So, this year’s Sofia Pride was on 18 June (last Saturday), and of course I was there. :)
It was a hot day, I was already very tired from spending too much of it on the road, and of course
I hadn’t managed to sleep the night before, which didn’t help either. But still... it was our day, and I somehow had the energy to smile now and then during the march, and dance a little during the short concert at our gathering point afterwards. And I got plenty of hugs from friends. :)
That one day in the year when we half-march, half-dance our way through the central streets of Sofia to declare our very existence, our very humanity, and our very physical presence, our very bodies somehow became a statement. Our day on which we celebrate boldly in public all possible bonds of love that bring us there... I don’t know how to explain to first-world foreigners that mix, that perfect harmony of protest and celebration at the same time. :)
We observed a minute of silence for the victims of the Orlando shooting before the speeches began. And then some of us got worried that those speeches were going on for too long... but that worked in our favour because the police didn’t want to let us start our march before some counter-protesters (aggressive "nationalist" types), which were allowed by the Mayor to march at the same time and in dangerous proximity to our route, got away from the streets. Make no mistake, none of that happened by chance, and the police were left to deal with the consequences in this populist political game. We learned later that some of those types started a fight with the police officers, who just fought back enough to defend themselves and push the attackers back, and apparently nobody got arrested! Well, at least they were not given a chance to attack us, although a small group of them sneaked into a strategic location and tried to intimidate us while part of the police forming the cordon on that side of the march were watching them intently and we were laughing and waving mockingly our rainbow flags at them. Yes, an Eastern European Pride is always a good adrenaline boost! ;)
As one of our activists said, this video captured the experience beautifully. I’m not in the video myself, but please don't let that stop you from watching it. :P By the way, I saw the dog at 1:14 in person. :)
I actually got into this video (2:19 - 2:26, following the huge rainbow flag), but I don't know if any of you can recognize me from that distance.
( Some photos in which I do look terrible :PCollapse )
Do TV cameras make me look fatter? I’m afraid they do. :P Now seriously, you can see me in the background at about 2:30 in the news video (In Bulgarian) if you follow this link, and I swear I got there accidentally. :D Sorry, the video is not embeddable.
And if you want to see our adversaries, there is another non-embeddable Bulgarian news video here. Their attempt to fight the police starts at around 0:30. Apparently, they got upset because they weren’t allowed to leave right through the police cordon right after they declared their event finished, so they tried to storm their way out. In the end they were only allowed to withdraw in small groups of two or three people at a time.
Here is a little photo gallery of Sofia Pride in a Bulgarian newspaper.
And now a few photos featuring me:
I’m not sure to whom to give credit for this one I copied off Facebook. The guy in the middle is my friend Victor Lilov, who is currently your only openly gay politician (to my knowledge).
And now some photos by my friend Lachezar or taken with his camera if he is in them himself. If you are on Facebook, you can see his whole Pride album here.
This photo is my special favourite because I don't look terrible in it. :P
A photo I took myself, for a change, of a sign lying conveniently on the grass after the march. It says, “Discrimination and hatred come back to you”. The sticker in the corner says “Act again every form of discrimination”.
My company managed to withdraw safely after the event; we hid anything pride-related before we left our gathering point, and turned into a group of ordinary citizens that just happened to be there. ;) Maybe it helped that there was a (pretty quiet) beer fest in another area of the same park. We even managed to eat a modest dinner still within the wider area that was guarded by the police; some of them stayed there pretty late, and I don’t know when they left. I then spent the night at a friend's place and went back to my home town on the next day.
Alas, some other Pride participants were incautious or unlucky enough to meet a group of “counter-protesters” on their way back. Before we even left the guarded area, I was told on the phone that a young woman had used some kind of spray against two infamous “nationalist” types who allegedly threatened to attack her physically and everybody involved on both sides got arrested. We learned later that the young lady and her male companion were not allowed to talk to the lawyer (a Pride participant and activist herself) who rushed to the police station. Then everybody got released, and the alleged wannabe attackers have been very vocal about their innocence; things are promising to become very interesting, and not in a good way… *sigh* But at least nobody got beaten this year.
And in case you think that I am very brave (or very reckless), think of those Russian activists who got arrested for trying to commemorate the Orlando victims for perspective. Well, at least this is my Eastern European perspective, from which I consider myself lucky enough.