Stockholm Gay Pride is the best pride festival in the world. I know what I am talking about. I’m something of a pride groupie, and I’ve marched in many pride parades all around the world.
Most pride festivals are big fun flamboyant parties and an opportunity to show off our subculture in the prime real estate of the cities and societies we love. But cynics have a point when they claim western prides to be just an excuse for club promoters to charge four times the normal entrances for clubs so big you don’t have time to walk from one side to another. Nevertheless, I still love them.
But Stockholm Pride is different. Stockholm Pride focuses on what really matters to the GLBT community, namely politics and social issues. During four days, the queers invade and occupy Kulturhuset (The House of Culture) and between noon and 7pm, they host 3-5 seminars per hour on a vast list of topics that all affect the GLBT community. Some of this year’s topics were The Bible, Lesbian Insemination, Forced Sterilization of Transgender, Polyamorism, The Swedish Election 2014, HIV Prevention, Humanism, Islam, Russia, Argumentation Analysis, BDSM and Family Politics, BDSM and Safety, Jealousy, The Oppressive Child-norm and Filthy Bingo.
All haggard old queens who bitch about how gay pride is so shallow should visit Stockholm Pride and then pull some weight back home to make their pride more like Stockholm. Pride is a community event, and as a member of this community, you and your (in)actions are part of its success or failure.
Stockholm Pride isn’t only a long list of interesting and important seminars. There is also the Pride Park, which features two stages with an impressive array of shows and performances throughout the five days of Pride. However, for those who after seven hours of seminars still feel the need to debate GLBT issues can visit one of the many tents around the park. Almost every political party in Sweden are there and happy to debate the issues you find pressing. The various organizations that deal with the GLBT community are also there, informing the community of the important roles they play to keep us and our rights safe.
Then again, why not just go pink-slime wrestling when you have the chance?
It wouldn’t be gay pride without a parade! Once again, Stockholm punches far above its weight. Stockholm may not be a large capital, but it is the most beautiful. How could one not be filled with benevolent pride from walking free and strong alongside the beautiful royal castle with the many rivers and streams of Stockholm framing the picture?
This year, I was the banner man of the BDSM flag, waving it proudly from the SLM (Scandinavian Leather Men) float together with my extended leather family. It was a glorious day and I want to thank SLM for including me on the float.
The parade finishes at the Pride Park where, surprise surprise, a fiery speech is held addressing the state of the GLBT movement both in Sweden and the world. This year, the speech was a scathing attack on the hateful path that Putin has set Russia upon and a plea for reason to the Olympics committee.
Important GLBT Issues Today
I’d like to end this article with a handful of important issues that were discussed during Stockholm Pride. There were many more, but these ones stuck out as either important or unusual.
Russia and the Upcoming Olympics
I’ve always had a belief that in our enlightened age, gay rights are on a steady trajectory towards equality. Some countries have a faster pace than others, but the direction is always forward. Once a right has been won, it is ours forever.
In the last year, Putin has shattered this naïve worldview of mine by moving Russia backwards in terms of gay rights. A few examples are the ban on gay pride festivals in Moscow for the next 100 years, the law making education about homosexuality illegal and the silent approval of persecutions of GLBT individuals.
Stockholm Gay Pride made a big deal about this, starting several months before the festival with the #goWest campaign, inviting Russians to celebrate Pride in Stockholm since they could not do so in Moscow anymore. The Stockholm Pride opening ceremony was texted in Russian and there were several heartfelt speeches and pleas to the Olympic Committee to take a stand against human rights violations by not allowing Putin to use the Olympics as a platform for his hateful agenda the way Hitler did in 1936.
When I am on the topic of the Olympics, I urge you to read the open letter that Stephen Fry sent to the Olympics Committee on this very topic. No one says it better than Mr Fry.
HIV testing is the best prevention
HIV has been a constant debate topic in the GLBT community since its outbreak in the 1980’s. The latest messages coming out of the prevention clinics is that today, the medicines are so efficient at keeping the viral loads down in the patients that they are no longer particularly contagious. The risk of being infected by a treated HIV+ man with undetectable viral loads isn’t zero, but the risk is considered very low.
So why then is the HIV infection rate still going up? Which group is the primary vector? The answer is of course the HIV+ men who are not receiving treatment, which in 99% of the cases are the men who do not know that they are positive. Why do they not know? Because they do not get tested.
So here is my take on this. If you are a sexually active gay man, you have a goddamn duty to go and get tested regularly. I do not care if it is scary. Keeping your viral loads in check is not just important for your own health but also for the health of your community. Show some solidarity! Man up and get tested!
HIV has dominated the STI debate within the GLBT community, but I think it is time we start talking about another, and in my view much more worrying, threat. Gonorrhoea is a bacterial STI, and thus we have been able to treat it with antibiotics. But that may not be the case for much longer.
In Stockholm, 60% of gonorrhoea cases show some form of antibiotic resistance. No cases exist today of 100% antibiotic-resistant gonorrhoea, but the doctors with which I discussed this said it is just a matter of time before we have an untreatable strand of gonorrhoea.
This is scary as hell.
Gonorrhoea is much (much!) more contagious than HIV, and unlike HIV, it is easily transmitted through oral sex and kissing. Scared yet? You probably should be. The only means left open to fighting an untreatable gonorrhoea epidemic would be abstinence and monogamy. Call me a cynic, but I doubt that will work.
This, of course, is just a breeze within the shitstorm we would find ourselves in if other fun bacteria like the bubonic plague would become resistant to antibiotics.
Polyamory (consensual non-monogamy) was a big topic in this year’s pride. Relationships between more than two people are not unique to the GLBT community of course, but perhaps it is more common. Whatever the reasons the polys had for attending Stockholm Pride, they were most welcome and they highlighted some very interesting social issues.
Prime among these was the legal insecurity that children with more than two caregivers suffer. Since by law, a child may only have two legal parents, these children do not have a legal right to their other parents, no matter how dedicated and important this parent may be to the child. If something would happen to the two primary caregivers, the child may lose his or her other parents as well. Then there are the usual issues around inheritance, tax, visiting rights etc.
Is it time that we revisit the nucleus family and give equal rights and protection to those families that fall outside of this norm?