I’m ashamed to admit that, prior to this past weekend, I’ve never attended a Pride event.
I have been an ally and friend to a number of people who identify as LGBTQ over the years, but I’ve never actively participated in an organized event to support the gay community.
I now live in a country where homosexuality hasn’t historically been tolerated or accepted, and the stakes are high. Ukraine wants to separate itself from Russia. It is developing its own identity. And, increasingly, it wants to become folded into the European Union.
During the Pride parade two years ago, there were violent altercations and people were hurt. Last year, the city fenced off several city blocks for the event, and it was relatively peaceful. This year, I’m happy to report that even more people showed up in support — somewhere between 2,500 and 4,000 people according to varying news reports.
In Las Vegas, Pride is a celebration and a party. People dress up and dance and sing and honor who they are.
In Kyiv, this past weekend’s Pride event was a march, an act of activism.
In the week leading up to the event, organizers sent out ample information about the event. The safety guidelines were intense, and participants were advised on what to wear, bring and prepare in case of an emergency. There were details about how to walk in a line, what to carry in our pockets and how to link arms in case we were bombarded by protesters.
Reading through these details, we almost decided not to go, and I’m glad we changed our minds.
Pride is important. And showing up as an ally is important.
Those risks were worth it, because all humans matter. As a fellow human being, we had a responsibility to be there.
We planned for the worst case scenario, but I’m happy to report it was an anti-climatic event. We met up with other expatriates prior to the march, and we each had a rainbow-flag to wave as we walked. There were lots of foreign flags and international representation from the U.S., Sweden, Georgia and beyond. I’m pretty sure our little group was marching in front of the Ukrainian Peace Corps volunteer contingency.
There were around 6,000 fully armed and armored cops and military personnel in riot gear present — more of them than marchers. The area was completely blocked off, so people couldn’t actually stand by the route and watch us go by. Security was so thick around the fences, I couldn’t even see through them so I’m not sure if anyone was even protesting.
The march ended at a subway station that was completely closed off for Pride’s purpose. We loaded into an empty train, and security personnel got on with us — one or two at each door. Then the trains went to the end of the line, where we all disembarked and reloaded to return to the city center, mixing in with others on the metro. The only reports of violence or harassment came post-event. Organizers had warned us this could be the case, as marchers were more vulnerable once they were beyond the reach of event security.
Overall, I’ve gotten the impression this Pride event is being considered a success, and hopefully next year’s will be bigger and even more visible.
It seems so wild that we had to go to such lengths just to show our support for people.
People are people. Period.
I’m frequently flabbergasted that we’re still having conversations about human rights and showing kindness and compassion toward other people. I don’t like that we had to show up for a Pride march. Quite frankly, we shouldn’t have to march in support of anyone. In my opinion, it is a given that we all treat each other as equals.
And yet, we march. And as long as we have to march, I will show my support.
Someday, hopefully we can call this march a parade. And at the end of that parade, there will be a party. Finally, at that point, we can celebrate.
That day can’t come soon enough.