Take a shower, pack my things – wallet, phone, do I need my sunglasses too? – and rush out home. The parade is starting in a couple of minutes and I still am a few kilometers away. Could I ever be there on time? Luck is on my side though, as the first bus approaching is number 11. The one that passes right in front of the White Tower (thanks OASTH, that is almost worth all the time I waited in vain) where the parade is going to start.
As the bus driver rides through Egnatia Road, my mind is a beehive buzzing, with thoughts and feelings instead of busy little bugs. I don’t know if wearing my sunglasses was the right choice after all, since the event will last till night. I can’t foresee what this experience will be like. Will I be part of it or I just won’t understand what will happen around me? Of course, I sympathize with the LGBTQI+ movement and I support the fight for their rights. But I don’t know that much about them and I’ve never participated in such a big, crucial and public event. Furthermore, in a small and dark corner of my mind, I am afraid. I heard rumors about the event organized by the far-right movements – the so-called “Straight Pride” – and I am afraid it can be a threat to the parade.
Making (a bit) of History
I need to calm myself down so, as I get closer to the starting point, I try to recall what I know for sure about it. First of all, this pride month is really important for the whole movement. Fifty years ago the Stonewall riots took place in New York City. It was on 28th June 1969, when the fight for LGBTQI+ rights sparked for the first time. When the police raided the Stonewall Inn, a mob-owned meeting place for the queer community, it was not the first time. Each time, police have never been friendly, often using violence out of prejudice. But this time something was different. For the first time, the people there, sick and tired of this treatment, decided to fight back. From then on, it was no more possible to hide or ignore them. That was the first yell of the newborn movement. A year later, the first Pride was held to commemorate these events.
The second reason that makes the Eight Thessaloniki Pride so important is the fact that the city will host the 2020 EuroPride. That makes this year’s event a proper test to the hospitality and the organizational skill of the Thessaloniki community.
When I reach the White Tower, it takes only a glimpse to notice that I am still in time. The square and the seaside are flooded with people waving the classic rainbow flags and some others that I can’t recognize. I will discover later that the peculiar pink and blue banners are representing the bisexual and trans movement.
Making my way between bright hairdressings, bizarre outfits and arms painted in the colors of the rainbow to join my friends, I am stunned by how many people are ready to participate. But the most amazing thing is that 70 percent of them are young. People in their twenties or even teenagers are one of the core groups in the parade, gathering in small excited crowds, eager to join the march.
A Human Rainbow
After decorating my face and my beard with a generous amount of glitter, I am ready for the demonstration to begin. From the first moment, I realize that this is different from any other political event I’ve ever been to. Instead of serious people walking and shouting slogans, here there is a party mood! Everyone is dancing, the flags wave at the rhythm of the music, and people really seem to have a great time.
More surprising, it takes just a few minutes and even I am moving along with the others, following the flow and the energy coming from the crowd. It’s so engaging that even who is not part of the demonstration cannot ignore it. Such as this colorful human rainbow walking between two wings of curious people, while others watch from windows or balconies. The best of it, though, is not there, but on the faces of those who surround me. The joy you can see here is peculiar. A calm yet strong sensation that everyone feels free and can truly enjoy the company of others.
With this mood, the parade reaches the White Tower. In the end, the “Straight Pride” has been too small and harmless to even be noticeable. My doubts are gone, and I am dazzled by how thousand of strangers suddenly became my friends and fellows. I also think I understood what is the true reason behind the pride. What is the meaning of all the color, the music and the fabulous dresses. It’s about a community that has been forced in a corner for too long. That’s why. They want to shout loud and clear that they exist, they are that way, and nobody can ignore them anymore.
So thank you Thessaloniki Pride and good luck for the even bigger shot of the next year. All of Europe will be watching this time. Let’s make history!