The train to Stockholm was full of people and rainbows. It was my first time to Scandinavia’s largest LGBTQIA+ pride parade and lucky me, it was also EuroPride.
I marched at my first LGBTQIA+ pride event in Metro Manila seven years ago. As a gay man, it was a liberating, happy, and proud moment. Every pride event always has its share of impressive moments.
Here are four that I had at #EuroPride2018 in Stockholm.
1. Sweden may be the world’s most LGBTQIA+ friendly place
We were changing trains to get to the Stockholm Stadshus (city hall). Two people in elaborate Filipinianas passed by.
They were Eric from Bulacan and Dianne from Mindanao. They both are now living in Sweden for more than two and five years, respectively.
“Sa mga taga-Mindanao, diri sa Sweden dawat ang mga bayot. Dawat ang tanan. Pare-pareha lang ang tanan, babaye, lalaki, bayot, tomboy. Tanan, Bongga (To people in Mindanao, here in Sweden gays are accepted. Everyone is accepted. Women, men, gays and lesbians are the same. Everything is fabulous)!” said Dianne to my camera.
It was surreal to realize the contrast of Mindanaons like Dianne and me living in LGBTQIA+ friendly Sweden. “Pagdawat” (Acceptance) was always something we always wondered if “matinuod ba gayud” (could it be real)?
In 2019, Sweden will celebrate 75 years of the decriminalization of homosexuality (since 1944) and 10 years of marriage equality. Sa Pinas, siguro puhon (Maybe eventually in the Philippines).
Eric also shared a message, “Today is Europride where all LGBT families gathered to celebrate this gift from above. To all the gays and members of our society back in our country, we are getting there and we are doing this for you.”
If Sweden is the benchmark, I am not sure how far “there” is.
See this chronological list of LGBT rights progress in Sweden:
1944 Homosexual relations are legalized
1972 Sweden becomes the first country in the world to legally allow gender change
1979 The National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) decides homosexuality is no longer a mental disorder
1987 Ban on discrimination against homosexuals by businesses and government officials takes effect
1988 Homosexuals included in the cohabitation law
1995 The Registered Partnership Act (domestic partnership law) passed
1999 HomO, an ombudsman for LGBT persons, is established (later brought in under DO)
2003 Constitutional change to outlaw hate speech based on sexual orientation
2003 Adoption rights for same-sex couples
2005 Insemination rights for lesbian couples
2009 Transgender identity and expressions included in anti-discrimination act
2009 Gender-neutral marriage law in effect
2011 Prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation is added to the Swedish constitution
2013 Mandatory sterilization stricken from law regarding change of legal gender
In the Philippines as of 2018, legislative advocacy of anti-discrimination bills based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) has reached its 18th year.
18 years in the Philippines.
74 years in Sweden.
Do you think this is how far we are from making significant progress in the legal front?
Tan’awon ta. (Let us see).
2. LGBTQI+ Pride is still very relevant for Europe
It did make me wonder though. With all these amazing progresses for LGBTQIA+ people in this part of the world, is there need for Pride?
Sweden is among the 29 of the 50 countries and 8 of the 9 dependent territories in Europe who recognize some type of same-sex unions. Also, among them most members of the European Union (23/28).
EuroPride, inaugurated in London in 1992, is one of the events that serve as a reminder of the more work that needs to be done. It is attended by estimated crowds of over 100,000 and is hosted by a different European city each year.
Here are some facts that show that not all of Europe is LGBTQIA+ friendly.
Constitutions of Armenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine recognizes marriage only as a union of one man and one woman.
In the Balkans (Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro and Macedonia) 88% think LGBTI marriages unacceptable according to a 2015 NDI public opinion poll.
3. LGBTQI+ Pride events are getting bigger
EuroPride Parade Stockholm is the largest pride event I have been to so far. News releases say that it broke all records with an estimated amount of 55,000–60,000 participants along the road.
For some time, I marched with Eric, Dianne, and other queer Pinoys. I saw their Filipinianas were big hits. The roads of Stockholm were their runways and their screaming fans were endless.
In those heels, I just wondered how their calves and feet were after. The march was officially declared three hours and 15 minutes long from start to finish! #Kebs #TiisGanda
Metro Manila Pride 2018, which I missed this year, also broke records. 25,000 people in attendance easily topped last year’s 8,000 participants in Marikina City for two years now.
4. Pride is solidarity in opposing any forms of discrimination
Pride may it be in Stockholm or Metro Manila means different things to different people. Some expressions I prefer and some I don’t.
I see through a lens that we live in a system that breeds inequality and commodification. Competition has been a defining relationship of our individual and community relations.
I am not happy to see the irony of Pride whose rallying cry is for “equality.” It shows when priority is given to the celebration/partying, access, and mileage of LGBTQIA+ people who paid more money, are more famous, more connected, or able-bodied. In effect, giving token or sometimes hindering participation to those who don’t fit that criteria.
Pride can always be reclaimed as the protest to this unequal and commodified system.
I am happy in Pride as a chance not only for people to show who they truly are but also to deepen understanding on people’s equal value and rights. I celebrate Pride as opportunity to show solidarity in actively opposing any forms of discrimination based on socio-economic status, race, health status, etc.
In #EuroPride2018, LGBTQI+ people who were refugees, asylum seekers, and differently-abled were present . The contingent of Marching for those who can’t include a flag that showed countries where there is still not enough legal protection for LGBTQI+ people. Labor unions, churches, government agencies, academe, and political parties also marched in unity.
In time for #MMPride2018, Metro Manila Pride and Bahaghari Metro Manila joined the call to #BoycottNutriAsia and to #SupportNutriAsiaWorkers. They echoed calls for job regularization, decent wages, and safe working conditions.
“Standing in solidarity with other marginalized sectors is important. Not just because LGBTQIA+ people are part of these sectors too. But because, as human rights activists, we must not stay quiet or stand idly by as oppression happens,” said Metro Manila Pride in a statement.
Bahaghari Metro Manila marched with a multi-sectoral (youth, church, workers, academe, indigenous peoples) contingent at #MMPride2018. Together they emphasized that “the fight of LGBT people is the fight for people’s rights; and the fight for people’s rights is also the fight of LGBT people.”
As I said goodbye to Eric and friends at EuroPride, he said, “This is actually my third pride and the feeling is still the same. I feel so proud and so happy.”
Indeed, Pride can still be a liberating, happy, and proud moment.