Photographic Exhibition of Homophobia at Gay Prides Stops at European Parliament on World Tour
In Europe, Moscow, Minsk, Warsaw, Athens, Bucharest, Vilnius, Zagreb, Sofia, Budapest, Istanbul, London and Warsaw Prides are part of this photo exhibition shown simulatenously in 20 locations around the world
Opening of the exhibition at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 10 May 2011. Photo European Parliament
A photographic exhibition that depicts homophobia that still exists around the world arrived at the European Parliament in Strasburg yesterday. It was opened by the Parliament’s President, Jerzy Buzek.
The photographs, under the title Walk With Pride: Images Against Homophobia, were taken by Chad Meacham and Sarah Baxter, who spent a year visiting Gay Prides across Europe, Asia and Australia.
“Homophobia is deplorable because it aims to denigrate people and deprive them of these rights on the basis of their sexual orientation,” Mr. Buzek said.
“Next week we are celebrating the seventh anniversary of the International Day Against Homophobia. We announced one year ago that it will become a habit to come back to it every year to underline how important it is.
“I am glad that we are celebrating it here this week through this exhibition,” he continued.
“A person has the right to be different. In the past power has been used too often to oppress people who were in some ways different. Think back to the struggle of women to get equal rights, seems to be quite incredible today. vOr, to the struggle of people of different religions, race, or political beliefs to have their human rights protected.
The couple travelled to 15 different countries to follow the organizers of Gay Pride marches in Europe and Asia. Mr. Meacham’s previous work has won over 20 international awards including the National Geographic Traveller.
The result is an impressive collection of photographs expressing the difficulties of LGBT people to exercise their right to freedom of expression.
With the exception of London and Sydney, the couple ignored the bigger and more famous prides in New York, Berlin, and Madrid to put a focus on small scale events which are often not welcomed in the countries they are held.
In Minsk, Mr. Meacham said it was “a total shock” when he witnessed a police crackdown on the local activists who were trying to stage their event despite the bans by city hall.
“I understood and was inspired by the courage of these people who are risking their lives to defend their freedom of expression,” Mr. Meacham told UK Gay News. “It was the events and activists in Minsk that showed me the true meaning of the Pride Movement, and showed me the direction the project needed to go.”
The couple later focused on Moscow and Warsaw’ Euro Pride where they also captured images of anti-gay protesters. Then in Turkey, they attended Istanbul’s first Transgender Pride, the first of its kind in a country where transgender people are often murdered.
Ms. Baxter said that the life of Harvey Milk served as a source inspiration for the conception of the Walk With Pride Project.
“This project was sparked after months of following the debates in America on gay rights issues, and our frustration with our government’s policies,” she said.
During their trip, Mr. Meacham and Ms. Baxter worked closely with LGBT activists and Pride organisers. Thisr help, they said, was more than appreciated and this is how the idea of the exhibition Images Against Homophobia was born.
In a telephone interview, Nikolai Alekseev, the chief organiser of Moscow Pride, said: “Chad and Sarah have been so helpful to us that we believed their work must be shown on a broad scale.
“We offered them our contacts to organise this exhibition. It was only logical to organise this tour around International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia and have IDAHO as a co-sponsor of the event,” said Mr. Aleksveev, who also serves on the board of the IDAHO organization.
Mr. Meacham added: “We hope that by viewing these photographs, people will realise what problems homophobia creates.”
The exhibition kicked off last month in Potsdam, Germany. It is scheduled, in the coming months to Berlin, Liege, Zagreb, Sofia, Manila, Sebastopol (California), San Francisco, Sydney, Bucharest, Brussels, Taichung, Kaohsiung, Yilan and Taipei, Phnom Penh, Skopje, Minsk and Moscow.
In Sofia, the exhibition will be displayed in front of the Parliament building. In Cambodia, the exhibition will travel across the country, and in Minsk, it will be shown on a LCD screen.
Don Spradlin, president of the Noble Beast Foundation which is organising the exhibition in California said:
“The reason why I wanted to take part in this initiative is because we have direct experience, as producer of the International Mr. Gay Competition, of a range of insults due to homophobia around the world.
“Men who participated in our annual event have lost their jobs because they were willing to represent their nation. They have been kicked out of school, been hounded by the press and denied visas just because they are gay,” he said.
Mr. Meacham said that there was a lot of solidarity behind the project.
“Everyone contributed how they could. Our main goal is to help raise awareness for the global LGBT community, and help put an end to homophobia,” he said.
The exhibition can be seen online at GayRussia.Ru HERE
TODAY IN HISTORY
In 1993, President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree which repealed the law forbidding male homosexuality. Starting from 2006, Russian gay rights activists started to celebrate this date by attempting to organize an annual gay rights march known as Moscow Gay Pride. The first edition was banned and marred with violence. It was reffered as the first Russian Stonewall.
This day was founded in 2004 by French Academic Louis-Georges Tin to mark the anniversary of the declassification of homosexuality from the list of disease by the World Health Organization. Russian LGBT have been celebrating this day every year since 2005 under the leadership of Project GayRussia which was itself founded on May 17, 2005. GayRussia is Russia's coordinator of IDAHO.
Following Moscow in May 2009, Minsk was the second capital to host the Slavic Gay Pride. The March was banned and marred with violence but it did not prevent two dozens of Pride organizers from Moscow, Minsk and St. Petersburg to march over 300 meters waiving a 10meters long rainbow flag. 11 participants including some of the organizers were brutally arrested by police forces.
2009 marked the launch of GayRussia's campaign for the opening of same-sex union of gays and lesbians in Russia. While the Constitutional Court already expressd the opinion that marriage is between a man and a woman, activists believe that the lack of partnership or marriage for gay couples is a strong point to impose legislative changes via a decision of the European Court of Human Rights.
The five-judge panel of the Grand Chamber of the Court rejected the appeal of the Russian Federation in the Moscow Pride Ban case. The decision given on October 21 is final. By repeatedly banning Gay Pride Marches as well as other LGBT themed public action, Russia breached the European Convention on Human Rights.