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No mountain high enough for gay rights campaigner
A GAY-rights campaigner is aiming to fly the rainbow flag from the highest mountain in Europe – which is in Russia.
Keith Tomlinson, 29, of Evelyn Terrace, Brighton, is planning to climb to the 5,642 metre summit of Mount Elbrus in the western Caucasus mountain range to raise awareness for equality.
Gay rights has become a hugely divisive issue in Russia but Mr Tomlinson does not believe he will encounter problems when he arrives there.
Mr Tomlinson said: “I think every gay person has properly experienced discrimination to a different degree.
“I was brought up in a very straight environment where the word ‘gay’ was used as an insult. So when I knew I was gay, I saw it as a bad thing and not normal.”
Last year, Russia implemented a law banning the promotion of homosexuality, while providing information on homosexuality to anyone under the age of 18 is a criminal offence.
This led to protests across the globe two days before the beginning of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. “But I’m sure it will be fine when I visit,” Mr Tomlinson said.
Mountain climbing is a big part of his life as his first climb – Kilimanjaro in 2011 – gave him the courage to come out two days later.
He said: “It took me a long time to respect myself and realise that being gay is as normal as being straight and it does motivate me to show people we are strong too.”
To prepare for the climb, Mr Tomlinson has completed two marathons and three half marathons. He runs about 25 miles each week and feels that he is in good shape for the challenge.
He has played down the dangers of the climb to his family and boyfriend, but about 15 to 30 people die climbing Mount Elbrus every year “As long as I’m fit and well I will keep climbing. My main goal will be to climb Everest in the future.
“It would be cool to fly the rainbow from the highest mountain in the world.”
Mr Tomlinson will be raising funds for Stonewall, a charity that campaigns and lobbies for the rights of LGBT people.
He will fly out to Russia on August 9 for his climb.