The Pride Parade has become a fixture on Vienna’s festival calendar each year, a colorful, high-profile extravaganza celebrating the LGBTQI* community and their achievements. But it’s been 18 years since the city last hosted EuroPride, a month-long festival which culminated in the Rainbow Parade on June 15, when people of all sexual orientations and gender identities would “march for love, respect, and a world free from discrimination,” organizers said. Pride veterans said it was one of the biggest and brightest ever.
A historical EuroPride
Nearly half a million people walked, danced and protested in a two km line around the Ringstrasse, according to the ORF, and for the first time ever, the gathering was addressed by a head of state. The LGBTQI* community would continue to be a “visible, respected, integral part of our society,” President Alexander Van der Bellen told the crowd. “The dignity, respect and acceptance of diversity are an essential element of democracies.”
The Pride Month tradition began in the United States with a protest cum parade held in New York City on June 28, 1970 – exactly a year after Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village. A police raid on the popular gay bar had sparked mass demonstrations and ultimately the first widely-based movement for gay liberation and equal rights. A little over two decades later, EuroPride was launched in London in 1992 and since hosted each year by a different city.
Between parties, shows, club nights, gatherings, exhibitions, and the circus-themed Life Ball, the month-long Pride festival demonstrates the progress the LGBTQI* community has made in its long struggle to overcome ignorance, hate and discrimination.
Marchers packed the Ringstraße with placards from the celebratory – “Love Trumps Hate,” and “Together and Proud” – to the political: “Marching For Those Who Can’t”. Outfits were lavish, laden with glitter, leather and lace. Many had come to make a statement – “God is Happy & Gay” read a sign held by a man whose shirt said “A Pastor for LGBTIQ* Equality” – while others were there mostly to party. Or maybe both.
The best part? “LOVE!” hollered Simon passionately. “It’s such an honor to Europe to celebrate everyone,” he said. The LGBTQI* community has made huge leaps in Europe, he said. “In the last five years everything has changed. I truly don’t feel afraid anymore of being me. I can kiss my boyfriend on the metro without feeling stared at and mocked.”
Swept up in the euphoria, young Viennese native Nadine was “trying to express [herself] as much as possible and help motivate others to be just as colorful and loving.” Members of the LGBTQI* community were coming together to make “one whole family of love.”
Exhilaration was palpable throughout the parade, with some floats from advocacy groups proclaiming the power of love – while others called attention to continuing challenges of HIV/AIDS around the world. A float from Afro Rainbow Austria was plastered with a sign that read “No Pride in Deportation.” In front, protestors held up a banner reading “We are Africans, Queer Loud and Proud, We Demand Our Rights”: Pride goes beyond the rights of members of the LGBTQI* community, they said, and should champion the rights of all.
While political priorities differed, the spirit was clearly shared: a contagious enthusiasm for celebrating the diversity of human life.
NOTE: For those unfamiliar with the abbreviation, LGBTQI* is used to stand for “lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer and intersex”; the asterisk is often included to represent any other groups not explicitly named.