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Sofia Pride: an unnecessary gay parade?

The need for the continued existence of the Pride Parade in Bulgaria as political activism

This year's Sofia Pride parade takes place on June 18th. This year is a little more important than previous ones as the procession prepares to celebrate its 15th anniversary. While many people are either excited or indifferent to this fact, many others are preparing to start the usual discussion points. "Why are they pushing themselves in our faces? If they want to be equal, why parade so much? Where is the hetero parade? They got their rights, why are they still showing off? I am not against them, but with these demonstrations, they are asking for a fight.” To prepare for such discussions, today we will answer the questions and emphasize why the Pride is important and necessary.

The history of the parade

In fact, the criticism that gay people flaunt their homosexuality through parades is true. The discrepancy occurs when it is seen as something bad and characteristic only of the Pride parade.

The Pride parade began as a revolt against the excessive police regulation of the lives of citizens. As a riot and protest, the parade is organized worldwide to commemorate the achievements of the queer people and their contribution to the struggle for equality. Although it can be speculated that the parade is a Western thing that does not coincide with Bulgarian culture, the truth is that the first Pride that can be found in Bulgaria was the procession in the early 60s from Centralna to Gorna Banya. The history of rebellion and political activism is respected during the Pride, which includes many educational events in the official program and during which solidarity blocs are organized.

Why is it needed?

On the one hand, the Pride is an event that celebrates queer and LGBT + culture. From drag and balls to flags and pop music, queer culture is rich and deeply historical. The celebration of identity reminds cishet (cisgender and heterosexual) people that LGBT + does not only mean gay men and that queer people are many and deserve equal rights.

On the other hand, the Pride continues to be a political protest. As the official website of Sofia Pride points out, there is still a long way to go to achieve sexual and gender equality in Bulgaria. The connection between queer activists and feminists exists because of the need for equality. To say that there is a problem with domestic violence in Bulgaria is only half the truth. In fact, it is worrying that the response to the existence of independent women or of out queer people provokes the same reaction, as seen in the protests against domestic violence and the homophobic attack on the Rainbow Hub in one month, with the aggressors in both events "traditionalists", or Bulgarian nationalists.

When it comes to the need for a "demonstrational" parade, a cultural aspect of the Bulgarian essence that is ignored in the history of the marches. And while banning the parade has been discussed annually from the very beginning of Sofia Pride, the Lukovmarsh, which commemorates the life of the Nazi Hristo Lukov, has been taking place since 2003, despite anti-fascist protests.

Why is it important to have popular artists?

The presence of popular performers during the procession is important for the implementation of the Sofia Pride mission. Even if it is incomprehensible to someone why Camelia, Papi Hans, Ruth Koleva and Victoria share the same scene, attracting fans of the performers and the Bulgarian media opens a dialogue about the existence of queer Bulgarians and their problems. Unless it is a political tactic, the LGBT + community in Bulgaria is rarely talked about outside of June, mostly due to the Pride parades in different cities. Even if it's bad, the discussion of queer people reminds us of the existence of a minority that too often is forgotten about. That is why visibility, live and in the media, is an important aspect of LGBT + activism, supported by big celebrity names.

Where is the hetero parade?

The easy answer is that the hetero parade occurs daily in Bulgarian streets. While there is a day when LGBT + people can feel safer, and not be threatened with murder, this is the daily routine of heterosexual couples and cisgender people. As a protest, Pride is as much a celebration as it is political activism that the majority does not need, especially in a country that celebrates only heterosexual marriage as a celebration of romantic love.

However, if the urge to participate stems from a sincere place that wants to celebrate interpersonal love and the right to express themselves, cishet people may not only be welcome to participate in Sofia Pride but may also volunteer to organize the event.

The Pride Parade is an opportunity to celebrate the diversity of the Bulgarian identity and to face violence and hatred head-on. Discussions of the contrary redirect attention and ignore the inequality enshrined in the Bulgarian constitution regarding marriage and the lack of protection from hatred.

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