This past weekend was the conclusion of pride month, and while for the queer community pride never ends, inevitably the rest of the population will closet their rainbows and festive garb. The World Pride Parade in New York, which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, was one of the largest in history, seeing 4 million visitors. It was a fantastic celebration of how far the world has come in accepting queer individuals and harboring to them equal treatment under the law, but not every demonstration around the world was met with as much positive fervor.
Istanbul’s pride parade has been banned for the last four years by the Turkish government and this year was no exception. Authorities would not grant permission for any suggested locations because they believe the queer community is “societally objectionable.” Despite this, the community still gathered off of the city’s main pedestrian avenue to celebrate, a decision that was met with police violence.
The attendees had reached an agreement with the police to be allowed to give a statement to the press and then leave peacefully, but then police dispersed the crowd of hundreds using tear gas and plastic bullets. Video taken there shows police firing despite protestors leaving and getting confrontational with civilians outside a restaurant. There’s hope that the new mayor will address the ban of pride, and that Istanbul’s queer community will be able to openly celebrate in the future, but for now, it seems the government wants them to remain closeted.
While not as violent, Paraguay’s pride celebration was also in response to a hostile government. With the election of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, Latin America has seen a more conservative shift after what was seen as many gains for the queer community. The previous administration talked openly about lesbians and transgender women in a country where most members of the queer community feel as though swept under the rug.
Paraguay already didn’t recognize unions between same-sex couples, and their constitution contains articles that specifically define a family as being between a man and woman, making the few changes, such as repealing don’t ask, don’t tell policies, large victories. This is why the recent shifts into more conservative territory have been so devastating.
In April, the Senate declared itself “pro-life and pro-family”. The President also tweeted the day of that, “We will defend the family as the basis of society and the protection of life from conception.” In 2017, the Ministry of Education banned books teaching “gender ideology” and for ignoring parental authority in children’s sexual identification. Paraguay’s pride parade managed to garner 2000 marchers despite the massive disdain displayed by their government.
There were also some bright spots in this year’s international pride, however, as North Macedonia and Nepal hosted their first ever pride parades. The former country had several hundred people march through their capital Skopje, including state officials and diplomats. Their good was met with resistance, as conservative protestors claiming to promote “family values” rallied in front of an Orthodox Christian cathedral.
North Macedonia is seeking to enter the European Union, a feat that they cannot accomplish without improving their human and minority rights, making pride a hopeful first step. Currently, same-sex couples are not recognized under law, and the 2015 Parliament amended the constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman and made it so any amendment involving marriage, family and civil unions would require a two-thirds majority. Even with the anti-discrimination laws passed this year, the country would need to go further to achieve EU membership.
Nepal hosted its first pride festival during the official pride month (they had previously had a parade each year during Gaijatra, a festival commemorating the dead and alleviating pain through humor), with the theme of “Inclusion of Queer” where they promoted the need for queer representation in the government. After the fall of Nepal’s monarchy, homosexuality was legalized in 2007, and the country is actually one of the friendliest ones in Asia for the queer community.
This year’s international pride shows how far the world has come in being consistent in its application of freedom to all individuals, but also how much work needs to be done. If there’s a lesson to be learned from the countries I explored, it’s how many representatives of the people will insert their own morals into their legislation. One can believe and uphold family values without forcing it upon their entire population.
Pride shows the urgency of a worldwide change in mindset where one doesn’t force their morals onto others and try to control their actions. More people need to learn to not associate a differentiation in values as an affront to themselves and society. To achieve that would be to make a better and freer world for the queer community.
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