In the past month there have been LGBT pride parades around the globe and so we asked a few Minerva students thousands of miles apart about their experiences at these gatherings.
“I’ve never seen you this gay before!” yelled my friend from across the ranks of purple.
“Thanks!” I chided back as I twirled around and waved to the crowd.
Two years ago, the same statement would have been mortifying — feeling wrong and ashamed, I would have ceased all frivolity and adopted a stern march of “manliness.” Today however, it was invigorating — taking the title of gay and owning it, I smiled bigger and strutted harder, putting the boy in flamboyance.
I felt not only accepted, but encouraged to be who I was, something I’ve been trying to hide and deny for seven years. Looking back at the smiling faces of my friends, I finally felt proud. Looking up into the sunny skyline of San Francisco, I felt free.
— Coby Anderson, United States, Class of 2019. Attended Pride in San Francisco.
Pride, as it has come to exist in 2016, with its bright colours and hordes of onlookers from around the world, is the result of the riot that took place during a police raid at the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1968 in Manhattan. The Christopher Street Liberation Day, a march which walked from Greenwhich Village to Central Park, was the first formal Pride event, held in 1970 to commemorate the Stonewall Inn riots. News of the march quickly spread and the first formal Pride parade took place in Los Angeles the following year.
Pride events have evolved, spread, and grown since the 1970’s, tackling both the shifting public attitude towards the LGBTQ community, and HIV/AIDS crisis. There are now well over 500 pride events which take place around the world every year.
Minerva students from the classes of 2019 and 2020 attended some of these Pride celebrations, including six students, lead by class of 2019 student Coby Anderson, who marched in the San Francisco parade. The diverse community at Minerva provides an opportunity to gain insight on various Pride celebrations around the world.
The following are a series of testimonials from Minerva students who attended Pride events in different cities around the world.
“I didn’t really know what to expect from the Pride. Back home, it has not really been a very big thing in the past and even in recent years, all the hype has been centered around the capital; me living about six hours away, I barely even had any contact with it, other than the brief reports on National TV.
I had heard bits and snippets of people that had attended Pride both around the world and in San Francisco and I wasn’t sure that was going to be the thing for me – after all I, myself, was not part of this community and I thought I would find it much harder to connect to everyone else’s feelings at such an event. Nevertheless, I wanted to attend the parade and see what it is like with my own eyes, especially because the city I had been living in was world-famous as a center for all things LGBT – I was going mostly out of curiosity and as a cultural experience.
When Coby asked me if I wanted to actually march in the parade alongside him, his fellow Yahoo co-workers and another couple of Minervans, I briefly hesitated before deciding that this was an opportunity that does not come about too often in life and decided to join in. He and I were in Orlando when the biggest shooting in the history of the country happened, a mere 20 minutes away from where we were staying. Even though at the time we weren’t physically very close to the club where it occurred, the event shook me and made me really rethink my decision to participate in the Pride in San Francisco.
During the following week I took in every news report about the attack that I could come across, looking for similar occurrences in different cities and discussing the matter with friends. Finally, I decided that I was going to go, have as much fun as I could, and deal with any problems as life threw them at me.
On the day of the parade I woke up with a hint of dread at the bottom of my stomach, but that was quickly overpowered by the excitement of seeing everyone dressed up in all sorts of colours and ready to take on the day. Arriving at our meeting spot, I could see thousands of people wearing at least as many smiles, balloons flying all around in the air and multicoloured flags hung from every lamppost. Market Street looked like everything I had imagined, all I hadn’t, and much more.
What struck me the most throughout the day were the smiles on everyone’s faces. People were wearing all colours of the rainbow, dancing and joyfully skipping up and down the streets or just engaging in pleasant conversation. It didn’t matter who you were and where you came from, whether you were part of the LGBT community or not, or how long you were going to stick around. If you smiled at someone, in return you would receive a joyful gleam in the eyes, a huge smile, maybe a short wave. Or on a more special occasion – a dancing partner.
It seemed to me that the theme of the parade was not Pride – it was Happiness – just a huge gathering of people, who wanted to show the world that such a thing still exists between all the terrorism, corruption and sickness we are met with every day, and spread the good feeling as far as possible.
