The Walk with Pride Project
This is a gay issue.
This is a straight issue.
This is a human rights issue.
Walk With Pride (WWP) is a project to photograph and document gay pride parades around the globe. Our aim is to promote pride, empathy, and understanding on an international level, while highlighting the similarities and differences in gay rights and gay culture around the world.
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Monthly Archives: May 2010
No arrests. No police. No skinheads.
I’m pleased to report that the 5th Moscow Pride went extremely well. Waiting in the headquarters, before the Pride, with over 30 Russian, Belorussian, and International activists, everyone was nervous. Looking at the history of the Pride, and the 40 people arrested last year, those participating were fearing the worst, and hoping for the best.
What helped this year was the use of disinformation, which kept the police and skinheads far away from the real action. As the opposition gathered in front of city hall, gay pride activists marched in a different part of the city.
When we got the call the Pride was to begin, everyone quickly went in small groups to the designated area. As soon as activists arrived, the pride began. In Russian, there were shouts of “Russia without homophobes” and “Rights for gays,” while participants grabbed hold of the 20m flag, hand-sewn and brought in from Belorussia.
As quickly as it started, everything evaporated. The flag was folded up, and activists dashed in different directions. Police hadn’t arrived yet, but everyone knew they were coming. Only a few minutes after people scattered, and a police van pulled up. But, there was no one to arrest.
Much later, those who participated in the Pride began to gather to celebrate today’s victory. Let’s just say everyone was quite happy, especially proving the Mayor wrong who said no gay pride could take place in Moscow …
Photos to be posted very soon on http://walkwithpridenow.com
Video of the pride:
Earlier this morning there was another court hearing concerning the banned march. The opposition presented a feeble argument. Getting up before the judge, the opposition lawyer said the pride event was banned by the Mayor because a different event was already scheduled for that day, a rally in support of PM Vladimir Putin. When Nikolai got up to speak on the absurdity of this ‘Putin argument’, especially as he’d been the very first at the courthouse the day the law allowed applying for the permit, the judge couldn’t help but stifle a chuckle. However, in the end Gay Russia’s attempt to legally hold the march was futile.
While national world governments have not been vocal in supporting the Moscow Gay Pride march, a group of Human Rights activists here in Moscow have taken to the web using every press outlet they have to spread the word about what’s going on…
Tomorrow, we’ll have pictures and updates of
the 5th Moscow Pride.
We wait patiently in the Moscow courtroom. The judge is in his chambers deciding the legality of the 5th Moscow Pride march. Everyone stands as the judge returns. His announcement – the ban is upheld.
The “Walk with Pride” project is currently in Moscow to document the latest attempt to hold Moscow Pride. Each year the group Gay Russia, led by LGBT rights activist Nikolai Alekseev, has conflicts with the courts, Moscow’s homophobic Mayor Yury Luzhkov, the police, religious groups, and even neo-Nazis while attempting to demonstrate for equal rights.
While in Minsk, Chad had made contact with Nikolai and approached him about photographing the preparations for this year’s Moscow pride. Nothing was guaranteed, so we were more than a little relieved to get our first call from Nikolai on Wednesday morning asking if we’d like to accompany him to a preliminary hearing concerning the Mayor’s ban on Moscow Pride.
Over the next couple of days we are witness to many court hearings, but each failed to provide the group with the basic right of assembly.
On Thursday afternoon, following the most recent court decision to uphold the ban, a press conference is held. During this conference activist Peter Tatchell and other key members of Human Rights organizations, spoke out condemning the ban.
“He should be put on trial for violating the Russian constitution – the real criminals are not the organizers of Moscow Pride, but the Mayor of Moscow and the judges who uphold this illegal ban.” – Peter Tatchell, coordinator for the British HR group Outrage!
For a full report on the press conference, check out the UK Gay News report.
