Inside Mykki Blanco's Trip to Russia
As our diplomatic relationship with Russia continues to get colder and colder, it is easy to forget that it is still home to one of the largest populations on the planet, full of people that are as diverse and multifaceted as the nation’s long and fabled history. Despite the fact that under the rule of Putin the country has laws on the books attempting to stifle the ever growing LGBT community’s voice and very presence, it hasn’t done the least to affect a visit to the country by Mykki Blanco, the very talented NYC rapper and a quickly established queer icon of today’s culture.
This recent trip was in fact the fifth time that Blanco had visited Mother Russia, but this visit was slightly marred by a police raid of the club they were set to perform in, Solyanka, resulting in a last minute venue change and the arrest of dozens of Russian citizens. Whether or not Solyanka was shut down specifically over Blanco’s performance is up for debate; rumors of a Moscow city council debacle are as valid as the protests of the venue by God’s Will, a right-wing group who have been actively trying to shut the club down in lieu of their continued association with the queer community.
Yet for all of the strife and tumult that surrounded the show and the expectations placed around the Russian political climate, Blanco has spread nothing but love and gratitude for the time they spent there. Taking to their Facebook, they spoke not of any antagonism they faced but of “underground Russian gay clubs packed with muscle bound men” and “seeing 6’3” Glam Queens perform in thigh high boots and polyester wrap dresses like a Pre-Aids New York I never experienced.”
This is not to invalidate the harsh times that queer identifying Russian citizens are facing in the 21st century. Blanco addressed a trend that has become disturbingly commonplace: the activity of secret police raiding, the closing of venue Solyanka being one of many examples. “I think about talking, flirting on gay social apps and sites like Grindr and Planet Romeo, exchanging pictures but being too afraid to actually meet given the horror stories of false profiles being used to lure gays into traps where they are humiliated.”
Does this make Blanco’s visit a ‘brave’ one? Not in their mind. Blanco, who identifies as a cis-male, questioned what their experience would have been like as a transgendered individual. “If I wasn’t able to shed the skin of that reality would I actually be safe there at all? Would it be ‘brave’ or merely ‘foolish’ for me to think I would not be harassed?’ But Blanco has no regrets, only love and affection. “Russia is more to me than Moscow and I feel for Moscow because of how misunderstood that city is…maybe I love Russia so much because I can relate to its ‘outsider status’”. Perhaps Comrade Putin may find a lesson to learn in the teachings of Mykki.
Images via Mykki Blanco’s Twitter