This is what I was that day too. Happy.”
– Vesi Nedelcheva, Bulgaria, Class of 2019. Attended Pride in San Francisco.
“When I stopped by Berlin’s Pride parade, Christopher Street Day, on July 23, it was a vibrant and energized gathering filled with thousands of people, sharing in their common tolerance and love. The Munich attack had just happened the day before, yet that had not stopped thousands of people from coming.
Facing the Brandenburg Gate, the historical contrast was strong in a country where ninety years ago, Berlin was one of the first cities to have a thriving gay community, and just seventy years ago homosexuals were being sent to concentration camps. Yet even though the situation has changed greatly, we can’t forget that today many countries still execute or punish people for just being gay. At one point, I passed the grandiose Soviet War Memorial, in front of which protestors had posted anti-homophobia signs, relevant as ever with Russia’s crackdown on LGBT rights. One man was holding a cardboard sign that read “I can’t believe I’m protesting for this shit in 2016.” However, most people were here to just have a good time, dancing on the street to retro, pop, and techno music, enjoying a beer and a bratwurst, sporting eccentric outfits (or lack thereof) and celebrating how far the community has come in recent years, while still pushing to finally legalize same-sex marriage in Germany.”
– Louis Brickman, United States/Germany, Class of 2019. Attended Pride in Berlin.
“There is continuous discussion about what makes Pride relevant in Denmark in the 21st century. Parts of the Danish population believe that the LGBTQ+ community has reached its goals. This is not the belief of any LGBTQ+ organisation in Denmark, and that is why Copenhagen Pride is a celebration, but also a deeply political event to make these committees more visible in Denmark. This summer I got the opportunity to experience Copenhagen Pride, the organisation behind pride week in Copenhagen. They have done an active job to transform Pride week into a more diverse and welcoming event for all. It was amazing to experience how they practice inclusion of everybody actively through their actions. They have managed to address communities who have not usually felt represented by Pride in Denmark and make them feel more welcomed and celebrated. This includes the Danish trans community, but also deaf LGBTQ+ people. I had never really experienced or seen the LGBTQ+ community in Denmark before. When I did it was amazing to meet an organisation and people who say yes and welcome everybody as they are in a time of so many no’s and rejections.”
– Jonathan Skjøtt, Denmark, Class of 2019. Attended Pride in Copenhagen.
“The city of Tel Aviv is considered as one of the best gay cities in the world. To justify its position as such, it hosts a glamorous and enormous Pride– starting from giant parties that attract gay tourism from all around the world weeks before, to the biggest stars who perform on the beach at the ending point of the parade. Looking at a sight like that, it’s easy to believe Israel is a truly liberal country.
In the Jerusalem Pride Parade last year a sixteen year-old girl was stabbed to death. She was killed by a man who, although expressing clear intentions of attacking the parade, was released from jail several days prior with no conditions. I was there too, a few meters from the spot; the parade stopped, everyone hurried to the finish spot where, instead of the speeches by politicians and activists, everyone grieved and mourned together.
This year’s parade was very strange. It was the most heavily guarded event I’ve ever been to: the whole course was barricaded, with a police officer or border control soldier every few meters. Many politicians exclaimed that they wouldn’t join the parade, because “it hurts religious feelings”, and in spite of that–or rather, because of that — the parade was overcrowded with activists, allies, and angry people from all facets of Israeli society. Other than the parade, the streets were empty–save for a few bystanders and protesters raising signs that read “God hates perverts”. I later learned that approximately 30 people were arrested with intentions of sabotaging the parade, some carrying weapons.
A friend of mine spoke at the finish point of the parade, in front of the 25,000 attendees: she stressed how, although gay marriage is still illegal in Israel, the welfare of trans and queer people comes first- how, in the effort to portray the queer community as normal and appealing, just like everyone else, so many other identities are erased. This parade, being as political and solemn as it is, could not be more different than the Tel Aviv Pride–but they are both incredibly important.”
– Mika Lanir, Israel, Class of 2020. Attended Pride in Jerusalem.