Country Details: Gay Rights and Culture in Russia
Russia LGBT Rights:
Homosexual Acts Legal? Yes
Same-sex Relationships Recognized? No
Same-sex Marriages Allowed? No
Same-sex Adoption Allowed? Not really
◊ If you are single you can adopt children regardless of sexual orientation, but same-sex couples can not adopt children
Can Gays Serve Openly in the Military? Yes, since 1993
◊ However, do to homophobia in the military, most choose not to serve openly.
Anti-discrimination Laws? No
Legislature Concerning Gender Identity? Yes
◊ Transexual and Transgender people can change their legal gender after undergoing medical procedures.
Cultural Points of Interest:
“Cracks in the Iron Closet: Travels in Gay and Lesbian Russia” is a book by David Tuller describing his travels exploring the underground gay world in Russia.
Gay.ru – A forum and community site for the Russian LGBT community. The website has information in both Russian and English, and over 15,000 articles/documents providing information for visitors to gay.ru.
A new gallery of images from Romania’s GayFest have now been posted!
Also, check out the WWP’s video of the event …
Bucharest had its’ pride march this Saturday – making it the country’s 6th. Unlike this morning when it down poured on the right-wing nationalists’ march, the sun was out and everyone seemed in positive spirits for the start of the GayFest event. Different than the past two marches the WWP project has visited, both Lithuania’s Baltic Pride and Belarus’s Slavic Pride – which were struggling to hold their first ever pride marches, this event was very different. There didn’t seem to be any anxiety or nervous tension among those who gathered to participate, just energy to begin the gay celebration.
The location for the GayFest march was very safe, but also isolated. While the two anti-homosexuality marches, “March for Families” and “March for Normality” walked from Revolution Square to Union Square down the main streets of Bucharest, and thus attracting attention from bystanders, this march went along the closed off streets of Union Square. While marching next to empty buildings kept those that disagreed with homosexuality away, this also meant that there were few people to witness the pride, besides the participants and the media.
Around 400 people were in attendance, with most of those participating in the event proudly displaying rainbow pride symbols, costumes, or Mardi Gras face masks. The British Council is a major sponsor of the pride activities in Bucharest, so there were a number of supporters from that organization who participated, all easily identifiable in red shirts. The media was in full force as the pride march geared up, with cameras and videos targeting the most colorful and unconventionally dressed participants.
Along the broad empty streets of Bucharest’s Union Square there was a gay celebration, and people had a good time. A DJ led the procession, as participants danced and smiled, waved rainbow flags and shot silly string. On reaching the huge Parliament Palace, a relic from the Communist era, speeches were given by Michael Cashman, a gay member of the EU Parliament, and Rev. Diane Fischer, from the US branch of the MCC (Metropolitan Community Church), both saying how pleased they were that Romania was able to have GayFest, and to be free to celebrate diversity.
While there were few banners dealing with Human Rights issues, or advocacy slogans being chanted, I did see a lot of people free to express themselves. This is a freedom that so many countries still deny members the LGBT community.
Romania is making progress toward acceptance, or at least tolerance of sexual minority groups, despite the small counter rallies held against the march. And, this really was a celebration, so different than the struggles that took place last week in Minsk.
However, personally I can’t help thinking how it’s still a shame that the march is hidden away and out of public view … with only the media available to bring a dramatized and distorted view to those in the general public.
Anyway, we were feeling optimistic as we left the march, glad the LGBT community had the freedom to hold the event. As Chad and I turned the corner back onto a main city street, a little blonde boy, no more than 8yrs old, runs up and shoves a bunch of sheets of paper in our hands before running off to rejoin his father who and siblings who are waiting for him. One of the sheets was in English …
We almost missed the counter-march by the ‘New Right’ Romania Nationalist group. Walking back from breakfast, the morning of the GayFest march, we spotted some young men with shaved heads and large signs depicting homophobic messages. They were just beginning their march from Revolution Square, through a mile of city streets, to Union Square.
