EuroPride 2015

Changing HistoryYesterday, M. and I had the fantastic opportunity to participate in EuroPride 2015, an international event focused on bringing awareness to and support for the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) community throughout Europe. Riga served as the host city for this year’s week-long event, which included workshops, film showings, and art exhibitions and culminated in a pride parade, rally, and concert in the city center. What a great chance to become part of history!

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One of the many groups of celebrators at EuroPride Riga 2015.

First celebrated in London in 1992, EuroPride is held annually in a different country, and over the years has drawn hundreds of thousands of participants from all over Europe. Riga’s selection as this year’s EuroPride host city is hugely significant both for Riga and for EuroPride, as this was the first time that EuroPride was held in a former Soviet nation and in such close proximity to Russia, where LGBTI rights are severely limited. Six years ago, during Riga’s city-wide Pride parade, approximately 70 people marched through the streets, lined by about 3,000 protestors who threw everything from insults to feces at the participants; this year, more than 5,000 participants from throughout Europe paraded through Riga as about 40 peaceful protestors looked on.

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A few signs waiting to be carried through the streets of downtown Riga.

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Rainbow flags and snacks were made available to participants in the VIP tent before the parade.

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The U.S. Embassy had two of these banners, to be carried on the parade course.

Changing History

Changing history is hot! This was one of the themes for EuroPride. Here I am with two of my new friends and teaching colleagues as we prepare for the parade. Photo credit: E. M.

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The Americans toward the end of the parade route in Riga’s city center.

EuroPride 2015 was largely supported by the U.S. Embassy, and as such, included a few dozen American participants. Thanks to funding from the State Department, the Embassy was able to host several guest speakers and musicians, including Stuart Milk, human rights activist and nephew of the late Harvey Milk; Randy Berry, the State Department’s first-ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons; Betty, a New York-based LGBTI activist and musical group; and Steve Grand, the first openly gay American country music singer. M.’s official duties related to EuroPride were to assist Stuart Milk with his logistics and itinerary as he attended workshops and made speeches throughout the weekend.

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M. and I with Mr. Stuart Milk. He is such a lovely person and it was a huge honor to spend some time with him.

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Stuart Milk galvanizes the audience, carrying on the legacy of his late uncle. His primary message to the LGBTI community: “You are not alone!”

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Steve Grand (holding the flag) listens to the music as he waits to perform.

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Several musicians from all over Europe performed on the stage after the parade, including this woman from Ukraine, who got the crowd dancing to her cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”.

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The crowd looks on as speakers and musicians take the stage during the EuroPride rally.

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Betty engages the audience with a few interactive songs.

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Steve Grand and the Grand Band perform at the rally.

Following the rally and a couple of hours of rest, we headed out again for the Steve Grand concert at Riga’s Palladium Theater.

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Steve Grand performs in front of several hundred at the Palladium Theater.

Participating in EuroPride was an incredible experience for both of us. It was a perfectly sunny, early summer day, and the energy was so positive and awe-inspiring. We met people from all over Europe who were there both as part of the LGBTI community and as supporters. Being part of such a momentous day in history was truly remarkable, and something we will never forget. It was a great honor for us, and an experience that made M. incredibly proud to work for an embassy committed to supporting equal rights for everyone.

Thank you for reading!

Next year’s EuroPride 2016 will be held in Amsterdam in conjunction with Amsterdam Gay Pride.

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