Sunday, June 3, 2012

A post-Pride diagnosis of Latvian society?

The diagnostic instrument of Baltic Pride 2012 in Riga can be put away until 2015 and the results examined. Such events reveal societal and official attitudes toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LBGT) persons and the broader issues of free speech, free assembly and tolerance of diverse views. They also give some insights into the level of education and ability to reason critically of Latvian society as a whole.
My reading of the diagnostic results – the acute phase of the syndrome of homophobic mass hysteria in the streets is waning. Official response to the undeniably controversial event has shifted from hostility (former politician Ainārs Šlesers) to avoidance (except for a statement to a Pride event in 2008/?/ by then President Valdis Zatlers) to cautious expressions of sympathy and support this year. Defense Minister Artis Pabriks expressed his support for equal rights and Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs even dropped by the Baltic Pride rally in Vērmanes Park in downtown Riga. Riga mayor Nils Ušakovs reportedly briefly stopped in at a reception held by the LGBT organization “Mozaika” ahead of the June 2 event. He is also said to have sent an SMS to Kristīne Garina congratulating her on the success of the march.
The reaction of society at large has also changed somewhat. There were a couple of hundred people lining the route of the Baltic Pride march, most watched with curiosity or indifference. A small group of neo-Nazis, led by Igors Šiškins, blew whistles and waved placards equating “pederasty” with pedophilia. That was it, as far as public expressions of hostility, except for a drunk who was arrested for tossing an egg toward the marchers.
Reaction on internet portals was another story. One could almost say that the screaming mobs of 2008 and 2009 have gone virtual, moving from the streets to the internet.

Here are some representative samples:

Rotten thinking, views, norms, it is repulsive to see these people doing it and being proud of it. Homosexuality IS a societal illness, it is not put into people by nature, it is simply crippled thinking, an error of the brain, such people should be sent for therapy!!!

Should have brought in Russians from Russia to take care of that lot and that ambassador (meaning US ambassador Judy Garber, who spoke at the Pride event.) Our men are softies, they let those stink in downtown Riga, whose place is with the Danish pigs (there have been complaints about the stench from large Danish owned piggeries in the Latvian countryside).

Children are not born in the US because homosexual relations are widespread and recognized, and these childless couples travel around the post-Soviet countries, including Latvia, looking for whiye children for adoption. The home page of the US Embassy explains how to adopt Latvian children. That is the result of massive homosexual propaganda.

Because of the queers, the human right of free movement of free movement in public places is violated in Riga. They must die off just like the mammoths!!! If only they could all croak from their diseases!!! Ass fuckers!!! Supporters of pedophilia!!!

The quotes run the gamut from violent hatred to theories based on a bizarre understanding of reality both outside and inside Latvia. They reflect ignorance, knee-jerk negative gut reactions to all that is different, strange or foreign and an almost total lack of critical thinking based on reason and evidence. They show a primitive, ignorance, fear and inferiority-complex based way of “thinking” that could have been greatly reduced in 20 years of independence, but was not.
Maybe there is some hope in the younger generation, the “alternative”, open-minded, happy-faced young people joining in the pride march and visible here and there elsewhere (such as at the one-year anniversary of the radical Latvian website, or earlier this year, at the protests against ACTA). But that, too, may be illusory, as these young people also know that the world (or at least Europe) is open to them and welcoming. Most of them would, after a little adjustment, fit quickly into the cosmopolitan youth culture of London, Berlin, Copenhagen or Stockholm, and probably feel less and less welcome in Latvia.
Still, maybe there has been a small step forward and Latvia may be advancing out of the long post-Soviet mental shadow that still cloaks much of the population.


Anonymous said...

I read a statement by "Mozaika" that pride marches are necessary because of prejudice towards sexual minorities in Latvia. I will not talk about my own views, but what are people supposed to think about "LBGTs" if some of those marching are dressed as clowns and what not and are acting loud and weird? To show the society that LBGTs are the same as everyone else, don't you think that a regular formal march with no screaming and crazy (in some prides, even provocative) outfits would be more effective?
You don't have to hide who you are, but you shouldn't exaggerate.

Lingüista said...

Anonymous, you forget that for most LGBTs (especially in strongly anti-gay places like Latvia), the Pride Parade is the only occasion in which they can openly show who they are: all the rest of the time, as soon as there's a non-gay person around, they pretend to be straight or behave in straight-accepted ways to avoid prejudice, discrimination, offenses, etc. In the only occasion in which they feel free to openly be gay, don't you think some exaggeration is to be expected?

Think also of other similar pride parades you may have seen: ethic-cultural ones, like those by Russians who live in the Netherlands, or Brazilians who live in the US... Or think of St. Patrick's day for the Irish in the US. In these parades, you'll see also people wearing strange clothes and saying strange things; but their 'strange clothes' are traditional clothes typical of their culture and the strange talk is their native language. If you can have some respect for these people's public display of their culture (and even enjoy it somewhat), why not do the same for the LGBTs and their culture?

Anonymous said...

Good to hear that there is still hope on the streets and in regard to the reactions on the internet: barking dogs don't bite.
However what I never understood and still do not understand is, why people in Latvia think that pedophilia and homophilia is the same thing. Can anyone explain this? Where does this come from?
I am happy to read that several Latvian officials visited the Pride this year but it would be better if finally prominent Latvian gays would publicly just be gay. That would be a tough job, but someone has to start, at least to create awareness in Latvia.

Anemone said...

If you want to know the truth I think most Latvian people simply don't care about homosexuality. I know many homosexuals in Latvia and in different ages (pretty much everyone knows they're gay) and haven't heard that they're being persecuted on every step. If Pride causes such trouble then perhaps it should be done in a different way or delayed until the society is ready. Quite a few people tolerate gays but do not prefer the actual form of Pride (every parade is different and can vary in form). I mean, honestly, what did Pride members and Mr. Kaža think - that everyone is going to cheer and hug the Pride participants from the very first moment? Even in supposedly liberal USA sooo many homosexuals are treated as scum and face terrible discrimination, especially by the Church and Christians. I've only heard negative attitude towards gays from Christians in Latvia (and complete morons). I was shocked that liberal thinking Archbishop Jānis Vanags said that if we accept homosexuality we will soon accept pedophilia too (I guess here's the answer to where does the affiliation of these two things comes from).
One can blame damaged Soviet thinking only on the older generations but shout at the WHOLE society that it is totalitarian and dark-minded is a terrible mistake. It only makes the situation worse.
Latvian society is very contrasted and there should be a more intelligent approach to solve this problem instead of yelling big, exaggerated words like Free speech, democracy etc.
BTW Kārlis Streips (popular journalist), Andrejs Žagars (Head of National Opera)and other celebs are long been openly gay. I hope more do come out without making big deal out of it.