In just a few days Sofia will have its 3rd Pride march, which means both supporters and protesters of the Pride are getting ready. There has been a flurry of letter writing on both sides, which has been appearing in the local and international media. From those opposed, a joint declaration was issued by 25 Bulgarian organizations condemning the Pride, while letters of support and solidarity concerning Sofia Pride have arrived from several foreign Ambassadors and international LGBT groups.
This morning we joined Marko and another LGBT activist at the National Bulgarian radio station as one of the radio programs was going to focus on the upcoming Pride. A representative from a local family-values group (who looked to be in his early 20s) also arrived at the show to provide the opposing viewpoint.
This young man, who claimed not to be a homophobe, but instead a “concerned citizen”, came prepared with many “facts” concerning homosexuality, including that those in the LGBT community live 20 years less, 70% have AIDS, and that legalizing prostitution is core on the gay agenda. He therefore concluded that their choice to be gay was illogical (!) Again, what is admirable about Marko and his friend, as well as many of the activists we’ve met during this trip, instead of getting angry at this idiocy they instead tried to talk reasonably with him. It didn’t work as it concerned him, but they did present a reasonable counter-argument for the radio program.
When the organizers for the Pride are not being kept busy doing awareness and promotion within the community, they still have a mass of other activities to do to get ready for the Pride. While we left Marko after the radio show, we met up with more members of the Sofia organizing committee that afternoon as they prepared signs and had a security briefing.
Sitting around a laptop, the group of 12-15 volunteers watched footage of the 2008 Pride where Molotov cocktails had been thrown. Photos of some of the main aggressors against the Pride were passed around, and strategies discussed on how to deal with the opposition. To add insult to injury, not only do they have to deal with these hateful individuals that wish them harm, but they have to personally pay the city police to protect them from these guys. This is a serious problem as the cost for the needed police protection (caused by the aggressive protestors) runs in the thousands of Euros! Not easy for a small Pride. Already they have been forced to cut the length of the march and afterwards gathering by half, down from 4 hours to only 2 hours, because of the cost for police.
While only days before the main pride event, the group is still raising money to cover some of the necessities. (see here for more details)