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 …