From what I could tell, the second most talked-about topic last week was Split Pride 2012. A lot has been written about it as well, with Dežulović and Ivančić taking the lead, but I feel an important story has gone unnoticed.
Homosexuals don’t have it easy, not by any measure. They represent a very small minority of the population, no more than a few percent, so they are destined to depend on the benevolence of the heterosexual majority and the heterosexual majority is less than accommodating. In western societies gay people are effectively a taboo, which is in itself an unusually cruel punishment, one which other people rarely ponder going about their daily routines. Even though gay people – about 150 000 of them, in Croatia – have done nothing wrong, they face social pressure so strong that even adults cannot tell their closest family that they are gay. Hardly anything comes to mind that would create such a chasm between a person and her immediate family.
Western civilisation, the civilization that celebrates personal liberty and flatters itself as the most advanced in human history, widely criminalised non-straight sex: as recently as 1967, it was against the law for homosexuals to have sex in the heart of western society, in the UK. In India it was only decriminalised 3 years ago and in many other countries it is still illegal. A number of mainstream religions – representing billions of people – are opposed to gay relationships altogether: their opinion is that gay people should live their lives without romantic love because that would please one god or another. It is by no means a laughing matter: a number of Islamic countries require nothing less than the death penalty for adults taking part in consensual gay sex. Apparently, there is no such penalty for religious fanatics, actual, proverbial terrorists who poison schoolgirls in Afghanistan to deter them from trying to get an education. Wouldn’t the world be much better off if they spent their time practising sodomy amongst themselves instead of running around the country poisoning school water supplies?
The challenge for the gay community, then, is to get this kind of “straight” community, the one described above, on its side. They are fighting for all the right reasons: to stop discrimination or at least reduce harassment, to ask for a break, an opportunity to live happy lives…and to get a bit of justice, as pure as ever there was any. I feel sorry for them. I feel sorry because out of 30 people, 1 is gay, 3-4 empathise with gays, the next 10-15 or so can’t be bothered with the issue and the rest comprise a more or less ignorant, judgemental, dogma-fueled mob which works very hard to make it perfectly clear to gays how unwanted they are. Depression and suicides levels are higher than average among the 200 million people comprising the world’s gay population. It is not because they are gay, but because of the way “straight” people treat them: “[…] Homosexuality is an example of normal variation in human sexuality and is not in and of itself a source of negative psychological effects. Prejudice and discrimination against homosexual and bisexual people, however, have been shown to cause psychological harm. […]”
Last year and this year a few hundred gay rights activists organised processions, “Pride” events in the Croatian city of Split. During last year’s event, about a hundred people were injured because there were quite a few people in the surrounding crowd who expressed their beliefs and values by literally stoning the procession. Shortly before last week’s Pride, there were rumours of Molotov cocktail use, yet the event went on as scheduled. The fear of the people marching must have been enormous, the hate and disgust aimed at them must have been mind-numbing, but they marched anyway. Shame on us. Shame on us because of our silence and tolerance of a society which requires such extraordinary courage and dedication from those activists to speak up against the intolerable hate, discrimination and artificial shame that is being shoved into their faces daily. I cannot remember a more powerful message being sent – not since the Radio 101 protest in 1996 – than this year’s Pride in Split: a humble gay procession, setting a shining example to a dormant, passive Croatian citizenry of what it means to fight for a cause and that there are causes worth fighting for.
By the way, this year’s Pride – complete with alleged Molotov cocktails, the mayor taking the mob’s side etc. – was the second most talked-about topic last week: the first one was a football tournament in Poland. Strange world we live in.