The Walk with Pride Project
This is a gay issue.
This is a straight issue.
This is a human rights issue.
Walk With Pride (WWP) is a project to photograph and document gay pride parades around the globe. Our aim is to promote pride, empathy, and understanding on an international level, while highlighting the similarities and differences in gay rights and gay culture around the world.
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Category Archives: Greece
Greece was a huge shock. After the last few Prides we’ve attended in Eastern Europe, it was a little unnerving (but at the same time refreshing) to see Athens Pride take place so openly in the middle of the city. Despite some of the morning events being canceled due to another march by a local worker’s union, there was still a strong gay presence at the meeting point of Klafthmonos Square all day.
Chad and I arrived around 1pm, although the actual parade wasn’t scheduled until 6pm. White tents were set up around the public square, containing LGBT supportive organizations and businesses. As each hour passed, the number of people present in the open area steadily increased, until it got difficult even to move without bumping into someone. And, the atmosphere of the square was very playful, with bursts of confetti being shot into the air, and people hanging out with friends in front of the large monument that dominated the square.
Thousands of people were ready to take part in the pride parade, and amazingly protesters were practically non-existent. Those who did complain were mainly a few elderly people who would pass the square, yell something, and then go on their way. In fact, there was only one lady really protesting, a religious fanatic who clasped a picture of Jesus. However, it was nothing like the intolerance and homophobia we’ve encountered at some of the last Pride festivals we’d attended.
Around 6, the parade started with the large rainbow flag stretched out to lead the Pride. As TV crews and photographers circled to get images from the start of the pride, the lady holding the picture of Jesus jumped in front. Instead of pushing her out of the way, participants took her in with a smile, even inviting her onto one of the floats … where she spent the entire parade ‘protesting’ with her picture of Jesus to the tunes of Madonna and Lady GaGa.
A little under 5,000 people showed up to march, with even more joining the parade as it went along the streets of downtown Athens, and there were two decorated floats blasting music as people danced. Going along with the theme ‘we are everywhere,’ the first float showcased LGBT persons in different occupations (this was the float carrying the protestor). The second was a truck full of transsexual dancers dressed in sexy outfits. However, the majority of people were dressed in normal clothes, with many of the LGBT couples holding hands, all proudly marching. Taking up the rear of the march was a group holding signs, chanting “what do want? – Equal rights” and “When do we want them? – NOW!”
The pride procession went down some of the main streets of Athens, past the Parliament building, and lasted for almost 1.5 miles (2.4km).
Happy Pride Athens!
“We are everywhere,” is the theme of this year’s Athens Pride, explained Stefanos, an organizer of Athens Pride. The main Pride poster features a nationwide symbol, the bottom half of a traditionally dressed Greece soldier, along with the Pride’s tagline. We’ve actually had quite a few complaints, he tells us – it’s quite a controversial cover. Stefanos goes on to explain that while many people in Greece might be comfortable thinking of homosexuals as hairdressers, or a very small minority of the population, the Athens Pride group is finding that people are getting a little threatened by the idea that they are ‘everywhere’, and this year the group has unfortunately received more negative comments and hate mail than ever before.
In the large meeting hall in the Athens Cultural Center, Stefanos sits down and talk with us before the start of the ‘SE European-Balkan Pride Conference’, a prelude to tomorrow’s Athens Pride march. This is the first year the conference is being held. The idea behind the conference is to encourage solidarity between the Balkan pride groups, so representatives from Zagreb Pride, Sofia Pride, Bucharest GayFest, Serbia Pride, Athens Pride, and a founder from the newly formed Cyprus LGBT group, gathered to participate. Also in attendance was a Greek member of the EU parliament and Debroha Lambillotte from ILGA.
The issue of the financial crisis couldn’t be avoided. It’s a complicated issue, maybe best illustrated when the Greek Politician spoke. Her initial statements were to the point that LGBT issues were a priority even during economic downturns, and that human rights in general were important at any moment in time. However, during the Q+A session after her speech, several of those in attendance began grilling her on the lack of progress made by Greece concerning HR equality for sexual minorities, in particular the lack of educational programs to teach about LGBT. Answering these questions, she couldn’t help making a plea concerning the difficulty of producing change at this time due in part by the economic crisis, and conservative members of government that did not feel this was a priority.
It was quite interesting listening to each festival organizer share videos and stories about the challenges of hosting their Prides in the Balkans. They all had tales of skinheads, religious protestor groups, and police officials that either wanted the Prides held in isolated locations and/or conducted at high speeds. However, there was also an underlying message of the progress being made to change attitudes. While it’s clear that it isn’t easy holding Prides in these countries, especially during the early years of each, there is also the consideration of what progress can be made if these types of events aren’t held … and the communities remain invisible and marginalized?!
Again, many thanks to the Athens Pride organizers for hosting the
First SE European-Balkan Pride Conference.
Greek LGBT Rights:
Homosexual Acts Legal? Yes
Same-sex Relationships Recognized? No
Same-sex Marriages Allowed? No
Same-sex Adoption Allowed? No
Can Gays Serve Openly in the Military? No
Anti-discrimination Laws? Some
◊ While sexual orientation is not a protected discrimination category in the Greek Constitution, there are EU laws in place that prevent sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace.
Legislature Concerning Gender Identity? Some
◊ Transexuals are exempted from military conscription
Cultural Points of Interest:
There are well-known gay scenes on some of the Greek Islands, in particular Myconos for gay men, and the island of Lesbos for women.
It was bitter sweet leaving Moscow. We’d become quite close with many of the Moscow and Belorussian activists, and it was a little sad saying goodbye to these new friends.
However, our next stop is Athens Pride 2010.
On Monday morning we took a very crowded Moscow train out to Sheremetyevo airport headed to Athens, Greece.
This will be the 6th year of the parade. Unlike past years, the Pride is experiencing some of the ripple effects from the debt crisis. A protesting Greek worker’s union started planning a demonstration for the same day and time as the already booked Pride festival. This has caused the Pride organizers to push back the times of the scheduled Pride events.
Out of respect for the very serious issue of social claims, we cancel all our actions from 11.00 to 15.00 on Saturday.
Because of the gloomy state of Greece, the IMF and the “Troika” of uncertainty and frustration, we join our voices with those that fight for a better and fairer Greece.
~ Press Release from Athens Pride.eu
The march will still go on, as organizers realize it is an important political statement to make even in times of financial crisis. Unfortunately, this means the Pride also faces criticisms from those that don’t understand the importance of these issues.