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Is there another way without using the word "гомосексуальный"? Ideally, I would like to say the following...

"Are you also interested in men?" <-- Implying that I'm a man and am curious about this guy's sexual orientation.

2
  • I'd recommend you to avoid direct questioning. Try asking using non-question phrase softly instead: «мне показалось, что вы гей». – rishat Nov 10 '14 at 18:32
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    @Rishat Muhametshin this will not help at all. Any subtle hint will be similarly offensive. – Anixx Nov 17 '14 at 9:44
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No way. No way without risking being hit badly with life-threatening injuries.

Penza man killed a dude in Moscow because he suggested sex

Male prostitute killed client for suggestion of sex in passive role

Archangelsk man killed a homosexualist for sex proposal

Dagestani guys killed a man in Moscow region for sex proposal with extreme sadism

A gay foreigner killed in Crimea for being suspected of being gay

In Udmurtia electrician killed a client for sex proposal

etc etc, this is common.

1
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    I should add that one should ask this question at their own risk (even in the most polite way possible). The reason behind this: 1) expressing doubt in man's orientation is offensive in the first place; 2) if not answered immediately with physical violence, by default this is considered as consent which may have catastrophic impact on man's image in society or work environment. – ttaaoossuu Nov 17 '14 at 9:30
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I am a Russian, living in Russia. I can tell you two things, first-hand.

  1. There isn't a "strong anti-gay campaign" in contemporary Russia. The law that you seem to think is anti-gay forbids propaganda of homosexualism and lesbianity. I had a gay university professor; he is now a Chair of the English Language, and nobody minds he is gay, as long as he doesn't advertize that.

(I should say that open propaganda of any physical sexual relations, be that gay, lesbian, or straign, is not encouraged in Russia. Why this special law about homosexuals is, probably, that they have been forwarding their case somewhat aggressively lately. But when you are alone with your partner, it's your own business, whether you are two men, two women, a straight pair, or a crowd of swingers, as long as all of you are of age, and you don't make too much noise.)

  1. However, not in the contemporary Russia, but as long as I remember (I was born in 1967, in the Soviet Union), homosixuality has been considered more or less disgusting here. Nowadays, contrary to what is being said, we are more tolerant to gays. However, a straigt Russian man will strongly dislike it if you suppose he is gay. How he will react, now, is a question of his background: some, like myself, will politely say that you are mistaken; a redneck type may punch you.

All in all, you'd better ask a Russian man if he is gay either if you are pretty sure that he is (by his manner of speaking, clothes, etc.) or if he appears to be well-bred: he will not like the idea, but he will not make a fuss. In either case, euphemisms like "are you interested in men" will be more appropriate than a straightforward question "are you gay/a homosexualist". In Russian, it will be «Простите, вы, случайно, не интересуетесь мужчинами?»

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    When you say "nobody minds he is gay, as long as he doesn't advertise that", I wonder at what point an action becomes an "advertisement"? The few people I know who I know are gay, I would never guess that based on their manners or clothing, but just when they talk about their partners and use the he/she pronoun, or when they show up to an event and their +1 is the same gender. Would hugging and kissing your partner in a public place be considered "advertising"? – SaltyNuts Nov 10 '14 at 20:10
  • @SaltyNuts: if a person had been invited to an event with their SO and showed up with a partner of the same gender, most Russians would definitely deem it inappropriate - as they would do if they showed up with a mere friend (of either gender), or with a relative, or with a stranger. Hugging and kissing a same sex partner in public would probably bring the same response as kissing someone else's spouse, or watching a porn movie with sound on, or exchanging explicit remarks. Disclaimer: I'm not approving or disapproving of this, but expressing my opinion about how would most Russians react. – Quassnoi Nov 11 '14 at 0:05
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    It's complicated. You should be reasonably sure the man in question is either indeed gay, or very polite. In either case, it would be better to open the topic without asking directly, e.g. "скажите, а как вы относитесь к людям нетрадиционной ориентации?" ("Say, what is your opinion on non-hetero people?") and take it from there. – Qwerty Nov 17 '14 at 13:56
  • Would hugging and kissing your partner in a public place be considered "advertising"? – Hugging, maybe, not: it is not rare that good friends hug when they meet, regardless of their sex, esp. when they have not seen each other for a while. Kissing, now, most certainly would. Touching your partner that can be interpreted as caressing, most certainly would. – Tolik Alcoholik Nov 19 '14 at 18:36
  • It is, probably, unfair that men's homosexualism is condemned in public in Russia, while lesbianism is considered less inappropriate. Well, women are generally allowed to do more strange things than men; and men..., well, "have to be men" in all aspects. This is still strong in Russia. (You remember Clinton and Levinsky scandal? Many Russian women actually had sympathy for Clinton being condemned by the public. There was even a monolog[ue] by a Russian stand-up lady comic to that effect.) – Tolik Alcoholik Nov 19 '14 at 19:06
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As a gay man and Russian I strongly advise you against asking people in Russia that question. Russian macho/semicriminal culture would demand an immediate rude and sometimes violent response. Unless the circumstances permit it (like you're in a gay club or something). Also the top answer here is sad and misinformed (both regarding homophobia levels in Russia and the actual language). The correct (idiomatically) sentence would be "Простите, а вас мужчины не интересуют?". Or just indeed "Простите, а вы, случайно, не гей?"

