EVENTS | ACTIVISM
is opened by the Pride Walk.
It follows the route between Homomonument – a memorial in the centre of Amsterdam that commemorates all gay men and lesbians who have been subjected to persecution because of their homosexuality – and Westerpark, taking about an hour to complete. An estimated 15,000 people participated in the 1.8 kilometer (1.118 mile) walk in 2019.
Pride Walk in Amsterdam is more of a demonstration for equal rights, therefore making it different from some other Pride parades such as those in the US, where it seems that the celebration of freedom and diversity has become the foremost purpose. People who participate in the Pride Walk are marching for those who cannot or do not have an opportunity to march for their own rights, mostly because of the oppressive regimes of their native countries. Did you know that there are 72 jurisdictions in the world where being gay is illegal, 11 of which punish homosexuality by death? One of them being Uzbekistan, a neighbor country to Kazakhstan, where I was born. All of the countries where homosexuality is punishable by death operate under sharia law.
The Amsterdam Pride Walk was helmed by a dozen bikers, followed by a solitary man carrying a memorial photo of Yelena Grigoryeva, who was killed just days before the march near her home in St. Petersburg, Russia. Yelena was a prominent figure in protesting the widespread animosity towards nontraditional sexuality in Russia, earning her a spot in a terrifying website called “Pila” (Saw), where personal information like addresses, phone numbers, and names of LGBTQ activists were being leaked and people were encouraged to kill them off. Even though the website was taken down, the damage was already done. Russian police claim that Yelena’s death was a domestic dispute, refusing to treat the case as a hate crime; all of her earlier reports about fearing for her life due to the many death threats she received were ignored by the authorities in the past.
After the lone man carrying Grigoryeva’s memorial, 74 people followed holding the 74 flags of countries where homosexuality – at that time – was either criminalized or, where there are no laws against homosexual acts but there are repressive laws against “homosexuality propaganda,” like in Russia. Back in 2016 Huff Post wrote about Russian Neo-Nazis “allegedly luring and torturing gay teens with online dating scams,” while in reality, Maksim Martsinkevitch, the originator of the movement called Occupy Pedophilia, might have started operating as early as 2010 and not allegedly so, but very much so. Maksim and a group of other men would scam gay men and teenagers into meeting them through a gay website, only to beat, humiliate, and torture them, while recording the whole ordeal and posting it online for everyone to see. Maksim has appeared on major TV shows talking about his movement, equating homosexuality to pedophilia and garnering support of many in the local community as well as the local authorities who would turn a blind eye to his actions. Maksim’s YouTube channel currently has over 40K subscribers.
There have been many reported cases of missing persons in the Chechen Republic, a part of the Russian Federation: forced abductions, torture, and imprisonment by authorities of men based on their “perceived” sexual orientation. Up to 100 men have been reported missing, while an unknown number of men have been reported dead after being held by the authorities on suspicion of being gay or bisexual.
It seems that the organizers of arguably the biggest Pride celebration in Amsterdam, Canal Parade, pay very keen attention to who they let float their boats down the canals. Only 80 boats were selected to float in 2019, and the companies that participated went through rigorous investigation of their HR sectors. Basically, let’s see the receipts of what you really do for our community. Very different from the “If you pay, you can be gay” approach adopted by the NYC Pride.
In June of 2019 NYC celebrated the first WorldPride on the American turf, while simultaneously celebrating the 50th anniversary of Stonewall Uprising. The same month The NY Times has published an article about a brewing boycott over Pride celebrations. In the article, Bill Dobbs of the Reclaim Pride Coalition who was responsible for organizing the alternative march, claimed that NYC Pride “allows corporate sponsors to ‘pinkwash’ their images as gay-friendly organizations with progressive principles.” Bill’s side argued that the parade should be more of a protest instead of the over-the-top show that Pride has become. Reclaim Pride Coalition has also expressed that they would like minimum involvement from the police, calling the N.Y.P.D. commissioner James P. O’Neill’s apology for the Stonewall raids “empty.” Ouch.
On the other side, Cathy Renna, a spokesperson for Heritage of Pride (that does business as NYC Pride), said that corporate sponsorship is a step in the right direction, as it shows how far our community has come, garnering such mainstream support. The organization allowed the N.Y.P.D. to walk in the parade, claiming that this was a step towards improving relationship with the police. None of the parties involved in the argument would have a slightest idea that in 2020, Pride in NYC would shift its focus back to its protesting roots, making it very similar to Pride Walk in Amsterdam.
If there is anything I’ve learned by exploring LGBTQIA+ cultures around the world, it’s that we might seem divided, but we are all still in the same boat. It’s disheartening to read about instances of the community turning on each other, like in an article written by an LGBTQIA+ and women’s rights activist Phaylen Fairchild, that explores the complicated relationship between gay men and transgender people. It’s absurd to think that instead of uplifting each other every step of the way, we can be argumentative and downright hateful towards each other. As an LGBTQIA+ community, we must work as one and find peace within our own culture before trying to figure out how to achieve global acceptance.