With war, Kyiv pride parade becomes a peace march in Warsaw


Ukraine’s largest LGBTQ rights event, KyivPride, is going ahead on Saturday. But not on its native streets and not as a celebration.

Poland_Ukraine_LGBT_Rights_68933 FILE – People take part in the Equality Parade, the largest gay pride parade in central and eastern Europe, in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday June 19, 2021. Despite the war in Ukraine, the country’s largest LGBT rights event, KyivPride, is going ahead on Saturday, June 25, 2022. But not on its native streets and not as a celebration of gay pride. It will instead join Warsaw’s yearly Equality Parade, using it as a platform to keep international attention focused on the Ukrainian struggle for freedom.

AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, File

Poland_Ukraine_LGBT_Rights_80164 FILE – A Russian Gay Rights protester is taken away by riot police officers in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, May 16, 2009. Russia passed a law in 2013 that bans the depiction of homosexuality to minors, something human rights groups views as a way to demonize LGBT people and discriminate against them.

AP Photo/Roustem Adagamov, File

Poland_Ukraine_LGBT_Rights_80786 FILE – Gay and lesbian rights activists perform during the annual Gay Pride parade, protected by riot police in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, June 17, 2018. Despite the war in Ukraine, the country’s largest LGBT rights event, KyivPride, is going ahead on Saturday, June 25, 2022. But not on its native streets and not as a celebration of gay pride. It will instead join Warsaw’s yearly Equality Parade, using it as a platform to keep international attention focused on the Ukrainian struggle for freedom.

AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka, File

Poland_Ukraine_LGBT_Rights_60208 FILE – Russian police officers detain a gay rights activist with his flag during an attempt to hold a gay pride parade in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, May 27, 2012. Russia passed a law in 2013 that bans the depiction of homosexuality to minors, something human rights groups views as a way to demonize LGBT people and discriminate against them.

AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel, File

Poland_Ukraine_LGBT_Rights_51624 FILE – Riot police stops Orthodox believers who are trying to stop Ukraine’s first gay pride demonstration in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, May 25, 2013. Despite the war in Ukraine, the country’s largest LGBT rights event, KyivPride, is going ahead on Saturday, June 25, 2022. But not on its native streets and not as a celebration of gay pride. It will instead join Warsaw’s yearly Equality Parade, using it as a platform to keep international attention focused on the Ukrainian struggle for freedom.

AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov, File

Poland_Ukraine_LGBT_Rights_36180 FILE – Gay rights activists carry rainbow flags as they march during a May Day rally in St. Petersburg, Russia, Wednesday, May 1, 2013. Russia passed a law in 2013 that bans the depiction of homosexuality to minors, something human rights groups views as a way to demonize LGBT people and discriminate against them.

AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, File

Poland_Ukraine_LGBT_Rights_99368 FILE – Anti-LGBT protesters burn an LGBT flag at the International Amnesty building during the opening ceremony of the Pride Week in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 13, 2017. Despite the war in Ukraine, the country’s largest LGBT rights event, KyivPride, is going ahead on Saturday, June 25, 2022. But not on its native streets and not as a celebration of gay pride. It will instead join Warsaw’s yearly Equality Parade, using it as a platform to keep international attention focused on the Ukrainian struggle for freedom.

AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov, File

Poland_Ukraine_LGBT_Rights_60332 FILE – People take part in the annual Gay Pride parade, being protected by riot police in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, June 18, 2017. Despite the war in Ukraine, the country’s largest LGBT rights event, KyivPride, is going ahead on Saturday, June 25, 2022. But not on its native streets and not as a celebration of gay pride. It will instead join Warsaw’s yearly Equality Parade, using it as a platform to keep international attention focused on the Ukrainian struggle for freedom.

AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File

Poland_Ukraine_LGBT_Rights_69675 FILE – Riot police detain a protester who is trying to stop Ukraine’s first gay pride demonstration in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, May 25, 2013. Despite the war in Ukraine, the country’s largest LGBT rights event, KyivPride, is going ahead on Saturday, June 25, 2022. But not on its native streets and not as a celebration of gay pride. It will instead join Warsaw’s yearly Equality Parade, using it as a platform to keep international attention focused on the Ukrainian struggle for freedom.

AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File

Poland_Ukraine_LGBT_Rights_33741 FILE – A woman holds a poster depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin during a protest in front of the Russian embassy in Madrid, Spain, Friday Aug. 23, 2013 against Russia’s new law on gays. Russia passed a law in 2013 that bans the depiction of homosexuality to minors, something human rights groups views as a way to demonize LGBT people and discriminate against them.

AP Photo/Paul White, File

Poland_Ukraine_LGBT_Rights_27918 FILE – People take part in the annual Gay Pride parade, under the protection of riot police in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. Despite the war in Ukraine, the country’s largest LGBT rights event, KyivPride, is going ahead on Saturday, June 25, 2022. But not on its native streets and not as a celebration of gay pride. It will instead join Warsaw’s yearly Equality Parade, using it as a platform to keep international attention focused on the Ukrainian struggle for freedom.

AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File

Poland_Ukraine_LGBT_Rights_65964 FILE – People take part in the annual Gay Pride parade, under the protection of riot police in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. Despite the war in Ukraine, the country’s largest LGBT rights event, KyivPride, is going ahead on Saturday, June 25, 2022. But not on its native streets and not as a celebration of gay pride. It will instead join Warsaw’s yearly Equality Parade, using it as a platform to keep international attention focused on the Ukrainian struggle for freedom.

AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File

Poland_Ukraine_LGBT_Rights_53337 FILE – LGBT activists and their supporters gather for the first-ever pride parade in the central city of Plock, Poland, Saturday Aug. 10, 2019. Despite the war in Ukraine, the country’s largest LGBT rights event, KyivPride, is going ahead on Saturday, June 25, 2022. But not on its native streets and not as a celebration of gay pride. It will instead join Warsaw’s yearly Equality Parade, using it as a platform to keep international attention focused on the Ukrainian struggle for freedom.

AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, File

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Ukraine’s largest LGBTQ rights event, KyivPride, is going ahead on Saturday. But not on its native streets and not as a celebration.

It will instead join Warsaw’s yearly Equality Parade, the largest gay pride event in central Europe, using it as a platform to keep international attention focused on the Ukrainian struggle for freedom.

“We are marching for political support for Ukraine, and we’re marching for basic human rights for Ukrainian people,” KyivPride director Lenny Emson said. “It is not a celebration. We will wait for victory to celebrate.”

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are among civilians and soldiers killed by Russian forces. There has been a recent push for same-sex partnerships to be recognized, not least because of the need for partners to bury each other in war.

If the country were to be defeated, it would be a tragedy for Ukrainian people as a whole, but LGBTQ people would risk being “erased completely,” meaning killed, forced to flee or to hide their identities, said Emson, whose organization also runs a shelter for LGBTQ people who have fled Ukrainian territory occupied by the Russian forces. One LGBTQ rights activist in occupied Kherson has disappeared.

In a manifesto, KyivPride calls on people to realize that the geographical border between democratic Ukraine on one side and autocratic Russia and Belarus on the other “is not just a separation line between the states, but also a boundary between the territory of freedom and a zone of oppression.”

Russia passed a law in 2013 that bans the depiction of homosexuality to minors, something human rights groups view as a way to demonize LGBTQ people and discriminate against them. Dubbed the “Gay Propaganda” law, it came amid a larger crackdown on civil liberties in Russia and inspired the passage of a similar law in Hungary last year.

Klementyna Suchanow, the author of a book about global efforts to roll back the rights of women and LGBTQ people, argues that if Ukrainians lose the war, it would mark a defeat for a range of progressive causes, including feminism, LGBTQ rights and the efforts to fight climate change.

“This is why the war in Ukraine is about everything,” said Suchanow, a prominent Polish feminist activist and the author of “This is War: Women, Fundamentalists and the new Middle Ages.” She was planning to march on Saturday.

KyivPride could not take place in the Ukrainian capital this year because martial law prevents large gatherings, Emson explained.

On Saturday, it will be given the honor of leading the Equality Parade in Warsaw — one of many ways that Poles have stepped up to help their embattled Ukrainian neighbors.

Poland’s conservative government has been a strong ally of Ukraine, sending humanitarian aid and weapons and allowing its territory to be used to for other countries to transfer aid of their own.

But its stance on LGBTQ rights has also made Poland an unlikely host for a gay rights event.

In recent years the government has depicted the LGBTQ rights movement as an attack on the nation’s Catholic traditions and as a force that threatens to corrupt the youth, echoing the rhetoric behind the Russian and Hungarian laws.

But Polish society as a whole has grown more accepting of LGBTQ people. Emson said the KyivPride organizers had considered holding their event in other European capitals but decided that Warsaw’s young and energetic rights movement was a better fit.

LGBTQ people in Ukraine still face considerable discrimination, but they have made strides in recent years as the country has sought to tie its fate to the West. The evolution of LGBT rights is underlined by KyivPride’s own evolution since it was founded 10 years ago. In 2012, it was so heavily outnumbered by angry counter-protesters that participants didn’t dare march. Participants have been beaten and a large police presence is needed to protect them. Yet the event has continued to grow, with 7,000 participating last year.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whose courageous wartime leadership has gained attention in recent months, won the respect of LGBTQ people in Ukraine when a man wearing a cross and spouting homophobic rhetoric heckled him at a news conference in 2019.

Zelenskyy shot back with anger: “Leave those people alone, for God’s sake.”

Since then, however, his party has also taken steps that LGBTQ rights activists view as a threat to their struggle.

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