2
  • Russian macho/semicriminal culture would demand an immediate rude and sometimes violent response. – Probably, depends on where you are. Russia is not homogeneous. There are places, like the Far East (spent there 2 years in the Army) where many are descendants of convicts who remained after their time. Your words are more true there. In other territories, like where I now live (Volgograd), it's less true. I had a gay university professor, and a bi friend. The professor has been promoted to be a Chair since, and feels fine. The friend moved to France, he likes it better there. – Tolik Alcoholik Nov 19 '14 at 20:06
  • It's not as much about geography as it is about the setting. Of course in university/college circles people are usually more tolerant. Also since you're straight you don't really see all the negativity LGBT people have to deal with on daily basis. And yes, everywhere (I'm from Moscow). And yes, homophobia is rampant in Russia. It's funny how you say people are tolerant when you yourself have said a few things that are rather intolerant. Like suggesting gay people should hide who they are. In any case, this is extremely off topic, I only wanted to warn the OP about the dangers of his question. – kozodoev Nov 21 '14 at 6:40
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Indeed it's a very delicate issue. Let me give you an example how I would ask a person I've met recently or just now if he is gay. I'm sure this will not insult him/her as you have to express politeness, prepare the ground for the question and reason with why you are asking:

Подготовка:

— Я бы не хотел показаться бестактным, и на самом деле это не имеет особого значения, но могу я задать вам личный вопрос?

(1) Да, конечно.

(2) Я не очень люблю личные вопросы.

(3) Смотря, что вы имеете ввиду под личным вопросом.

Далее в зависимости от ответа испытуемого:

1) (на "да, конечно") Мне показалась, что вы неравнодушны к мужчинам/женщинам, хотя и могу ошибаться, конечно.

2) Тогда оставим этот разговор.

3) Скажите, как вы относитесь к сексуальным меньшинствам? Если дальше вас спросят: "А почему вы спрашиваете?" , то давайте задний ход. Иначе развивайте тему и переходите к пункту 1.

Как дать задний ход:

— Сейчас все очень агрессивно относятся к представителям сексуальных меньшинств. Мне просто было интересно ваше мнение.

Конечно, вас будет легко раскусить, но если аккуратно зондировать территорию, то можно узнать возможную реакцию человека, так и не задав ему этот вопрос. Всё очень просто.

6
  • I've been always telling foreigners that Russian is very straightforward, without complicated honorifics (like Japanese) or constant lexicon patrolling (like American English). But the delicacy of gay issue described in your answer just blew my mind! – ttaaoossuu Nov 17 '14 at 16:47
  • It always helps a little if you are a foreigner: most Russians tend to show hospitality; and then, if you are a foreigner and act a little funny, most Russians simply think it's just your way of doing things. So you can always pretend you just want to find out how things stand about this gay thing in Russia, and simply ask the guy's opinion. And, as Qwerty puts it, take it from there. – Tolik Alcoholik Nov 19 '14 at 19:27
  • And, indeed, too much delicacy would give you away almost as if you jumped onto a table and shouted, I am looking for a gay partner here! – Tolik Alcoholik Nov 19 '14 at 19:37
  • Golly, what a complex and furtive way of just saying "u ghey m8?" – Matt Fletcher Nov 25 '14 at 15:37
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    @Chill2Macht Well, could be I just translated something coined by Russian sources. By patrolling here I mean checking the language now and then and marking more and more words as offensive. For example, N-word (when used by people other than Kendrick Lamar) was replaced with "African-American" and R-word with "special". "Faggot" looks like it belongs to this list too as I get banned by Facebook now and then for using it. Who knows, perhaps soon we will see the words "father" and "mother" marked as LGBTQABCXYZ-insensitive and replaced with "parent 1" and "parent 2"? – ttaaoossuu Jul 8 '18 at 18:40
2

In my opinion, the most simple and respectful question is:

Вы гей?

To make a question more implicit, you could ask using the literal translation of your latter question:

Вы тоже интересуетесь мужчинами?
1

The most neutral words are гей и гомосексуалист. But, I think, you need to know, unfortunately, there is a strong anti-gay campaign in contemporary Russia. So, will your question be taken as insulting or not, strongly depends on opinion of your interlocutor. People who don't like gays will feel insulting by fact of such question.

1

The most neutral seems to be "гей". But be careful about who you ask and where you do it- many russians are not tolerant about the matter. Few are untolerant enough to punch you for asking, but something like that might happen.

0

Я бы аккуратно заехала со стороны: - Я не заметила, чтобы тебе осбо нравились девушки. Не нашел такую, которая бы зацепила? Или ты к женскому полу равнодушен?
На что человек ответил либо: - Еще не нашел девушку своей мечты. Либо: - Я к женскому полу равнодушен (отношусь прохладно). Вот тогда можно спросить: - Тебе молодые люди больше нравятся?

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  • Even if he has no interest in girls he might be just sociopathic and straight. And might still punch you in the face for this question. – ttaaoossuu Nov 18 '14 at 14:29
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    Не нашел такую, которая бы зацепила? - bad question, as every unmarried man will answer yes (disregards of his orientation). Ты к женскому полу равнодушен? - has very high chances to be understood as a direct "are you gay?" with all the following... – Sinatr Nov 18 '14 at 14:37
-1

Ты придерживаешься нетрадиционной сексуальной ориентации?

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