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Belarus: Pride 2001 Bound to Fail Again?

Following the failure of gay pride in Minsk, Belarus, last year local gay activists announced new gay pride supposed to be held in early September. Last year there were strong doubts about the fairness of gay pride organizers -- some independent gay journalists made an investigation and came to the following conclusion: the failure of gay pride was, to a large extent, the result of unfair actions of the organizers themselves (the failure seems to be a more positive result for local activists rather than that in case gay pride did take place).

That's why we pay much attention to the organization of the gay pride this year. And now it seems that this event will be transformed again into some kind of political perfomance that has nothing in common with needs and views of Belarusian lesbi\gay community. Last actions of the Belarusian League "Lambda" (gay pride organizers) only strengthened homophobic views in our society. They do everything to make a scandal out of every action -- and it deals with populism but not with real struggle for lesbi\gay rights. Actually, there's no evidence of real struggle -- the just cry out about "harrasment" (concerning usually only "Lambda" leaders and their close friends), receive grants and visit different seminars. And that's it. And to imitate the struggle they usually provoke maximum resistance from the authorities -- that provoked resistance looks like an excellent model of oppression.

Just a couple of examples. According to "Lambda" activists, the culmination of the gay pride this year will be a march of gays and lesbians through the centre of Minsk. The announced date of this march is September 9. But on this very day we have the president elections -- much anticipated major political event in Belarus for the last 5 years. I can tell you for 100% sure -- it will be banned (and the fact that it's a gay march is not a subject in this case -- it will be banned as any other demonstration that day). This ban will result in further rise of homophobia (just some more anti-gay coverage in papers and on TV), but from the other side it will be an excellent PR for gay activists -- another example of "oppression" in struggle more for grants than for human rights.

Edward Tarletsky

Last Sunday, on July 29, there was a Congress of Belarusian Youth in Minsk. And gay activists made another political perfomance that has a little in common with human rights protection. These activists came to the Congress and started something can be only described as "clownade": they named themselves as "anarchists" and began a "Congress of Sinny Belarusian Youth" -- they started a giveaway of Belarusian gay magazine "Forum Lambda" under the rainbow flag. Belarusian media cited "Lambda" leader Edward Tarletski who was at the Congress as a "guest". He said that he didn't organize that perfomance. But it's hard to believe in it: evidently he didn't make any single effort to stop the perfomance in which "Forum Lambda" magazine was involved (Tarletski is the editor-in-chief of that magazine). Moreover, as it's implied from his interviews he's satisfied with all that happened. Belarusian newspapers also cited his words where he names a leader of the most influential independent youth organization dumb-header. So, what's the result of this action? Even independent media stood in opposition towards this "perfomance". As "Lambda" league used to speak from behalf of all Belarusian gays and lesbians this negative coverage associates the action not only with "Lambda" league but with all sexual minorities. Now this gay organization lost credibility in eyes of independent media: and there's a question -- how about the credibility of all gays and lesbians? I suppose that large part of the community doesn't want to be associated in public consciousness with "anarchists" and with such actions of "Lambda" league. So, with every such scandal the perspective of social equality and social inclusion moves aside further and further and the fire of homophobia makes stronger and stronger.

There's a month remaining till the gay pride in Minsk, and it seems that there will be new scandals, new examples of "harrasment", "oppression", "resistance of authorities" -- and now we have "resistance of NGO's" and even "media prejudices and blindness". But who wins?

Sinoptik Inorbit
Belarus Web Site Britva
2 August 2001

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