Carol Hills: Finally today another Russia-related story. This one is about a Russian-themed float at this weekend's Gay Pride Parade in New York City. Actually, make that the Parade's first-ever float dedicated to the former Soviet Union. The man behind the project is Pasha Zalutski. He's 31 and a native of the former Soviet Republic of Belarus. Pasha, how are you feeling today? Big decisions at the Supreme Court. What do you think?
Pasha Zalutski: I'm super excited. It made my day. I called all my friends. We're so happy. Hopefully I'll go to Stonewall today and celebrate with the crowd. It's really a big day. Today they announce this, on Friday I get my citizenship, on Saturday we have our rent party, on Sunday we have our first Russian float. I think it's the best week I've ever had in my life.
Hills: Wow. That's a big week. It's a really interesting contrast with that bill just passed in Russia's upper house of parliament a few weeks ago. You know, over there they just passed a law that bans the distribution of what it calls "gay propaganda" to minors. What's that all about?
Zalutski: First of all, I want to comment on your introduction, "man behind the project." I'm not the man behind the project. We have the whole Russian community behind the project. And as far as the law on gay propaganda is concerned, I hate it. It's an awful law, and I think if you're a human being supporting GLBT rights, no matter where you are, in Russia or in the United States, you can't just help feel but disgusted with the law.
Hills: Tell us about the float that you're helping to design that's going to be in Sunday's parade.
Zalutski: The float is Russian-themed, we're having banners on the float that read messages of love. One of our messages is "From Russia With Love. Leave Hate Behind." The other message that we have is, we did a paraphrase of the famous Soviet phrase, "Lenin lived, Lenin lives, Lenin will live," so we wrote, "Russian gays were, Russian gays are, Russian gays will be." So it really kind of communicates to you that we are celebrating on a level which is very touching, very symbolic, and very important.
Hills: And when you say we, I know you spend a lot of time kind of trying to keep in touch with other people from the former East bloc who are also in the US or in New York City. How is being gay different in New York City compared to Minsk? You're from Minsk in the former Soviet Republic of Belarus.
Zalutski: You know, it's a tremendous difference. When I am in Belarus, I immediately feel like something physical takes over me. I start feeling tension in my body when I'm in public. You just can't help feeling that, you know. Maybe somebody doesn't, you know, but it happens to me. When I'm in New York City, that all kind of floats away. I just feel that I have the permission to walk the way I walk, to talk the way I talk. I'm pretty flamboyant now, when I walk into the room you immediately know I'm gay. And I feel like I have permission for all of that here.
Hills: So is there a specific message you want to say with your float?
Zalutski: You know, message, it all sounds so political. We first of all want to create an opportunity for those of us who are here, and for those who are wherever else they might be in the world, including Russia, that opportunity to come onto a float and unashamedly, openly, celebrate your Russianness and your gayness. So I guess that's the message we want to send out, that there is this great opportunity there.
Hills: Pasha, thank you so much.
Zalutski: Thank you so much, Carol.
Hills: And we go out with "Born to Be Free by Sonique, one of the songs that will be playing on that Russian-themed float on Sunday in New York's Gay Pride Parade. From the Nan and Bill Harris Studios at WBGH in Boston, I'm Carol Hills. Thanks for listening.
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