With the upcoming release of his new album "The Diving Board" on Sept. 24 and having played his first festival in 43 years, Elton John has opened up in an exclusive interview with The Guardian about his decision to not cancel a performance in Moscow planned for this upcoming December.
John made his decision despite the violently homophobic climate pervading Russia and the safety threats to openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals in the country, both citizens and foreigners.
I’ve got to go. And I’ve got to think about what I’m going to say very carefully. There’s two avenues of thought: do you stop everyone going, ban all the artists coming in from Russia? But then you’re really leaving the men and women who are gay and suffering under the anti-gay laws in an isolated situation.
As a gay man, I can’t leave those people on their own without going over there and supporting them. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ve got to go.
Having married his longtime partner David Furnish in 2005 in one of Britain's first same-sex wedding ceremonies, John remains one of the longest-standing openly LGBT performers within the music industry. He is also an outspoken AIDS activist, and the author of Love Is the Cure: On Life, Loss, and the End of AIDS.
Over the past several months, Russia has experienced international backlash for its blatantly homophobic legislation, including a controversial "gay propaganda law" and a proposed bill that would take away the children of LGBT parents. The institutionalized homophobic climate has inspired citizens to become anti-gay vigilantes, with LGBT people experiencing violent attacks in broad daylight and one woman even claiming that she is "on safari" hunting gays.
With the approaching 2014 Sochi Olympics complicating international sentiment surrounding the issue of Russia's anti-gay culture of fear and violence, prominent Western members of the LGBT community and allies remain divided on the best course of action. Olympic skater Johnny Weir has stated that he is willing to be arrested in Russia and is adamantly opposed to a boycott of the Olympics, while Cher has turned down an opportunity to perform in the former Soviet Union.
Additionally, pop superstars Lady Gaga and Madonna have both been threatened with legal action if the performers ever return to the country.
What do you think about John's decision to not cancel his performance in Moscow?
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"The human rights stuff that's going on, there's a potential for it to be an incredibly negatively-overshadowed Olympics," the two-time gold medal winning snowboarder told the Associated Press. Of his gay friends in snowboarding, he noted, "They're wonderful human beings, and I think for them to be discriminated against is a crime." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/12/seth-wescott-russia-gay-law-_n_3913225.html" target="_blank">Read the full story here</a>.
The Material Girl sparked controversy when she spoke out in defense of Russia's LGBT community during a St. Petersburg stop on her MDNA World Tour last year. Performing in black lingerie with the words "No Fear" scrawled on her bare back, Madonna urged the audience -- most wearing pink wrist bands distributed at the door -- to "show your love and appreciation to the gay community." "We want to fight for the right to be free," she said at the time, Reuters reported. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/09/madonna-st-petersburg-russia-gay-rights_n_1762135.html" target="_blank">Click here for the full story</a>.
The U.S. figure skater (pictured on left, with husband Victor Voronov) has spoken out against a planned boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, warning that those hurt most would be the athletes who have "dedicated their lives to possibly having their lone life-changing moment." "The Olympics are not a political statement, they are a place to let the world shine in peace and let them marvel at their youthful talents," he wrote. "I respect the LGBT community full heartedly, but I implore the world not to boycott the Olympic Games because of Russia’s stance on LGBT rights or lack thereof." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/26/johnny-weir-russia-olympics-boycott-_n_3659423.html" target="_blank">Click here for the full story</a>.
"The Russian government is criminal," the Mother Monster tweeted in August. "Oppression will be met with revolution. Russian LGBTs you are not alone. We will fight for your freedom." She also noted: "Sending bravery to LGBTs in Russia. The rise in government abuse is archaic. Hosing teenagers with pepper spray? Beatings? Mother Russia?" <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/05/lady-gaga-russia-lgbt_n_3708608.html" target="_blank">Click here for the full story</a>.
In spite of Russia's anti-gay legislation, the Rocket Man has vowed not to cancel his forthcoming Moscow performance. "As a gay man, I can’t leave those people on their own without going over there and supporting them," he said. "I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ve got to go." Read the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/17/elton-john-russia-gay-law-_n_3942870.html" target="_blank">full story here</a>.
The legendary singer-actress said she turned down the chance to perform at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi because of Russia's anti-gay law. "I can’t name names but my friend called who is a big oligarch over there, and asked me if I’d like to be an ambassador for the Olympics and open the show," Cher told Maclean's writer Elio Iannacci. "I immediately said no. I want to know why all of this gay hate just exploded over there." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/13/cher-sochi-olympics-russia_n_3921419.html" target="_blank">Click here for the full story</a>.
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After winning a silver medal at the World Track & Field Championships in Moscow on Aug. 13, the American middle distance runner openly dedicated the victory to his gay and lesbian friends in his home country. The act reportedly makes Symmonds the first athlete to critique and oppose Russia's anti-gay legislation while in Russia. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/14/nick-symmonds-gays-russia_n_3755462.html" target="_blank">Click here for the full story</a>.
The Olympic diving champion rejected the possibility of a boycott against the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia in a Policymic editorial. "Boycotting sends the wrong message and will only harm the hard-working athletes set to compete in the 2014 Olympics, not the Russian government itself," he wrote. "I know from personal experience. My first Olympics I won Silver at age 16, and then in 1980, at the height of my diving career, President Jimmy Carter opted to boycott the 1980 Olympics in Moscow as a method of protesting the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan. The toll on fellow athletes and me was devastating." <a href="http://www.policymic.com/articles/58481/i-m-an-openly-gay-gold-medalist-and-i-reject-the-sochi-olympics-boycott" target="_blank">Click here for the full story</a>.