The level of hostility towards gay people in Russia right now is eye-watering, writes Liz MacKean on the eve of the Sochi Winter Olympics. Crawling through the morning traffic in St Petersburg, I was greeted with a surprising sight in the car alongside: a young man was staring intently at images of naked women in a magazine propped up on his steering wheel. In other words, the only acceptable public comments are bound to be negative. And the level of hostility towards gay people is eye-watering.
Murder, ‘gay-hunters’ strike terror in Russia's LGBT community
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But it was only when the pair came home, entered the flat, and two assailants jumped out from behind the curtains that he started to realise how badly wrong things had gone. The men announced to Sergei that his date was, in fact, a minor — even though his profile and appearance suggested he was at least Sergei was lucky that a year army career meant he could stand up to the men physically. After an hour, he managed to persuade them to go outside so he could try to get money from a cashpoint. From there, he ran.
Putin 'turns a blind eye' to gay-hunting vigilantes, activists say
Although same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults in private was decriminalized in ,  homosexuality is disapproved of by most Russians, and same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples are ineligible for the legal protections available to opposite-sex couples. There are currently no separate laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in Russia. Transgender people are allowed to change their legal gender following sex reassignment surgery ; however, there are currently no laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or expression, and recent laws could discriminate against transgender residents. Homosexuality has been declassified as a mental illness since , and although gay and lesbian individuals are legally allowed to serve openly in the military, there is a de facto " Don't ask, don't tell " policy.