I’ve never, ever felt afraid or hated because of who I am. I’ve lived in the UK my whole life and while it’s certainly not perfect, the freedoms that we have are pretty damn good.
I’ve grown up knowing that some people are gay, some people are straight, and it’s just not a big deal – for this I count myself very lucky.
So, because of this rather sheltered life so far, I’m getting a bit nervous about my trip to Baltic Pride on 1 June. Pride to me conjures up a festival feeling - fun, sunshine (rain as well in the UK, but hey, dance through it!) and a feeling of great freedom. There are usually a couple of counter-protesters, but I can only really feel sorry for the little huddle of hateful people in the midst of a majority who are having a really excellent time.
The experience of people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and those who support their rights can be very different, in the Baltic states of Europe. It’s a rather more serious matter… I’ve watched some videos and heard from people who’ve been to Pride marches in Latvia before, and the bile and hatred that’s expressed by homophobic people and groups is absolutely shocking to me. You can get a taste from the video at the top of this post.
The Latvian authorities have tried to ban Pride numerous times, people have had all sorts of unpleasant “matter” chucked on them (yes, it is what you’re thinking), marchers have had to run and hide. They’ve been shouted at, attacked, threatened and harassed. People have had to leave Latvia permanently because of their refusal to live in secret and for their activism for LGBT people to have the same rights as non-LGBT Latvians.
There will be many, many people in Latvia and across the Baltic states who are just afraid to express their sexuality. They won’t be marching at Pride, because they’re not proud yet. They’ve been hated and taught to feel ashamed and many will be too afraid to stand up to the masses who say that it’s wrong for them to be who they are. It’s for these people that I think it’s incredibly important that Baltic Pride goes ahead.
It’s also important for the people who do desperately want to express themselves now, and have the right to do so. And for all those people who need to see that LGBT people aren’t evil and wrong, they’re just people like them. I hope that their attitudes can eventually be changed.
So although I must say I’m a bit nervous, I will definitely be proud to be marching at Baltic Pride. You can also support Baltic Pride, wherever you are: sign Amnesty International’s petition asking the Latvian authorities to make sure it goes ahead safely and with respect for LGBT rights.
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