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Worldwide pride: whether wearing festive balloons in Paris, being escorted by police in Zagreb, or marching masked in Taipei, brave gay men and lesbians find their own ways to celebrate pride across the globe.


The treatment of gay men and lesbians in Croatia, once part of Yugoslavia, has improved slightly during the pant few years, according to a report released in January by the country's gay rights groups. That's mainly due to the fact that Croatia desperately wants to join the European Union in 2007 and reap the associated immediate economic benefits. In applying to join, the country's civil rights laws had to be in step with those of more progressive Western European nations.

The past year's legislative victories include changing laws to prevent workplace discrimination, recognition that sexual minorities face discrimination, a ban on antigay content in schoolbooks (except in religions education), and extending the same rights to gay and lesbian couples that are given to straight couples. Passed in July 2003, the law states that same-sex couples who have lived together for three years are entitled to health benefits.

Yet gay men and lesbians still face major religions and legislative hurdles, the report by the gay rights groups Kontra and Iskorak determined. Croatia remains 90% Roman Catholic, and its conservative, macho Balkan culture means that gay and lesbian residents are "still exposed to social homophobia, which is particularly evident in politicians' statements," according to the report. The country's Ministry of Education and Sports came under fire last year when it refused to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in primary and secondary schools.

In 2002, Croatia hosted it first gay pride parade. Police escorted 200 marchers through a jeering, spitting crowd. The event ended after a tear gas grenade was thrown. "Afterwards people were beaten up, but no one was ever prosecuted," says Milena Zajovic, vice president of Iskorak.

The 2003 pride march was calmer, and a new festival called Queer Zagreb was inaugurated. This year it featured 60 queer films from around the world, queer hip-hop, a drag king workshop, and a performance of the London Gay Symphony Orchestra with Croatia's greatest diva, Radojka Sverko. There were parties in nightclubs across Zagreb, including the country's only gay club, Global

Zvonimir Dobrovic, Queer Zagreb's program director, says problems for gay people have come from the church, the culture, and the government: "Croatia's situation is specific--what happens in war is that critical thinking shrinks and anything 'deviant' is not accepted. The state of mind lingers after the fighting stops. In this nationalistic state of mind, being gay is so outside of the perspective that it is in a different galaxy."

While skinheads caused damage after last year's festival, the 2004 event was marred only by a fringe evangelical group noisily protesting on the opening night with banners proclaiming IMMORALITY RISES WHILE BIRTH RATE FALLS. Protests promised by the group for later in the week failed to materialize.--Joseph Galliano


June 3

Last year's annual gay pride parade was postponed for a week due to a bus suicide bombing that killed 17, including an American who helped organize a past parade. At the same time, Jerusalem police were investigating the destruction of about 20 of the 100 gay pride flags hung in the city center.

Such is the give-and-take life for gay men and lesbians who live in this ancient city sharply divided between Jews and Muslims in a country marred by ever-present violence. In 2004 it would seem impossible to hold very public LGBT pride parade open to all groups.

For the third year in a row, however, Jerusalem Open House, the city's LGBT community center, planned to do just that. "We had fierce opposition for our first pride," explains Noa Sattath, chairman of Open House and an organizer of the city's pride event. "Lots of people were burning rainbow flags. We've definitely seen the opposition diminish over the years. In 2002 half the city council was against it; now only one [council member] is, and he's never taken seriously anyway."

In 2003 more than 4,000 people attended the parade, which traveled along one of the city's main arteries that serves as a border between the eastern Muslim section of the city and Jewish West Jerusalem. The event was somewhat muted because of regional political strife and violence, but this year Sattath says the overall situation is calmer and the dialogue between GLBT Jews and Muslims will grow.

Unlike the longer-established pride observance in more secular Tel Aviv, Jerusalem's event demonstrates the city's unique place in the world; organizers hosted a discussion on religion and homosexuality. "Pride in Jerusalem is the only parade in Israel and maybe the only pride in the world in which there are speakers in Arabic and cultural and social events in Arabic," Sattath says. "We are more active in city life, and that's a big change in Jerusalem."--Christopher Lisotta


May and June

Taiwan's gay men and lesbians walk a tightrope between fighting for civil rights and staying within the government's comfort zone. Among mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, only the latter has legalized gay sex, and that was done before the United Kingdom handed control over to China. According to various news reports, the number of Internet gay porn sites is exploding across the region and officials are not cracking down. There is a sense among gay men and lesbians that they can come out to family members but still cannot do so in public.

The year 2003 marked a major turning point when the government boldly suggested changes to a human rights law that would allow for same-sex marriage and adoption by gay and lesbian couples. The proposals didn't pass into law, but it was a watershed legislative moment for any Asian country. In November nearly 500 people marched through Taipei's streets brandishing rainbow flags and pushing strollers to show support for the government's move. The mayor of Taipei stressed that gays and lesbians wouldn't suffer harassment by the municipal government. Although many marchers wore masks to protect their identity, hundreds walked openly in front of cameras.

It's unclear if a Taipei pride parade will happen in 2004, but gay and lesbian college groups celebrated Gay and Lesbian Awakening Day on June 1. Organizers say these events are important, especially in the wake of a highly publicized raid on a bookstore that sold gay adult magazines. "In places like the United States and northern Europe, gays and lesbians are able to be much more open than in Taiwan," Kao Yi-chao, an Awakening Day student organizer, told the Taipei Times. "We want to let the public know about our rights as homosexuals and increase discussion."--C.L.

GUADALAJARA, MEXICO Pride events June 18-July 2 Parade July 3

Guadalajara, population 3.5 million, has been nicknamed "the San Francisco of Mexico": Gay American tourists have explored this city's numerous gay night-clubs for years.

Its two-week pride festival features dance, theater, art, and musical exhibitions as well as political discussions and community forums. A parade, now four years old, closes the festival. The celebration attracts not only attendees from all over Mexico but a sizable number of tourists from South America and Puerto Rico. For the first time, Guadalajara pride officials are having a DJ from the United States spin at a dance party.

This part of Mexico is politically conservative and greatly influenced by the Roman Catholic Church, and pride events first met with condemnation by Guadalajara officials. That has changed due to efforts by local LGBT rights groups and favorable media coverage. Mexico's traditional culture of machismo appears to be softening its views: "We have representation on TV, radio, magazines, and in the discos," explains Rodolfo Contrera Estrada, one of the pride organizers. "Now the Catholic Church doesn't speak against gay people."

Alberto Rebollevo, who works at Angel's Club, a local gay bar, notes that the pride parade has brought various minority communities, including punks and the Zapatistas political dissident group, together in solidarity. At the parades, "there are a lot of straight people giving support," he says. --C.L.

Iceland is one of the world's most gay friendly nations. Read about its pride celebration only on
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Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Geographic Code:1MEX
Date:Jun 22, 2004
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