Tell Russia’s Leading Social Network to Display Same-Sex Relationships

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Target: VKontake

Goal: Allow LGBTQ users of the social network to indicate on their profile that they are in a same-sex relationship

As social networks become more and more integrated into our everyday lives, the freedom with which we’re able to express ourselves online becomes all the more essential. While Facebook allows members of the queer community to indicate their sexuality if they choose to do so, not all social networks are so accepting. VKontake, the largest social network in Russia, explicitly prohibits users from indicating that they are in same-sex relationships–even after gay activists expressed disdain at the network’s discriminatory profile options.

Gay VKontake users have contacted the company asking for the ability to display their same-sex relationships on their profile. Instead of taking their concerns into account, representatives from the company responded only with contempt and sarcasm. One male user who wanted to select the “I have a boyfriend” option on his VKontake profile was told by a company rep that he could always change his profile’s gender. The flippant response from the company and the continued refusal to represent same-sex relationships on the network indicate a strong anti-gay sentiment from VKontake–one that is unfortunately all too common in Russia, where gays and lesbians struggle to avoid violence and to make their voices heard.

By refusing to allow queer users to indicate their relationship statuses online, VKontake is promoting the idea that same-sex relationships are invalid and LGBTQ individuals worthy of hate. Tell the company to rethink its backwards stance and begin cultivating an atmosphere of acceptance instead.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear VKontake,

Every day, gay and lesbian Russians face chronic hostility from the larger population. While homosexuality is no longer legally a crime, violence and contempt still run rampant against LGBTQ individuals, who are frequently attacked simply for openly expressing their sexual orientation.

While a social network profile is only an online representation of one’s identity, the ability to openly express one’s sexuality through social media is crucial to improving visibility of gay and lesbian Russians. By forbidding VKontake users from declaring that they are in same-sex relationships, the network implicitly justifies the widespread hostility against the LGBTQ community and erases queer voices from the map.

VKontake has the opportunity to reduce violence against Russia’s queer citizens by normalizing their identities and allowing them to visibly express their sexuality online. Anti-gay hostility is never justified and should not be encouraged by Russia’s most popular social network. I ask that you reconsider your policies on displaying same-sex relationships immediately.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

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