, transsexualism and transvestism were named as health conditions that could be dangerous to drivers.”
Do a web search on Russian transsexual driving ban and you’ll get millions of hits.
This kind of story fits perfectly into a couple of narratives, the Russians are mean to gays narrative, and the larger Russians are stupid and evil narrative.
Primarily it is the LGBT narrative, though, that Russia is the worst place in the world for LGBTs to live, and that Putin is about to march them all to the gulag. No matter that there are LGBT characters on Russian TV, LGBT commentators on Russian news, two gay beaches in St. Petersburg, dozens of open gay bars in Moscow, and openly cavorting gay men within a stone’s throw of Red Square.
But the thing is, none of this trans driving ban is true. The press has dutifully reported Russian denials, but you can smell the skepticism in the reporting. But now an impeccable source says that none of it is true.
Anastasia Smirnova works for the powerful International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association-Europe. She used to work for their branch in Moscow. She says, “On 6 January the Russian government issued a decree that approved a list of medical conditions and diagnoses leading to full or partial limitation of the right to drive a vehicle. Trans people have not been purposefully targeted by the decree.”
Jay Michaelson of The Daily Beast writes, “In fact, the decree – Decree #1604, issued December 29, 2014 – included a list of diagnoses that may become grounds for revocation of a driving license. And that decree simply included a laundry list of diagnoses from the new ICD-10, the World Health Organization’s revised classification list for mental and physical diseases and disorders.”
The disorders included:
F00-F09: Mental disorders due to known physiological conditions
F20-29: Schizophrenia, schizotypal, delusional, and other non-mood psychotic disorders
F30-39: Mood [affective] disorders
F40-48: Anxiety, dissociative, stress-related, somatoform and other nonpsychotic mental disorders
F60-69: Disorders of adult personality and behavior
F70-79: Intellectual disabilities
Michaelson went so far as to say that a ban for such disorders makes sense.
The gay blogs and even the mainstream press are over-eager to report whatever silly rumor comes out of Russia and often from the over-active imaginations of LGBT activists. Last year the New York Times allowed an op-ed that said Vladimir Putin had made homosexuality illegal.
This narrative is playing itself out once again with the news that “scores” of Russian gays are seeking asylum in the United States because of the new Russian law banning propagandizing children with non-traditional sexual relationships. This story started with David Crary of the Associated Press. Crary, however, was only able to report that “Immigration Equality” had gotten 162 enquiries from Russian gays in all of last year. He reported this was a drastic increase from the year before, a drastic increase of less than 40 from the previous year.
Crary said it was “scores” of them, technically true since a score is 20, but most people think “scores” is immense which was clearly the intent.
The headline in the National Post of Canada said it was “droves”. One hundred sixty-two may technically add up to “scores” but does it really add up to “droves?” It certainly adds up to hysteria.
The other narrative this feeds into is the tendency of Americans of all political persuasions to believe whatever bad thing the press tells us about Russia. My conservative friends do not believe a word published in the New York Times except when it’s about Russia and then they believe it all.
Hey, did you hear that gays in Russia are not allowed to watch television between 8-10, during the family hour? It’s true. I read it at towleroad.com.
Austin Ruse is president of C-Fam (Center for Family & Human Rights), a research institute in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations. He is also a columnist for Crisis Magazine.