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 publikai.lv, 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.