Pride season is upon us but for some, being out and proud comes at a high cost. In Ukraine, where homophobia is not only widespread but socially acceptable, about a hundred LGBTs marched on Saturday amidst fears of violence and protests.
“This can be considered a historic day,” Elena Semyonova, a representative of the organizers, told the AFP. “We felt like we were full-fledged citizens whose rights are respected.”
Unlike the major pride parades bearing shirtless hunks, dykes on bikes and giant floats in the middle of the street, the brief, 20-minute march was a decidedly low-key affair. Organizers advised participants to dress comfortably and eschew earrings and other accessories to make for a potential quick getaway.
They were right to worry as leading up to the march, city authorities received over 5oo complaints from the public and more than 60 parliamentary lawmakers signed a letter calling for a ban on all gay pride events. Then at the last minute, a Ukraine court ruled that no events could be staged in the centre of Kiev on Saturday because of City Day celebrations, leading pride organizers to opt for a smaller gathering in a far more remote setting.
Of course, that didn’t keep 400-500 protesters from coming out and voicing their opposition, heavily outnumbering the marchers, which included gays from Denmark, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands. While some religious activists fell to their knees yelling “gays out of Ukraine,” gay activists held their ground, chanting “human rights are my pride.” All and all, around 30 protesters were detained by police.
This is in stark contrast to Ukraine’s soviet sister Russia. Police quickly broke up a pride parade in Moscow and arrested about 30 activists and organizers on Saturday, prompting Russian activist Nikolai Bayev to praise the Ukrainian government for allowing the march to happen at all, noting, “It is of course a more progressive country than Russia.”