It’s finally that time of the year again!
It’s time to be out and proud, to be surrounded by like-minded people, to represent, and to celebrate. Like many capitals around the world, Brussels has a large LGBTIQ+ Pride Festival attracting thousands of participants and spectators. The 23rd edition of the Belgian Pride Festival has been kicked off at the beginning of May, and the Pride Parade will take place on May 19th in Brussels.
Pride is a people — of all ages, colors, creeds, sexual desires and genders — coming together. It’s about joy and unity; but this celebration of life, love, and liberty isn’t just about parades and partying; it is so much more than that. It’s about the LGBTIQ+ people being visible and belonging to a community, a town, a city, a nation and the world.
This is exactly why it’s very important not to forget its roots. Pride events had started as a powerful symbolic action which occurred after the 1969 Stonewall Riots in NYC when the LGBTIQ+ community fought back against police brutality. Since then Pride has expanded to different parts of the world including Europe where the LGBTIQ+ people seem to be fully assimilated into society.
There is no doubt that the LGBTIQ+ rights movement has won numerous legislative victories in most European countries in a relatively short space of time. These are all important and incredible achievements; but while legislation can be passed in a matter of days, the underlying attitude towards the community will take much longer to dissipate. Thus, these changes, whilst undoubtedly positive, mask a different reality. It’s the reality of the many members of the community who are frightened of holding hands in public because in large parts of the continent they’re still at risk of verbal and physical attack.
Furthermore, a 2012 survey conducted by the Fundamental Rights Agency involving over 93,000 LGBTQ+ people from across Europe showed that more than 1 in 4 LGBTIQ+ people had either experienced physical/sexual violence or threats within the 5 years prior to the survey.
While figures do not exist to accurately portray the everyday occurrence of hate speech and hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people, this community, knows from lived experience that it is not isolated, it is not insignificant and it is not being tackled effectively. The issue of anti-LGBTQ+ hate crime has increasingly been recognised by international organizations, as well as many governments across Europe, but, despite this, cross-border efforts to tackle this phenomenon are yet to be cohesively developed. Hence, Pride is an opportunity to recognise and highlight the continued and pervasive nature of hate speech and hate crimes perpetrated against LGBTQ+ community across Europe.
Of course, a few Pride marches and events won’t resolve all these issues or bring equality overnight. However, the fight still goes on and when anyone, straight or LGBTIQ+, takes part in Pride, the community’s visibility gets amplified across the world. This also provides hope to those who live in countries which continue to persecute the members of the community for their sexuality or their gender identity.
Therefore, Pride events — especially Pride parades — are about visibility and creating a sense of belonging. They constitute the best way to show that this community is bigger than one person or one group. Moreover, Pride is also necessary for those in the community who fought all those years ago to acquire a growing list of equal rights. It’s a way of showing that the community has not forgotten the battles, the lives lost and the pain suffered.
All in all, Pride can mean so many things all at once, making it nearly impossible to describe or sum up. If you would like to find out more about what function Pride marches have and why we still need them, attend the event titled ‘Marching for Pride – Still important?’ which will be held on May 15th at the European Parliament.
Lastly, 3 years ago, Queer Stagiaires and Égalité have marched in the Belgian Pride for the first time. This year, Queer Stagiaires and Égalité will, again, march together; however, this time with the official support of the European Commission, the European Commission’s Justice and Consumers DG, LGBTI Intergroup, EC Representation BE, and European City Team – Brussels.
Whether you’re queer or an ally, the Pride Festival is a time for parties, parades, remembrance, love, and support. So, whatever your reason and whoever you are, come join!
Seden Anlar (Twitter: @SedenAnlar)
Seden Anlar is a Law School graduate from Maltepe University and is currently working in the international security field in Brussels, Belgium. Her main fields of specialization are global politics, human rights, gender, peace and security. She is a part of the Everywoman Everywhere Coalition and the Student Research Committee on International Law and Governance of the International Association for Political Science Students. She is eager to get involved in interesting and progressive freelance projects that involve political writing and online publishing.