Final Spurt in Copenhagen, Denmark
“Final Spurt” is the heading of Copenhagen Pride 2009 – at least for those who view it from the pavement opposite the Frederiksberg Centre – “last day Sunday 10-16”, a promotion for the summer sales fading out tomorrow. Every sign and banner of the participating groups, over 50, is at one point overshadowed by the huge ad, confusing their proper messages.
It’s hopefully not the last spurt of the proud motorcyclists who get the Pride moving and will faithfully pull it forward, same procedure as every year. New and very special this year is World Outgames, by many mistakenly called the Olympics of the LGBT world – lesbian, gay, bi and transgender. Tomorrow is indeed the final spurt, after a week of hectic fighting in the arenas of Copenhagen, only disturbed by the occasional hate crime.
Surprise! The slightly delayed first float turns out to be Copenhagen Pride’s own. After all, the Pride parade is a local manifestation, this year two weeks earlier than normal in order to coincide with the closing ceremony of the Outgames in a gigantic party on the City Hall Square of Copenhagen. The athletes and their organizers are, however, still pending on a different City Hall Square, that of Frederiksberg, a municipality encircled by Copenhagen.
Frederiksberg is popular for gay living and boasts a tax rate lower than Copenhagen’s. The Saturday morning’s flea market goes on as usual behind the City Hall, whereas the Square is a swarm of leather men, drag queens and other people in minimal but fancy dress crowding around their own dear float. Cafe Intime delivers draught beer and a limited toilet capacity. Smell from the adjacent garden might on Monday remind the local politicians of the subterranean public toilet they removed years ago as an anti-gay measure.
The place was pretentiously referred to as Elverhoj, after an old play belonging to the national heritage – about elves. Frederiksberg has long since embraced the gay community, though. The Lord Mayor is honored to spice the Pride departure with a few well-chosen words, then starts walking shoulder to shoulder with another conservative, the sunburnt Mr. Travel, a media oracle with a foot in each camp, always ready with a comment about travel. En route, the two of them have plenty of time to twist and turn a possible reopening of Elverhoj.
A white Outgames float is getting ready, has yet time for minor adjustments. The bare name of it will catch attention, thanks to its overworked crew. Every one with antennas out knows they did their job well. They attracted 5000 participants from around the world, organized lodging and competitions, exposed them to multifarious cultural events and a much talked about human rights conference, all the while keeping media informed, also about disgusting hate crimes, which in Denmark, too, often fail to reach the police reports.
News media and the police reports were soon focusing on the real thing – firecrackers thrown at Outgames athletes. The offenders, Danish ones, ought to be confronted with the minorities, for example on float number 2 – Sabaah – a club for young non-heteros with an ethnic background other than Danish, newcomers this year. Alternatively, do the parade on foot accompanying Copenhagen’s young Mayor of Integration and let him guide them. He might send them to the Copenhagen City Museum to see “As I am” about sex identity in the recent past.
The police have an easy job protecting today’s sun-drenched parade, including 20 uniformed officers carrying “Accept” signs, men and women representing “Homosexuals in the Defense”. They are immensely popular in their white shirts, smiling and laughing warmly at the questions they get. People walk with them awhile to get the answers. Colleagues from the police, popular too, play down their own presence by staying in their cars. In case Mother Duck wishes to cross the road with her ducklings, the police need not turn out, for the Pride moves forward with more fits than starts.
Who wouldn’t marry such a policeman or officer! The eager ones have to content themselves, though, with “Same Sex Partnership”, a huge step forward taken 20 years ago, used as theme on the elegant white float of Jailhouse, a gay bar specializing in theme nights. Had the Pride route been flexible, they could have made a stop at the Copenhagen Cathedral, offering church blessings for LGBT couples, an emotional Pride service while waiting for the law to allow church weddings. Each column on the Cathedral’s facade is swathed in one particular rainbow color, the most beautiful rainbow image during the Pride and Outgames week.
Queers on Loan
A small rainbow banner of the traditional sort has come to a standstill immediately below the “Final Spurt” ad, an efficient reminder that this is the very last opportunity to borrow a Queer in the Library, who will during half an hour update you on LGBT, just ask the questions. If that fails, then Miss OTB – One Tall Bitch – is always available for new projects. The tall young guy is cult with his wild dresses, often using stilts underneath. Today he is in gold, his face scarcely visible inside an explosion of black hairdo suited to keep children and birds away. He need not go to the City Museum, for he is already part of their exhibition.
Copenhagen has “open” in its name, a detail most of us never thought of, but Microsoft did – on their yellow banner and on a double-page in the Outgames program book, both sporting the motto “Out is the new In”, and they do come out with the number of employees and nationalities in their Danish branch, where “All orientations” are represented. Queer sexuality has finally become a qualification. No surprise that Carmen Curlers, a lesbian and gay choir, breaks into song. Amnesty could learn from all that openness by letting people earmark their contributions to prisoners sentenced for not being hetero.
The political parties really embrace this year’s Pride, fishing for votes of course, the payment for which should be future support whenever LGBT is on the political agenda. Influence is crucial, just think of the Partnership Law. Missing influence can lead to catastrophes like the “Ugly Law” from 1961, which criminalized the customers of male prostitution and was used by the police to persecute gay men ruthlessly; a disaster lasting 4 years. Ask any of the participants from LBL, the national Danish LGBT Association -the oldest of its kind in the world – today meeting their members on street level.
The Pride leaves behind only sunshine and rainbow flags turned into litter. Daily life will show us whether we became more open, accepting and including. A feeling that private companies and political parties try to reap the benefits, should perhaps be interpreted as the start of a dialogue. The Frederiksberg Centre could via their facade really have sent a message to the LGBT world, but had nothing to say. ”Final Spurt” is sheer promotion, unless it’s an invitation to those who feel the call of nature.
Pride 2009 had style, size and atmosphere. In normal years, though, these parades seem to be made on assembly lines – pride here, pride there, pride again. Copenhagen can easily create their own special image – simply by resuming the old name – Mermaid Pride, a brand second to none.