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Latvian Pride March Held, No Incidents Reported

Jim Burroway

May 31st, 2008

Riga Pride organizers Mozaika

An estimated 400 gay and lesbian marchers took part in a Pride parade in Riga, Latvia, today amid tight security and insults from anti-gay extremists. No incidents were reported, as police sealed off the streets surrounding the Pride parade and kept an estimated 400 anti-gay protesters behind barricades and away from the marchers.

Riga Pride protesters

As the parade concluded, a statement by Latvian President Valdis Zatlers was read out to the crowd in Latvian and English, in which he called for tolerance and accommodation:

“We have a truly free country in which every citizen has the right to express himself, and that opportunity is respected. … I think that these are values from which we must not retreat.”

“If some people have a common household and they have — let’s say — the common life of a single gender, then we certainly need to resolve these aspects of social privileges … inheritance, the right of the spouse to enjoy certain privileges, and so on.

“That is what needs to be done, and it would be a gesture of understanding, comprehension and good will.”

Riga Pride marchers

Given some of the rhetoric surrounding Pride activities recently — particularly the violent rhetoric coming from the Watchmen On the Walls and its Latvian co-founder Alexey Ledyaev — many LGBT Latvians don’t feel safe.  A Ledyaev supporter was found guilty of throwing feces as worshipers emerged from an LGBT prayer service two years ago after that year’s Pride march was canceled.

Which is why marches like this are so important:

…[T]here is a considerable number of Latvian gay men and women who remain too scared to participate.

“I would very much like to go on the march,” a gay man, who asked not to be identified, told UK Gay News over a drink in the Golden Bar yesterday evening.

“But I am scared that I will be seen by someone I know and this will result in problems within my family and at work.

“You are so lucky in your country that homosexuality is so open. Perhaps one day here…”

Comments

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Ephilei
June 1st, 2008 | LINK

From the pictures, it seems the march there is much more respectable. I don’t participate in Pride any more (at least the Chicago manifestation) because I think it does our community more harm than good. Too much it expresses the LGBT community as obsessed with their sexuality and promiscuity, too reasons why Christians don’t respect us. In Chicago it’s common to see females topless and males in thongs or less. While Christian gays and trans people are trying to explain that we’re not perverts, too many Pride participants are telling them otherwise.

werdna
June 1st, 2008 | LINK

Huh, when I think of pride marches in the US I think of a bunch of fairly boring groups of “LGBT Lutherans,” “LGBT school teachers,” “LGBT [insert run of the mill group here],” etc. The more outrageous participants don’t bother me in the the slightest and if there were more of them I’d probably watch more of the parades. Then again, I don’t really care if fussy folks think I’m a pervert–I am and I’m not ashamed of it.

I do think that the remarkable advances in LGBT rights in the US since the advent of Pride/Freedom/etc. marches (and in part thanks to them) does raise some interesting questions about what the purpose of such events is today. For many it’s an opportunity to have fun, dress up and flaunt their fabulousness–or dress down and flaunt their sexuality. For others it’s a chance to show how “normal” they are. For still others it’s a chance to shop.

Certainly in a place like Latvia where gay life is much less publicly visible and less accepted the importance of a march like this is enormous, and the purpose is much clearer.

What I actually found interesting in the pictures is how many of the participants weren’t Latvian, and this jibes with the quote from the Latvian guy who was too scared to attend. There seemed to be a significant number of people carrying signs or flags indicating they were from different countries. It’s inspiring to see international awareness and solidarity like this and I’m sure it’s very much appreciated by Latvian LGBTs.

Frankly, I think it’ll be a great thing when the Latvian Pride parade develops (or devolves) into something like the typical US version where drag queens, butch dykes, twinks in hot shorts and lesbian soccer moms rub elbows and complain to each other about how the lines for the toilets are.

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