Thu, Oct 28, 2010 - Page 13 News List

Pride and prejudice

The ambitious Walk With Pride photography project documents the similarities and differences between gay pride events throughout the world

By Catherine Shu  /  Staff reporter

Charles Meacham and Sarah Baxter were inspired by Taiwan Pride 2009 to launch the Walk With Pride project.

Photo courtesy of Charles Meacham

Photography project Walk With Pride showcases the results of a year’s work exploring a spectrum of gay pride events around the world, from the exuberant Sydney Mardi Gras to banned parades in Belarus and Russia.

Taipei-based travel photographer Charles “Chad” Meacham and partner Sarah Baxter, a freelance writer, have traveled to 15 countries for the project, including Turkey, the Philippines, Croatia, Bulgaria and Israel. Walk With Pride will come full circle when Meacham photographs this year’s Taiwan Pride on Saturday. He was inspired to launch Walk With Pride after attending last year’s event, the biggest of its kind in Asia.

“I had never been to a pride parade before or really known anyone in the [gay] community, but for us it’s a very basic human right,” Meacham said. “I thought, ‘These things go on all over the world, so we can probably link them together to show what is going on right now, but in different cultures and in different communities.’”

The pride events covered by Meacham and Baxter vary dramatically. The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, one of the largest pride events in the world, is a major source of tourism revenue for the city.

This year’s Slavic Pride Parade in Minsk and Moscow Pride, on the other hand, were both held despite bans by city authorities. Former Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov, who once referred to gay pride parades as “satanic,” had prohibited Moscow Pride events since 2006. (Luzhkov was dismissed last month by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.)

Russian gay rights activist and lawyer Nikolai Alekseev, the founder of Moscow Pride, says that projects like Walk With Pride are important because they not only publicize gay pride events, but also leave a record.

“I believe it is important that we leave a track of our actions so that in the future, others will see what we did. When I started with LGBT rights in 2000, I was looking at what happened in Russia [on the subject in the 1980s and 1990s],” Alekseev wrote in an e-mail. “There is no information available. Simply because no one documented anything.”

The atmosphere before the banned parades in Minsk and Moscow was “very cloak and dagger,” says Meacham, who accompanied organizers as they attended court hearings and held meetings to discuss the possibility of violence by anti-gay protesters. “Those are totally different kinds of [pride parades]. They’re not the ones where you’re out and about,” he said.

One of Meacham’s favorite photos shows gay activist Maria Yefremenkova in a quiet moment before Moscow Pride in May, holding a rainbow pride flag and looking out the window. In defiance of the city ban, 30 to 40 participants unfurled the flag and marched with it for a short distance.

“This was a moment where she’s reflecting. We’re right about to leave for the parade. We don’t know if there will be arrests or skinheads and she’s holding the flag and very quietly looking at it,” Meacham said.

During his year of covering pride events, Meacham has witnessed homophobia manifested differently across cultures.

“The struggle for most of the Taiwanese [gay] community is more of a legal fight, but if you go to Eastern Europe where homophobia is very ingrained and mixed with right-wing extremism, you are dealing with violence and skinheads,” he said.

Organizer Sergey Yenin was arrested and detained in Minsk after marching in the banned parade there in May. During the first pride parade held in Lithuania, which also took place in May, a crowd of about 1,000 anti-gay protesters outnumbered the 400 marchers. In Zagreb, Croatia in June, demonstrators made Nazi salutes. Other protesters at different events carried signs or banners with slogans like “Play in Hell” or “Stop Homo.”

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