Monday, 11 October 2010

How yesterday's Belgrade gay pride parade happened

Source: Vreme

By Predrag Azdejković

I know where I will be on October 10th

Could the organizers of Belgrade's gay parade be somehow related to Sisyphus? They have been trying to organize the parade since 2001, but its stone rolls downhill every time. The organizers, like Sisyphus, cannot give up so they return to the bottom of the hill and start rolling the stone back to the top, hoping to succeed every time. Unlike Sisyphus, who was punished by gods to roll it uphill, the gay parade's organizers chose the punishment willingly, and, believe me, organizing a gay parade in Serbia is a punishment indeed. Additionally, we can discuss whether the organizers could be also related to Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, but that's a completely different topic.

This year's gay parade is scheduled for October 10th, 2010, at 10 a.m. (10 minutes, 10 seconds and 10 milliseconds?!). The weather forecast calls for a sunny day, if weather forecasters are to be trusted. Much more reliable sources, e.g. astrologists, state that the date is not fitting for the parade since all of the planets will be in the constellation of Scorpio, a symbol of destruction and aggression, but the conjunction of Venus and Mars is offering everyone a possibility to improve their lives, while Jupiter in conjunction signifies a beginning of a much happier period. But, let's leave the experts for planets aside. What is really different from last year's events, when the parade was cancelled due to security issues and how certain are we that it will take place this year and that its participants will walk off with their heads intact?

 Last year's cancellation resulted in the international community's pressure on Serbian state authorities to take the gay parade's organization more seriously, while gay organizations were criticized for all of the scandals which shook the activist scene. It was proven, for an umpteenth time, that the pressure method works best in Serbia. This method resulted in a much more serious and professional approach to the parade's preparation and security issues around it.

In the beginning, the Gay-straight Alliance toured nationally and met with all of relevant political parties, which all supported the parade (Democratic Party of Serbia, New Serbia and Unified Serbia refused to meet, while Serbian Radical Party was against it). If we consider particular politicians' statements or neglect of the issue during the debate regarding the Anti-discrimination Law or during last parade's organizational phase, this change is quite shocking. The change is not so shocking, as is the record-breaking short time it took to happen. I don't know if a spell has been cast on them, if they have been hypnotized, or if they have been drinking a wonderful combination of teas... Whatever it is, keep on trucking! Certainly, the main event was the meeting of Serbian president Boris Tadić with gay activists, which surprised both domestic and international public.

Although it doesn't look like an extremely important event at first sight, it managed to significantly change how many institutions and people relate to the GLBT issue. It's often asked what the president said or whether he supported gay parade and how he did it in conversations between activists and foreign diplomats. Even the Serbian Orthodox Church decided not to declare itself regarding the parade since the president supported it. The Ministry of Internal Affairs gathered enough strength to guarantee participants' safety in the city center. True, it's not Knez Mihailo's street, but it is still the center and far away from the infamous Confluence. Five thousand policemen will be present on Belgrade streets that day, ensuring that the Pride parade gets into a book of records as the most protected gathering in the capital's modern history.

What hasn't changed is that all sorts of nationalists, rightists, Nazis, football hooligans and other strong sons of Serbia are preparing to obstruct the parade. They are creating Facebook groups whose memberships number tens of thousands, threatening to murder unsanctioned, which seems to go unpunished in Serbia. Police is, like last year, slow and inefficient. Even Facebook is quicker than police, erasing groups which promote violence every now and then. Belgrade was covered with anti-gay graffiti last year. These "ornaments" hung on facades for months while no one was held accountable. The situation is different this time since graffiti are not that many, and the Vrbas police already charged a person for writing graffiti which were against the parade. I only hope that police is not wanting to waste any energy on virtual threats and is saving it for October 10th.

Unfortunately, most of people in Serbia still have no idea about the parade's goal or its purpose. The problem is that even the organizers themselves are not focused on providing an answer to that question. Instead of doing that, we heard that the parade is extremely important for the city image and how it would send a picture of Belgrade as a tolerant and progressive city. Millions of tourists will rush to our capital and will choose our parade, instead of ones in Berlin, London, Paris. Also, we could hear that the parade is very important with regard to Serbian EU integration, what is also questionable and shifts focus from GLBT rights to something completely unrelated. A very short paragraph, taken from the website, states that the parade serves to "increase visibility and poses a demand for respect of rights of persons of other sexual orientation and shows communal openness to accept differences and indicates the level of a society's democracy". You can find this sentence in your dictionary next to "meaningless phrase" as its explanation.

All of the previous contributes to the problem that the gay parade in Serbia is least gay, and much more state, police, pro-European, tourist, or any other parade, symbol of Europe, Westernhood, Second Serbia... Most of its participants will be non-gays who showed up in order to support gay population, or to defend pro-European politics or who are unnerved by the ones who are against it. Of course, as the date is nearing and as it is becoming more certain that it will take place, reasons for having to take the medicine to old nanny on that day are becoming stronger. I know where I will be on October 10th, 2010, at 10 a.m. As much as I don't like it, as much as I criticize it, my place is in it and all I have left is to invite you to walk together.

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