Activists Hope Coloring Books Highlight Russia's War on LGBT Citizens
By Alex J Davidson
If you haven’t heard about Misha & His Moms Go to the Olympics, then you’re about to.
FCKH8.com, a for-profit T-shirt company based in Michigan, plans to mail children in Sochi and Moscow 10,000 copies of Misha & His Moms Go to the Olympics, a coloring book featuring LGBT people and their families, ahead of next year's Winter Olympics in Russia.
“Russia has made it a crime for any pro-gay words to be spoken, and that law is about to be broken,” says Luke Montgomery, founder of FCKH8.com. “The message of this coloring book is to let kids in Russia know that being gay is normal. Beating and imprisoning people just for being out of the closet or arresting them for simply saying that it’s OK if someone in their family is gay,is an attack on human rights and a trashing of the Olympic spirit. We’re going to be breaking this homophobic law, and there’s nothing the government can do to stop it.”
The coloring book effort to highlight Russia’s stance on LGBT rights stems from a law passed earlier this year that imposes fines and possible jail time for any positive discussion of LGBT issues identities in a venue that might be accessible to minors.
Misha & His Moms Go to the Olympics, printed in Russian, tells the story of a Muscovite boy named Misha and his two lesbian mothers going to the Olympics in Sochi. It shows the boy meeting friends from around the world, one with a mother and father, and another who has two legally married dads who are shown exchanging a small kiss with the Olympic flag in the background. The book also portrays Russian police beating a gay couple for holding hands and two straight female Olympic medal winners kissing on the winner’s platform to protest the anti-gay law.
Also included is a page showing a terrified Misha being taken out of his home by police — a depiction inspired by Russian lawmakers’ recent effort to allow authorities the right to take Russian children from gay parents.
Activists inside and outside of Russia are collaborating on the effort to distribute the coloring book. They are using consumer data to identify homes with children and will mail the coloring books in multiple styles of plain wrappers to avoid detection and seizure by authorities. The printing location for the books is being kept secret to avoid disruptions in distribution.
Misha & His Moms Go to the Olympics is also being offered as a free printable PDF to download at FCKH8.com. The company is hoping that putting the book in PDF form makes it more accessible inside Russia, as people on Facebook and Twitter would be able to share it or print it with minimal effort. The company also plans to distribute thousands of wristbands to Olympic spectators that read “GAY OK” in both Russian and English.
LGBT rights activist Montgomery came out in his teens in the early 1990s and subsequently worked with ACT UP and Queer Nation. He also helped plan the 1993 LGBT March on Washington. Montgomery founded FCKH8.com in 2010 after directing a series of viral videos that tackled subjects such as bullying and Proposition 8.
“Being lesbian and gay is normal and OK. Beating and jailing people for being out of the closet or supporting their gay family members is not OK, “ Montgomery says.
Contact reporter Alex Davidson on Twitter at twitter.com/adwildcat.