I went to Prague Pride on Saturday. It was a really surprising and fulfilling experience that I’m still processing, and – in classic Ro style – I’d like to hang all my thoughts out in the most public way possible. Reader, you know me by now: you know I value your attention whenever I’m pondering anything new. Settle in for another devastatingly frank, superficially woke analysis of an experience that means a lot to me and little to anyone else.
Prague 2019 was my first Pride – which is weird, when you consider how, frankly, flaming I am. I was in the city when the parade took place last year, but I didn’t attend – partly because I was working, but largely because I didn’t see the value in the parade.
I figured it was a flimsy excuse for straight people to wear rainbows and post pictures of drag queens on Insta. I saw it as a street party, an opportunity to be politicised or fetishised for someone else’s feed; and it seemed removed from my experience of being queer, which, until this year, was largely solitary. I didn’t think I’d fit into the community. I didn’t think there really was an authentic community to be accepted into.
Mate, I’ve changed my mind.
Being queer is a strange situation compared to being a member of different minorities. For one thing, the community is inherently sexualised. People hear you identify as something other than straight and immediately (naturally, I suppose) think about you having sex – and for that reason, I think LGBT groups are often considered somewhat sleazy. I remember trying to explain to a friend at uni why the value of gay bars wasn’t just being able to hook up with people more easily.
Public perception of gay men, in particular, seems to be that they’re motivated by an urge to get their dicks wet [or equivalent visceral image], without conceding the importance of having a space to spend time with people who share your experience of the world.
The queer community is strange for another reason – you have to seek it out. Whilst people of colour and people of minority religious groups are usually born and raised in their community, the same is rarely true of any LGBT person. Despite what people might think, there is no secret gay club we’re all inducted into as minors. You have to find your people. There is no gay card.
And despite having queer friends in Prague, in Sheffield and in Petersburg, I’ve never felt like part of the community in a larger sense. Honestly, I had no idea that there were so many LGBT people and open allies in Prague. Being at Pride made me realise how lonely it can feel to be unhetero. Feeling so represented made me realise how marginalised I’d felt. It feels incredible to be surrounded by the love, not only of your friends and people who know you, but of an entire community of strangers.
I don’t know if I’m making any sense – I’m still high from the joy of the whole day. (No, Mum, I’m not literally high). The moment this whole feeling of belonging crystallised, though, was when I was on the metro on the way to the beginning of the parade. I was on my own, wearing my gladrags (all black, flattering, on the sexy side, rainbow accessories), and I was looking around the carriage. I’ve taken the metro a million times in Prague, and it’s the same as in any capital city – people dressed in muted tones looking at their feet, ignoring how close they are to each other, reading articles about house prices on their phones.
The carriage today was half full of the same commuters, but the other half was us were – I don’t know how to express this in any other way – different. Wearing what we wanted to wear, holding hands with people we loved. It was astonishing. I couldn’t stop smiling. When I met up with my friends, I could hardly speak. I was so overwhelmed. “There are so many of us,” I said to no one in particular. “I thought we were the only ones.”
“Why can’t we do this every day?”
The entire parade, from start to finish, was so full of love. We danced with strangers, and hugged each other, shared drinks and food. There was an unbelievable atmosphere of acceptance and respect for each other and for the paths that had brought us here. At one point a girl I didn’t know hugged me and yelled, “We’re out; it’s OK!”
One of the biggest worries I had was that I was going to turn up to this thing and find ten LGBT people and a bunch of straight people taking pictures of my undeniably queer look. I was glad I was going in a group – at least we’ll be there together. Outside of my friendship group, as I say, I hadn’t had much exposure to the community as a whole. I had no idea how big it was. The articles I’ve read suggest that at least 25,000 people attended Pride, whether the parade or the after party. Mate – 25,000 people at least.
My friend Janez saw the joy in my face. He hugged me. “We’re a force. That’s why they’re scared of us.”
Hey, did you guys know that only Jesus can save us? This is something I recently learned.
Why do ultra-religious groups always overuse exclamation marks on their signs? You’d think the message God’s judgement is approaching would stand on its own as dramatic enough.
One of the articles said that members of the parade responded to these extremists with the words,
Bůh je žena
God’s a woman.
Every Pride parade faces opposition. Anti-LGBT extremists had the most traction in 2011, when Prague hosted its first parade. The then-president Václav Klaus bolstered homophobic and transphobic protesters by asserting that Czechs had the responsibility to fight against the LGBT agenda. Since then, though, protests have waned, and this year there were only a few incidents, and none of them, as far as I’ve read, were violent. An unknown opponent of the parade poured oil on the steps leading up to the end of the parade, but this was cleaned up before the march reached it, endangering no one.
One of the most talked-about acts of opposition happened on Thursday. A group of people I’ve heard described as nacistové, extremistové and hnusáci burnt a rainbow flag and shot fireworks at a gay club – luckily no one was hurt. These same Nazis/extremists/scumbags tried to disrupt the parade, but were quickly separated from the crowds by the police.
A group of angels dressed in white stood between the police and the parade, covering the scene with large white wings so we wouldn’t have to see them or be seen.
When I peeped through the gap, I saw around ten middle-aged men, holding a Confederate flag (yes, really) and flipping off the slivers of crowd they could see. They didn’t seem to see the irony in using a phallic hand gesture to protest queer lifestyles.
Sure, I think Pride is a party, but when you’re queer, being able to party in public is a form of protest.
I want to feel this open about my identity every day.
I got all my facts etc. from personal observation and from these news sources –
I’ve tried my best to give an accurate depiction of Prague Pride 2019, but my description is naturally coloured by my own views and experiences, as well as my shite Czech.