Discussing Queer in Russia

19511463_1623312221025995_2876719614859169452_nThe first proud pages meeting in our new venue of Waterstones Café was a small, select group. There were only six of us this month but that did include one new member.  The book we were discussing was “Queer in Russia” by Laurie Essig.  Only two members of the group managed to finish the book, I made it just over halfway.  Some people on Facebook said they didn’t attend this meeting because think they could contribute as they hadn’t completed it.

To put the book into context it was published in 1999, although the research and anecdotes don’t seem to go beyond 1994.  While it was interesting to read about the history up to this point, there was an obvious missing piece of the story in terms of what has happened in the last 26 years in Russia. Tonight’s discussion focused on; labelling identities and sexualities, the arrogance of the people from the West acting like missionaries and imposing their view on what it means to be LGBT+,  how different communities within Russia view homosexuals and they view themselves.  Some of the questions asked included; how did a country like Russia get to be so intolerant when other non-western countries are so accepting? and why were transsexuals accepted more than gam men and lesbians

There was also a lot of discussion about how the book was written.  There was a general feeling that it was a PhD thesis converted into a book with minimal editing/updating.  There was frustrations over the structure of the book and how the narrative of some chapters didn’t seem to flow that well.  While it was felt that the book came across as a series of anecdotes, some felt this gave the book a more human/relatable quality.  Some took issue with the ethicacy and validity of her research methods, such a disguising herself as a man in order to observe cruising behaviour in men’s toilets.

Between us our average score out of ten for the book was 5.2 (scores ranged from 3 to 7).  There were a few caveats to this though:

–          Only 2 people completed the book

–          Of the six of us, one hadn’t read the book at all, so the average for the other five.

–          One person had just finished another book on the same subject which influenced their vote.

There was a plea to say in this blog post that if you want to read a book on this subject you should read “Cracks in the Iron Closet” instead.

Next two books chosen

good as youThe next two books have been chosen and they are “Goodgender As You: From Prejudice to Pride – 30 Years of Gay Britain” by Paul Flynn which we will be discussing at our July meeting and “The Gender Games” by Juno Dawson which we will be discussing in August.

You can meet Paul Flynn, author of Good As You on 19th July at the new bridge project on 19th July http://www.northern-pride.com/event/meettheauthor

Changes to voting and venue

it’s voting time again for proud pages books, but this time there will be some changes:

  • You will have twelve books to choose from
  • Half the books on this list have been on the lists for previous months, half are new suggestions
  •  You can select all books you are interested in
  • The results will determine the books for the next two months
  • You can suggest future books and/or authors


Please use the following link to vote https://goo.gl/forms/PPf7bSXbhmz2VpZM2

Next meeting

The venue and times have changed for the proud pages meetings.  We will now be meeting at 6:30 in Waterstones Café in Newcastle City Centre (Emerson Chambers, Blackett St, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7JF. The next meeting will be next Thursday, 29th June, where we will be discussing Queer in Russia: A Story of Sex, Self, and the Other by Laurie Essig.