Then, Now, and Beyond
By Jacob Porteous
An Introduction to Pride
Pride is an annual event taking a positive and welcoming stand against discrimination, violence, misinformation, and prejudice towards gay, lesbian, trans, and other queer individuals. It aims to promote the struggle for equal rights, address injustice, build a sense of community, celebrate sexual diversity and gender variance, and educate the public about these issues.
It may just seem like a big party, but Pride’s roots are in protest. The fight for LGBT rights, as a movement, can be traced back to the Stonewall riots.
In the United States, homosexuality was still a criminal offense at the time – men could also be arrested for being in drag, and women could be arrested if they weren’t wearing “feminine” enough clothing. Police would regularly raid known gay bars to arrest and humiliate the patrons. The raids continued for years and the frustration and anger of the LGBT community grew until in June 1969, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York, fought back.
Pride has come a long way since then, but there are still pressing legal fights facing the LGBT community, from the ongoing fight to keep same-sex marriage legal in the United States, to the right of same-sex couples to adopt children in the Czech Republic. In some places, homosexuality is still a punishable criminal offence.
Pride remembers and commemorates the act of defiance that gave birth to the LGBT rights movement, while continuing in the spirit of the bravery at Stonewall to improve the lives of LGBT individuals around the world.
Symbols of Pride include the ubiquitous rainbow flag, as well as two reclaimed from the brutality of Nazi oppression: the pink and black triangles with which gays and lesbians were labelled in concentration camps – since repurposed as positive symbols of identity and visibility.
The rainbow Pride flag was created by artist Gilbert Baker and first unveiled at a march in San Francisco organised by the gay rights icon Harvey Milk. The original eight stripes were “hot pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony and violet for spirit.”
Prague Pride: History
The first Prague Pride parade, held on Saturday, 13 August 2011, caused quite a stir. Originally slated by many locals as being unnecessary in what has been dubbed the most tolerant Central European country, everything changed with Petr Hájek, then deputy head of the Presidential Office.
In an attack on other politicians’ support for Prague Pride and a call to Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda, Hájek called it a “political demonstration … for a world in which sexual or any other deviation becomes virtue.”
Several embassies reacted with an open letter in support of the event, but it was the reaction of the public that spoke volumes. What was expected to be a small start to Pride events in Prague became a massive celebration and demonstration by not only the LGBT community, but by their allies – new and old – in the rest of society. Supporters showed up in droves wearing masks of Petr Hájek’s face, shirts, paint, and more, declaring “I am a deviant” in protest. Approximately 25,000 people attended Pride in 2011.
Since then, Prague Pride has continued to grow, and the 2018 event was the largest yet, topping the charts in a few categories – from being the hottest week of the summer to having the longest Pride Parade yet, and even organising the largest mass, mobile, and anonymous HIV testing in Europe. The week-long event also attracted 92,000 attendees, and around 40,000 people marched in the parade.
This Year’s Pride: What to Expect From Prague Pride 2019
Prague Pride isn’t all about the parade – in fact, it is a week-long event with a range of activities, and is one of the largest cultural events in the Czech Republic. On the festival programme are social and cultural events, public discussions and debates, sports, and appearances by significant visiting public figures like the LGBT activist Omar Sharif Jr. and Eurovision Song Contest winner Conchita Wurst.
The festival regularly hosts over 100 events throughout its week-long presence in Prague, and of course, culminates in a spectacular parade with music and floats celebrating inclusivity and the visibility of the LGBT community in the city and beyond. Led by the mayor of Prague since 2015, you may see other notable faces in the crowd, from celebrities to political figures like the Dutch MEP Sophie in’t Veld and the previous American ambassador to the Czech Republic, Andrew H. Schapiro.
So what can you expect from Prague Pride this year?
2019 is a significant year to the LGBT community: it’s the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots – Pride events around the world are paying tribute to and celebrating the achievements of the LGBT rights movement since.
This will also be true for Prague Pride, turning to the trials and tribulations of the Czech Republic’s own LGBT history behind the Iron Curtain. “We will focus on the legacy of the past, relevance for today and our responsibility for future generations,” says the official site.
Pride will open with an outdoor concert on Střelecký island in the heart of the city centre, featuring 80-year-old Polish DJ Wika, Gunn Lundemo, and actress, musician, and activist Daniela Sea.
The following week will be chock-full, with activities ranging from drag shows and ballroom vogue to exhibitions and public discussions. Maintaining a strong human rights angle this year, as always, Prague Pride will feature an outdoor photo exhibit on the queer history of the Czech Republic.
Carrying on the theme of looking to the past for inspiration for the future, Pride will also feature talks and discussions focused on bringing older and younger generations together to facilitate intergenerational understanding, and to pass the lessons of the past on to the LGBT community.
At noon on Saturday 10 August, you can join others in Wenceslas Square before walking through Prague’s historic centre all the way to Letna Park, where the celebration will continue in the summer sun with food, drinks, and music until 22:00. But the party doesn’t stop there: keep an eye out for any of the multiple afterparties dotting the city that evening, including Pride Official Afterparty – Dirty Dirty Dancing Vol 5, held in the converted cargo ship club Altenburg 1964.
Then close out the Prague Pride festivities on Sunday with the Pride Picnic in the Pride Village.
For more information and to see specific planned events, check out the official Prague Pride website at praguepride.cz.