It’s Not Ok to Be Gay in Sochi

Transgender Ex-Italian MP Vladimir Luxuria says she was detained at the Sochi Winter Olympics for waving a rainbow colored banner with the words ‘It’s Ok to be Gay’ in Russian.

Vladimir “Vladi” Luxuria is never one to go unnoticed. The 48-year-old transgender, who prefers to be referred to in female terms, was the first openly-gay member of any parliament in Europe when she was elected in 2006. She was also the first European to be arrested during the Sochi Winter Olympic games for demonstrating about gay rights. Luxuria says she was detained on Sunday night by two plain clothed officers in the Olympic park where she was waving a rainbow colored banner with the words “It’s Ok to be Gay” in Russian. She was questioned for several hours and released, according to Italy’s Foreign Ministry which activated its crisis control unit to keep an eye on the situation. “I couldn’t understand what was going on because they were talking in Russian and no one translated for me,” she said in a televised interview wearing an “I ‘heart’ trans” t-shirt.

Several Western news outlets reported that after her release Luxuria, who says she was treated with respect and not manhandled during her detention, held an impromptu press conference in an all-night pop-up gay cabaret constructed in Sochi for the Olympics. “I think it is important to take the opportunity to talk internationally about these things because otherwise these things happen in Russia and nobody knows, nobody cares,” she apparently said at the cabaret. “They think, well, it’s not our country, it’s far away in Russia, who cares?”

She says she came to Sochi to protest because a “certain man named Vladimir is homophobic” and her intent was to spread peace and underscore the importance of human rights. The Olympic authorities told Italian news service ANSA that they had no record of Luxuria’s arrest. “We've talked to police and they have told us there is no record whatsoever to any detention or arrest,” Alexandra Kosterina told ANSA, adding that it was common practice for minor incidents to go unrecorded. Writing on her personal website, Luxuria says she intends to go back to the police who detained her to retrieve her flag.

On Monday night, Luxuria intended to attend an ice hockey match in Olympic Stadium. “I don’t intend to go unnoticed,” she told Reuters reporters in Russia. “If they won’t let me wave a flag with ‘It’s Ok to be Gay’ written on it, I will just shout it. I know how to say it in Russian.”