Sofia Pride Parade: The more homophobia there is, the more important it becomes

Written by on May 30, 2017 in Perspectives - Comments Off on Sofia Pride Parade: The more homophobia there is, the more important it becomes

In New York City, Stockholm or London, the Pride Parade is considered a normal event. People are used to it, many support it and even take part. The few haters in those kinds of places have learned that they are not the majority. So they largely shut up.

It is very different in Bulgaria, where homophobia is wide-spread. The more intolerance, hatred and even violence against LGBT people appears, the more important the Pride Parade becomes. In Sofia, it is extremely important. The next Sofia Pride Parade will take place very soon, on Saturday, June 10th, 2017.

When a Bulgarian language publication such as reports about the Sofia Pride Parade and a collection for the event, they trigger comments like this one: “For depravity we will pay! What about recipients of minimum wages and low pensions?” And this is one of the very moderate ones. The harsher ones, and there were many of those, were removed by the publication.

Comments like the one above, or statements of this kind in discussions are the usual thing in Bulgaria, when it comes to gays or certain other minorities. The most radical haters, like skinheads, Nazis or “patriots”, are usually dumb and frustrated, like they are in every European country. The intolerance and hatred shown by educated Bulgarians, on the other hand, many of whom actually believe homosexuality is a sickness, is more alarming.

Part of the wide-spread intolerance in Bulgaria could maybe be dissolved by educating people about the Pride Parade. This is the approach Radoslav Stoyanov took in an article a few years ago. He has been a fighter for LGBT rights for a long time and works for the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. In the piece he wrote in Bulgarian, he answered actual questions from Bulgarians about the parade. He started with the basics (“What is the Pride Parade?”) and covered everything, including the question why heterosexuals do not have a parade as well. This approach, explaining things to people, might actually work over time. But it is a very long process.

When the Sofia Pride Parade took place for the first time, in June of 2008, skinhead groups tried attacking the few participants. The police stepped in. They arrested 70 ultra-nationalists and Nazis. The second time around, in 2009, the number of participants doubled to 200 to 300, which was still an extremely low turnout.

Nazis and “patriots” were just as big of a problem as the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. The religious organisation condemned the Sofia Pride Parade, and quite a few Bulgarians do listen to the Church. On the other hand, embassies of many countries, including the U.S., Israel, the U.K. and many other E.U. countries already supported the event, shortly after it had been founded.

Most parties and politicians in Bulgaria seem to be homophobic too. They do not support the LGBT community at all. The so-called “Patriots” even hate them, like they hate all other minorities. But there were exceptions: Early on, the Bulgarian Green Party officially supported the Pride Parade. So did the youth organisation of the Socialists.

In 2010, 700 participants were counted, in 2011 there were 1,200, some of whom were attacked by haters after the event. In June of 2012, there were 2,000 participants. In 2013, the parade was postponed to a date in September, due to security concerns. By 2014, the usual call for the cancellation of the parade, expressed by the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, had become ridiculous.

It was in 2015, when thousands took part in the Sofia Pride Parade, while Ataka, a far-right party, which is part of Boiko Borissov’s new government coalition today, tabled a legislative amendment calling for people who take part in Pride Parades to be sent to prison, which is the original Nazi approach.

Last year, Sofia Municipality wanted to change the parade’s date, after they had approved a counter protest of haters on the same day. In the end, both events took place, while the police had to make sure they were separated. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church again freaked out. Patriarch Neofit said that “in the central part of the city we will again witness blatant propaganda for and public demonstration of homosexuality as a lifestyle”.

Now the 10th Sofia Pride Parade is about to take place, on June 10th, 2017, at 6:00 p.m.. The participants will meet at the Monument of the Soviet Army. The organisers have an SMS number for donations, which will be used for the parade: 17 777 (send “DMS SOFIAPRIDE”). The number works in Bulgaria. Subscribers of Telenor, Mtel and Vivacom donate 1 Lev per SMS. Users of prepaid phone services donate 1.20 Leva per SMS.

Related article: Radoslav Stoyanov: Bulgarians intolerant towards gays and lesbians







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