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Maxim Russia's list of 'gays we respect' praises LGBT stars who 'remain real men'

The Russian version of Maxim released a controversial list of gay celebrities who can be "forgiven" for their sexual orientations.

Maxim Russia's list of gay men who can be "forgiven" is being taken as a backhanded compliment, at best

Neil Patrick Harris, Freddie Mercury and Sir Ian McKellen are among the select group of male celebrities Maxim Russia chose to include in their recent list of 'Gays We Respect.' (Screenshot/maximonline.ru)

Russian Lord of the Rings fans who use Maxim magazine as a moral and ethical compass should be pleased to note that it is now A-OK, by the publication's standards, to respect actor Ian McKellen as a "real man" and fellow human being.

The award-winning British thespian, known to millions as Gandalf the wizard or X-Men's Magneto, tops Maxim Russia's recently-released list of men the magazine has "forgiven" for being homosexual.

"We, men, do not consider men who love men to be men. This is the rule," reads the English translation of an article published Thursday on maximonline.ru. "But there are exceptions. There are gays who have earned our respect and the right to remain real men in our eyes."

Including McKellen, a total of ten very famous men made the cut:

  • British comedian Stephen Fry
  • Irish playwright and novelist Oscar Wilde
  • Queen frontman Freddie Mercury
  • French actor Jean Marais
  • Famed mathematician Alan Turing
  • Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk
  • Judas Priest rocker Rob Halford
  • Monty Python's Graham Chapman
  • American actor and TV host Neil Patrick Harris

"We weren't sure about including Neil Patrick Harris in the list — after all, he declared himself a 'happy gay' in 2006," reads a blurb under Harris's name.

Citing the actor's How I Met Your Mother character, Barney Stinson, as the reason for Harris's inclusion, the magazine writes that "it's impossible not to respect someone who elevated the hunt for girls into a true art, who systematized all the tricks and techniques and created the 'Bro Code.' Even if he was just acting the role."

Halford was similarly held up as proof that "if you're cool enough, it doesn't matter what your orientation is," while Fry was deemed "the living embodiment of the idea that one can be openly gay and a sensible person at the same time."

Mercury, who is widely considered one of history's greatest-ever vocalists, died in 1991 just one day after publicly revealing he'd been diagnosed with AIDS.

The rock icon is an "exception to all rules," Maxim Russia wrote.

"His creativity brought us so much joy, that we are willing to forgive him anything"

Russia and gay rights

Homosexuality was legalized in Russia more than two decades ago, but it is estimated that just 1% of the country's LGBT population lives openly due to the discrimination and sometimes violence gay people face.

The passing of an "anti-gay" propaganda law ahead of 2014's Sochi Olympics brought the issue to a head on the world stage, spurring international protests and triggering even more assaults on gay men and women within Russia (assaults that don't count as hate crimes under Russian law.)

In fact, McKellen was actually advised by the British government to stay away from Russia after the law passed in 2013. 

With the country's LGBT community facing so much hostility, Maxim Russia's list of "Gays We Approve" struck many online as curious.

Is it a parody? A publicity stunt? An olive branch offered to gay Russians?

As of Monday, none of the men listed in the article (only half of which are still living) had responded publicly to the piece. Twitter users, on the other hand, had many things to say.

Buzzfeed News reports that Maxim Russia's editor-in-chief called the piece " a joke" when speaking to the Russian News Service on Sunday, though this is not indicated anywhere in the piece.

An editor at the same publication, which is published by an arm of Hearst's international magazines division,  told BuzzFeed late last week that "our position is clearly formulated in the introduction to the article." 

A spokesperson for Maxim in the U.S. also told the news outlet that American Maxim staffers were "deeply disturbed by the article in Maxim Russia and fully condemn it."

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