Masha Best, the Russian lawyer who came out last week as both transgender and bisexual in protest of Russia's anti-gay legislation, announced her campaign for presidency in Russia's 2018 elections on Monday.
According to the press release announcing her campaign, Best intends to reduce the term of presidency from six to four years and the permitted number of terms possible for a president to serve to two total (currently a president can serve for only two successive terms but otherwise there are no restrictions on the total number of terms). She also seeks to develop Russia into a European Socialist State, reportedly planning to:
...transition [Russia] from a consumer society to society of creation... only people may choose the way of development... [will Russia go] the way of collapse... the path of inter-ethnic, inter-religious wars and conflicts, civil war, or it will be the way of unity around reason, goodness, beauty, progress, science, creating a state of unlimited possibilities for human[s] free... not in need of shelter and food, and creating [Russia's] free future.
Russia has come under fire from the international community over the past several months for not only passing anti-gay discrimination into law, but enabling a culture of fear and violence for LGBT citizens and foreigners. Earlier this summer, Russia's anti-gay "propaganda" law caught the attention of international media outlets when officials claimed that the legislation would affect attendees and athletes at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. The ramifications of this anti-gay "propaganda" law on the Olympic Games still remain unclear. Russian politicians are also now pushing to pass a law that would remove children from the care of their LGBT parents.
Additionally, Russia's institutionalized homophobia has perpetrated a climate of anti-gay sentiment that has inspired vigilantes to engage in public acts of violence, private torture and even inspired one extremist to claim that she is on safari "hunting gays" while wielding an assault rifle.
Western LGBT figures and allies have, as a result, been forced to take a stand on whether or not to perform or travel within Russia's borders. Some American performers are not even able to receive visas to enter the country, forcing them to cancel scheduled appearances. Others have received explicit threats from top Russian politicians in response to previous performances within the former Soviet Union.
If elected, Best would reportedly become not only the first openly LGBT individual to hold the Russian office of presidency, but also the first woman.
The full press release announcing Best's campaign can be viewed here.
A photograph of the Academy Award-winning actress defending Russia's beleaguered lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community by holding a rainbow flag in front of Moscow's Kremlin was released with the following statement via her spokesperson: "In solidarity. From Russia with love." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/05/tilda-swinton-rainbow-flag-russia-_n_3550360.html" target="_blank">Read the full story here</a>.
"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>.
The New Zealand speed skater, who is openly gay, told HuffPost Live's Josh Zepps that a boycott would hurt the athletes themselves more than Russia. "I don't support a boycott at all," he said. "I believe the greatest way to bring about change is to have a presence. Being present in Sochi is going to be greater for the cause than not being there at all." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/01/blake-skjellerup-russia_n_3689573.html" target="_blank">Click here for the full story</a>.
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>.