Safe space for everyone to express themselves – Skopje Pride 2021

The heat did not stop them from going to the street and celebrating love. For the second time in history, a pride parade was organized in Skopje. We went there to see what the organization of such an event looks like and how people feel participating in it.

It was supposed to be the third time, but the pandemic made it impossible to organize the event the way everyone wanted to last year. But on Saturday, the 26th of June, people went through the streets of Skopje to celebrate. Stefan Petrovski, one of the organizers, says: “2-3 months ago, we were mainly looking at the COVID-19 situation and seeing if it would be possible. Thankfully, we were able to kind of predict what the official protocols were saying. We were dreaded doing a pride virtually the second time in a row, but fortunately, we can meet and celebrate.”

Several hundred people marched from the Woman Warrior Park to the Shell in the City Park. In there, Skopje Pride was enriched with the participation of this year’s Macedonia’s contestant at the Eurovision Song Contest, Vasil Garvanliev. 

The event was organized by the “National Network Against Homophobia and Transphobia”. Held under the slogan “Outside the Walls”, it emphasized the life of isolation that many members of the LGBT community experience. Same sex-couples still don’t have the same protections as heterosexual couples. In 2019, ILGA-Europe ranked Macedonia 34th out of 49 European countries in terms of LGBT rights legislation. So even if the march was festive, it was still a protest about discrimination and stigmatization. 

At Macedonia’s first pride in 2019, priests from various denominations attended a counter-rally that called for “Support of Family Values”. However, during this year’s pride, no counter-rallies took place, and in general, participants shared that they felt safe. 

Several NGOs fighting against homophobia and transphobia were involved in organizing the event this year. Many teams were responsible for different areas, such as volunteer team, security, event management and fundraising. As Stefan is saying, people had the main goal to reach: “to create a safe space for everyone to express themselves but also to find support if they don’t have it at home, with their friends or family.”

It wasn’t hard to find people who could help organize the pride. Narcisa and Eva were two of the volunteers. For both of them, it was a significant day, not only because after two years, they could finally gather, but also because it felt so good being a part of a movement in their city. The Girls share happiness when we talk to them. “This is not my first pride. I attended the one in 2019. I’m so happy to be here. This is also very important for me because I’m part of LGBT”, shares one of them.

When we talk to people from Macedonia, they all agree on how important it is for the local community. But while walking between the attendees, we also meet foreigners. Richard came from the US to celebrate the day with his husband: “We came to support. I’m married to a Macedonian, but I can’t be here for more than 90 days because the government doesn’t recognize our marriage. It’s very different from our pride. Even though people are having fun, it’s more serious”. He thinks that these kinds of events are very important for countries like Macedonia. In that way, people can show who they truly are. “Until people make themselves seen, I’m not saying get crazy and get yourself hurt, but there has to be something and the Pride Parade in Skopje is a big step to change the way people think”, Richard adds.

The equality march brought people from different parts of the world in the capital together. Some have travelled thousands of kilometers to support the LGBT community in Macedonia and exchange their experiences and just spend time together in a good atmosphere. 

Kacper Król
Clarissa Leute
Anna Marek

Sources:
Balkan InsightFor North Macedonia’s LGBT Community, Pride is Taste of Freedom
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – North Macedonia’s President Joins Hundreds For Second ‘Pride’ Parade

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