Following its successful inaugural event last year, Prague Pride returns this month with a series of events taking place across the city from the 13th – 19th August.
We sat down with the festival’s chairman Czeslaw Walek to find out more about how Prague’s very own Pride event came about, and what the event aims to achieve for the LGBT+ community here.
He started by explaining what inspired him and his team to launch the event last year: “the main goal of Prague Pride was and still is to facilitate, promote and advocate acceptance of and equal opportunities for the LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender) communities in the Czech Republic”. He pointed out that although Prague is a liberal city with a large gay community, it has never been very visible to the general Czech public. “We wanted to show people that gays and lesbians are an integral part of their society, with specific problems that are often not mentioned by the general media.”
Czeslaw went on to explain the overall aim of Pride events worldwide is “to promote LGBT self-affirmation & equality rights, to increase our visibility as a social group, to build and unite our own community, and to celebrate sexual diversity and gender variance. Because in most cultures homosexuality is associated with shame and social stigma, ‘Pride’ is the predominant term used to enhance most LGBT rights movements throughout the world. In most Prides around the world, the main event is a parade that celebrates LGBT culture and also often serves as a demonstration for legal rights.”
It is clear that these fun and colourful celebratory events have a much deeper socio-political agenda. The inaugural Prague Pride event last year was caught up in a series of very public political outbursts involving President Klaus and one of his key aides, Petr Hájek, in which, among other things, Hájek controversially referred to the ČR’s homosexual community as “deviant fellow citizens” and Klaus backed up with a statement that claimed “while homosexuality is something that is markedly in the minority and therefore deserves our protection, it does not necessarily deserve to be celebrated.”
Czeslaw gladly acknowledges the unexpectedly positive effect these comments had on the event. “It showed the necessity of an event like this, as many people claimed beforehand that gays & lesbians already have equal rights in the ČR. It made many people realise that there is still a lot to fight for and quite a lot of participants of Prague Pride 2011 were heterosexual Czechs who wanted to show that they didn’t share the president’s opinion.” The extra attention in the press during the lead up to the event certainly didn’t hurt. “Their remarks received an enormous amount of media coverage, where even rather conservative media were reporting in a positive way, showing Prague Pride not just as a colourful party, but also as an important human rights event.”
This political focus is something the Pride team are keen to develop this year through the varied programme of events. “There has been a political debate leading up to Prague Pride, to which we invited several candidates for the upcoming Presidential elections. This debate focused on several human rights issues, among which those of the LGBT community… There will be other political events, like a debate on the low number of openly out LGBT politicians and an exhibition on LGBT families, focusing on the real problems they are facing.”
And what other types of events can we expect to experience during Pride week? “Naturally, the most visited and visible events will be on Saturday the 18th of August, with the parade and concert, but Prague Pride will be much more than that: It is a full week festival with over 80 events in cooperation with more than 40 organisations, from human rights workshops to many different kind of cultural events. There will be several parties every day, but you could also visit Prague’s cinemas or theatres, where LGBT+ films will be shown and comedies, circus & cabaret will be offered.”
“Various exhibitions will be part of the Pride week, with Czech and Slovak artists focusing on LGBT+ life. There will be days which will focus on different parts of the Czech LGBT+ community, such as a transgender event, where you can join a discussion with Polish transgender MP Anna Grodzka, and an evening about Roma gay & lesbian culture. A beach volleyball, football, and squash tournament is being prepared for those who like to exercise their bodies. The program will be completed by city tours, picnics, and debates, with various topics such as arts, politics, and religion. As many events as possible will be translated into English and wheelchair accessible. You can find all details in the program section of our website.”
The theme of the 2012 event is ‘Bringing our Colours Together’. Czeslaw explained that the aim is to introduce LGBT communities to the general public that are usually hidden from the public eye, such as LGBT Roma, believers, disabled or transgender persons. “Many of the events during our Pride week are organised by members of those different communities, Prague Pride being the platform for them to present themselves to the society.”
Of course, non-LGBT attendees are welcome at all of the events “We want to stress that Prague Pride is open to everybody: Old and young, male and female, straight and gay, Czechs and foreigners.”
And what does Czeslaw hope for the future for Pride and the LGBT community in ČR? “I think that currently, the biggest obstacle for social change in the ČR is lack of LGBT role models. This applies to closeted politicians, artists, television hosts and other kind of celebrities, but also to general gays & lesbians, who haven’t come out to their friends, families and colleagues yet. This creates the false impression that gays & lesbians aren’t an integral part of society.
“I hope that one day people will not be afraid to be open about their sexual orientation, not just in Prague but all over the ČR, and that they can live their lives the way they choose to.”
If you are interested in getting more involved or becoming a supporter of this year’ Pride event, more information can be found via the specially created volunteers Facebook group; you can visit the web shop to purchase souvenirs or VIP packages, or you can make a financial donation via the Support Us section of the Pride website.
13 – 19th August 2012