Sunday, June 17, 2012

Rainbow Pride in Bratislava

Bratislava's LGBT community held its third annual gay pride march last weekend on June 9, officially dubbed the Duhovy (Rainbow) Pride rally, and fortunately it occurred without any major disturbances. This is a big deal because in 2010 the first attempt to hold such a parade was thwarted by a large number of homophobic thugs who threw smoke grenades, rocks, and other blunt objects at the participants, and caused enough of a disruption to prompt the organizers to reroute and drastically shorten the planned march. This year, problems were limited to only one smoke grenade being thrown into the crowd and about 50 so-called christian families who formed a human chain in front of the parliament building and voiced their misguided willingness to remain on the wrong side of history. So, the march went ahead as planned. About 100 police were there to monitor the parade.

What really annoys me, however, is that I completely forgot about and missed the whole thing! Yes, I missed Bratislava's third annual pride parade, a momentous and historic occasion for this country, and I am therefore a complete loser! And there's really no excuse, as the rally was happening only a few blocks away from our apartment, and we really wanted to check it out and show our support. So while I'd hoped to have been able to witness such a monumental (for Slovakia) event and document it with some photographs, we'll have to make due with photos I found on the web and my regurgitating accounts from the local news. Sigh...

At any rate, I think it's exciting that Slovakia's gay and lesbian community appears to be growing and willing to speak out. It's been a long time coming. Slovakia's track record on civil rights is not so great, while Slovakia has a reputation for being a fairly conservative and intolerant (and very catholic) country. Numerous critics of the movement, mostly people affiliated with the catholic church and more socially conservative corners of government, have expressed their lamentably knee-jerk views on the subject, but one hopes that they are increasingly becoming a minority voice.

It is estimated that just under 1000 people attended the rally, and before you wrinkle your brow over what seems like a low number, remember that this is Slovakia - not San Francisco - that we're dealing with, where homosexuality still seems to be considerably more taboo than in other countries. It's also noteworthy that reportedly a majority of the attendees were under 25, illustrating how, much like in the US, homophobia will eventually die off with older generations, and that for younger generations homosexuality is, at the very least, a non-issue. Still, Slovakia is light years away from legalizing gay marriage, and Bratislava is a long way off from the Castro, but this is all a promising start.

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