I would say there was a small crowd of about 100-150 people in attendance. Their march was called – the “March for Normality”. Many were dressed in large black boots, shaved heads, military style camo-pants, and black shirts etched with the image of a white Celtic cross, they looked intimidating. However, as we were told beforehand by members of the LGBT community, this group isn’t necessarily violent, and being a nationalist organization with a variety of issues that concern it, not just homosexuality, they usually only put on a demonstration against LGBT people maybe once a year, and leave the community alone during the rest of the time.
More energetic than Friday’s “March for Families,” these men, and some women, strode down the main streets of Bucharest, as the rain poured down, to deliver their message against homosexuality. Following an old car with an oversized speaker hanging out the rear, the group was led in chants and hate-slogans. As the rain increased the participants yelled in victory – hoping this would mean difficulties for the afternoon’s pride march.
While Romania’s Gay-Fest march will take place tomorrow on Saturday, May 22, this afternoon the Families-Alliance held a counter-demonstration. The alliance, which is a joint effort between the Romanian Orthodox Forum (FOR) Families and the Alliance of Romania (AFR), called on those supporting “Christian values and family life” and against “sexual perversions” to rally and display their beliefs. AFR is a nationalist group that promotes traditionalist values in Romania.
The skies were beginning to darken as Chad and I showed up at Kretzulescu church, an Eastern Orthodox church in central Bucharest, and the meeting place for the “March for Families”. The march was set for 5:30pm, but the time came and went with only a few people gathered. Closer to 6, people with banners started to show up, and the event got organized. A local pretzel vendor spotted the gathering, and began doing a steady business as parents who’d brought along their kids for the anti-homosexuality march bought snacks. Seeing young kids at these rallies always makes me wonder. As these groups pride themselves on having family values, it seems a bit sad that they seem so concerned with teaching the value of intolerance.
It was raining by the time the march got underway. Just over 100 people had gathered to participate. It struck me that no one was holding crosses, or chanting messages, instead it was a somber procession of people (and children) rather silently walking in the rain while showing their anti-homosexuality banners. People on the street watched, as the group was escorted by police down main city streets.
Everyone hustled along in the rain for almost 3km, when the march finally reached its’ ending point of Piata Unirii.
It will be this spot that tomorrow’s Gay-Fest march will take place.
We sat down last night with Daniel and his partner Michael at a little bar near Piata Universitatii (University Square) in downtown Bucharest. These guys operate a local Romanian gay news website called StiriGay.ro.
Over a few beers they shared with us some insights to better understand the situation in Romania. While the annual Gay-Fest march has been running since 2005, they explained how it is still not yet a “pride parade”, but instead very much a march with an activist message.
Many eyes will be watching Buracherst during Gay-Fest, they told us, so the pride will likely be safe. It will also be a major media event, however, they divulge that the media always focuses on the drag queens, and try to dramatize it by showing protests, sometimes violent, against it from past years.
When we asked about if they’d experienced active hostility and discrimination in everyday life, Daniel and Michael explained that it wasn’t really like that in Bucharest. Homophobia is not that rampant on an everyday level, instead people might be curious, not really knowing what to expect when meeting someone who is gay. However, they are still frustrated concerning the lack of some basic rights, such as the inability to have a civil union and same-sex couple’s right to adoption.
More drinks arrive at the table. Taking a look around, I have to appreciate the progressiveness of being able to talk like this so openly, a luxury friends in Belarus still can not experience.
While the Romanian acceptance for sexual minorities has come along way since 40 years ago, they admit the older generation is still very set in their ways, though the younger generation is often more open. It is also very difficult in smaller towns and villages, even just for education and awareness about sexual diversity.
As we talk, Daniel says that he is sometimes frustrated concerning advocacy to those outside the LGBT community.
They both wish for more LGBT sponsored activities that would include those outside the community.
“We must convince everybody we are normal … if you are not doing it by involving them, it is in vain. It is like we are doing it for ourselves and for the media, and for our founders.”
~ Daniel, editor for StiriGay.ro
For more, visit their website: http://StiriGay.ro
(It’s a great resource for what’s going on in Romania)