Pride Month Ends with Celebration—and Violence

By L.K. Regan

Well, Pride month—the official June celebration of all things gay—ended this weekend with big bangs of celebration in many metropolitan areas, plus violence elsewhere that shows us how far we still have to go. Here's a brief wrap-up of this weekend's Pride events.

For those who live in big, liberal cities, Pride may seem like just another big party weekend or even an outdated political concept. But elsewhere in the world where gay rights are still in their infancy, Pride parades have sparked controversy. In the Czech Republic, the country's first-ever Pride parade was disrupted by some 150 protesters, who instigated violence that injured 20 people. Five hundred people gathered for the event, which was also attended by tennis star Martina Navratilova, a native of the Czech Republic. And, in Bulgaria, 150 police protected an equal number of marchers from attacks by right-wing and skinhead protesters who threw stones and Molotov cocktails.

Clearly, the former Soviet block has a way to go in terms of celebrating (or even tolerating) GLBT pride. But no doubt they can learn by observing their neighbors. Other European nations had huge, violence-free parades that drew record numbers of participants. In Paris, more than half a million people attended the city's dramatic parade, among them the city's openly gay mayor, Bertrand Delanoë. In Berlin, the 30th annual Pride parade went forward despite falling rain—and, for the first time, followed a route that began in the formerly Soviet eastern half of the city. And, across the Atlantic, Toronto's Pride parade featured for the first time members of the Canadian Armed Forces, who marched in full uniform among the feathers and sequins. Now that's progress.

In San Francisco—the original gay mecca—Pride was given a new intensity by the state's recent legalization of gay and lesbian marriages. The hugely popular Dykes on Bikes—a group of Pride regulars—dressed in wedding gowns in celebration of the law and tossed bouquets into the crowd. The city set up a booth opposite City Hall to hand out information on same-sex marriages (City Hall is closed on Sundays, so unfortunately there were no actual ceremonies performed during the parade). And San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom received cheers and applause as he passed along the parade route: It was Newsom who put California on track to recognize gay marriages by opening City Hall to such unions in 2004, until a California court ordered the city to stop.

The sheer scale and popularity of the Parisian Pride and San Francisco events shouldn't let even the most jaded of us forget that the mere fact of having Pride events is a remarkable accomplishment in much of the world. In New Delhi, Calcutta, and Bangalore, Pride parades were attended by hundreds of participants—despite the fact that homosexuality is still illegal in India. Events like this serve as a reminder that Pride is about more than dressing up—it's an annual, global coming out party.