Stop what you’re doing, because we need to talk about this man:
Who is that beautiful, blushing, winking platinum-haired specimen of an animated man? That, my friends, is Victor Nikiforov (aka Viktor Nikiforov aka Victor Niliforv aka Vitya aka Ice Daddy). Victor Nikiforov is a Figure Skating Legend™, Extra as Fuck, Probably Depressed and Hella Gay. These are the foundational aspects of his character in the groundbreaking (heartbreaking) 2016 anime series Yuri!!! On Ice. Feast your eyes:
Victor Nikiforov is one half of one of the most important gay couples to ever grace my laptop screen, and probably yours too. You’re welcome. Ever since I saw the first episode of Yuri!!! On Ice, I immediately related to Victor’s other half, Katsuki Yuri. I have a lot more to say about Yuri, if I’m being honest. But I don’t want to talk about Yuri right now, I want to talk about Victor.
Those of us in the Yuri!!! On Ice fandom absolutely need to be talking about Victor.
Those of us who want to see equal protection and rights under the law for sexually/gendered non-normative people need to be talking about Victor.
We need to be talking about Victor Nikiforov, not because he is fly as fuck and could out-jump Patrick Chan, not because he is the kind of Extra where he would literally drop $50 on lip balm or $3,000 on a pair of shades just because he could, not because he is definitely shit at dealing with other peoples’ anxiety like most people without anxiety but tries anyway because he’s fucking in love. We need to talk about Victor Nikiforov because he is gay and he is Russian.
And right now, in Chechnya (which is part of Russia), that is a death sentence.
Mitsuro Kubo and Sayo Yamamoto, the two beautiful geniuses behind Yuri!!! On Ice, made a conscientious decision to create a world in which homophobia doesn’t exist. Because of this, in this world, Victor is allowed to follow his crush halfway across the world, flirt with him so outlandishly that you will probably cry QUEERBAIT if you’ve never been spoiled on the series for the first half of season one, listen to his crush declare his love for him on live national television, kiss his crush-turned-boyfriend on live international television, get engaged at a cathedral in Barcelona with a choir singing in the background, and perform a similar pair ice dance with his fiancé in the exhibition skate at the Grand Prix Final.
The story of Yuri!!! On Ice would not, could not, exist in a world with homophobia. I read fanfiction sometimes (aka I read a lot of fanfiction for this series), and some of the best stories I’ve come across have been subtle retellings of the plot of Yuri!!! On Ice, only plus haters. When I started reading these stories back in December/January, I appreciated them and was thankful that YOI is how it is: joyous and full of life and love. These stories, where our characters that we know and love, who only want to be together and canonically can’t live without each other, ground the characters into our world, making the contrast between the two worlds even sharper.
Then the news about Chechnya broke, and the fandom has been almost silent.
It hasn’t been completely silent. I saw one story posted on AO3 that made reference to Chechnya. I saw one person share a link on a fan group to how to donate money to support gay men in Russia. But as the news gets worse and worse, the fandom is filling up with more and more fluff, more and more goofiness, more and more fanart and doujins and fics reveling in the physical intimacy of Victor and Yuri. I don’t have a problem with what’s there, but it’s what’s not there that speaks volumes.
If you love Yuri!!! On Ice like I do, you have got to be aware of what is going on in Chechnya, and you have got to be firmly against it. You have got to be a voice, however small it may seem, against the cruelty and violence being perpetrated against gay men in Chechnya all for the sake of being gay. If you’re a queer person who loves YOI for its representation, you need to be aware. If you’re a straight person who loves YOI for its plot and character development, you need to be aware. If you’re a mentally ill person who loves YOI for its accurate depiction of anxiety and depression (it me tho), you need to be aware. If you’re a straight-up fujoshi or fudanshi and you are only there for the ships and the doujins, you especially need to be aware, because you can’t consume gay media without supporting gay rights.
At least once a day, Adam’s captors attached metal clamps to his fingers and toes. One of the men then cranked a handle on a machine to which the clamps were linked with wires, and sent powerful electric shocks through his body. If he managed not to scream, others would join in, beating him with wooden sticks or metal rods.
As they tortured him, the men shouted verbal abuse at him for being gay, and demanded to know the names of other gay men he knew in Chechnya. “Sometimes they were trying to get information from me; other times they were just amusing themselves,” he said, speaking about the ordeal he underwent just a month ago with some difficulty.
But you can’t just be aware, though that’s where we all need to start. Once you get aware, you have to act. You have to do something, anything, against this. Share this post, share the news articles linked throughout, and if you’re financially able to, consider donating to the Russian LGBT Network. Yesterday was the international day against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, and gay men are being tortured and killed right now in Russia, the home of your (and my) favorite gay anime characters.
The US is in a chaotic stretch politically right now, and a lot of that is related to Russia. Vladimir Putin is actively denying the gay pogrom in Chechnya, and the US is denying visas to gay Russians seeking to escape persecution. These men are fleeing for their lives, and they can’t come here. They can’t come to a country where a popular mall chain has literally a dozen tee shirts depicting a gay Russian man. Gay men are being killed in Chechnya right now.
People are being killed.
And I hate to remind you of the uncomfortable truth, but if our beloved Victor Nikiforov, King of Extra, were alive in our world instead of his, he would be in danger, too. Mitsuro Kubo has already sworn to us that she will protect Victor’s world. If we love Victor, and we all do, let’s be honest, we need to be the ones to protect this one. We need to protect gay men in Russia. We need to protect gay men in the United States. We need to protect queer people of all genders and all sexualities in both of these places and everywhere else.
We need to be Kubo-sensei for this world, because Kubo-sensei is only one woman in Japan with a pen and some paper, drawing out storyboards of a better, safer place than where we are now. We need to make her vision our reality.
And we need to remember that until we do, the longer it takes, people are being killed.