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Boston Pride Shuts Down; Plus Gay News from Europe and China

WeChat closes Chinese LGBTQ accounts, anti-LGBTQ law takes effect in Poland, plus a roundup of recent gay rights developments in Europe...

After more than a year of bitter conflict with volunteers and other LGBTQ community groups, Boston Pride announced that it will dissolve. The organization faces allegations of racism, transphobia, and a lack of inclusiveness and is the subject of a boycott led by the alternative Pride for the People. “Over the past year, we have invested time and energy to address the concerns of the community,” the board of directors wrote. “It is clear to us that the community needs and wants change without the involvement of Boston Pride… There will be no further events or programming planned.” What this means for events previously mooted for this fall is unclear, as is the disposition of Boston Pride’s assets (some $437,000 as of 2018, according to tax filings).

Red eyeballs with the gold stars of the Chinese flag

WeChat Closes Chinese LGBTQ Accounts

In China, WeChat abruptly shuttered social media accounts for at least nine LGBTQ groups at major universities. It was unclear whether the move was unilateral or ordered by the government, but the timing—close to the anniversary of Tiananmen Square and the Communist Party’s centenary—did not escape notice. While homosexuality is legal in China, censorship is common, and the gay community has faced increasing pressure. Yale sinologist David Longarino was quoted in The Guardian: “My sense is that the short term is going to continue to be treacherous sailing, but the LGBT movement’s gains over the last two decades, in terms of its community-building and broadening of public support, coupled with its impressive resilience, can see it through.”

East vs. West in Europe?

In Hungary, a draconian new law took effect banning “gay people from appearing in educational materials or on primetime TV,” according to The Guardian. Activists threatened civil disobedience, teachers vowed to defy the law, and protestors erected a thirty-foot inflatable rainbow heart in front of Parliament. The European Union condemned the law, and pressure is mounting on EU president Ursula von der Leyen to bring a case against Hungary in the European Court of Justice.

Nick Thorpe wrote in The New European, “LGBT rights is the most visible manifestation of a culture war that is raging across Europe, pitting the former communist East against the more liberal West (although there are exceptions on each side).” In Zagreb, Croatia, a rainbow flag was burned and participants were assaulted at last week’s pride march, according to the Associated Press. And in Tbilisi, Georgia, organizers canceled this year’s march after an attack on their headquarters. “The events had been held peacefully for the last several years,” Andrew Roth wrote in The Guardian, “making Monday’s violence a sign of backsliding.”

Russia looms over the East in this culture war just as the Soviet Union did during the Cold War. On the eight-year anniversary of Russia’s “gay propaganda” law, Anna Filippova wrote in Meduza, “In the eyes of the Russian authorities, the visibility and very existence of LGBTQ+ people is their greatest offense…in essence, they have no right to express their sexuality openly.” Liberal media are censored and offending authors prosecuted, conservative media use “deliberately emotional language that portrays queer people in a negative light,” gay parents are subjected to bureaucratic harrassment, and violence against LGBTQ people is tolerated; when prosecuted, it is not considered a hate crime.

Rainbow flag carried at Pride Parade, Rzeszów, Poland, 2019

The situation is similar in Poland, but—as everywhere—activists persevere. In Płock, Elżbieta Podleśna and several colleagues postered a Catholic church with images of the Virgin Mary with a rainbow halo; Warsaw windows sport rainbow flags; and the city’s mayor has seen to it that the Palace of Culture is illuminated in the colors of pride. Writing in The Guardian, Agnieszka Holland and Olga Tokarczuk find “glimmers of hope in an illiberal dystopia”: “The grassroots movement has already started to reap the fruits of its labour by effectively changing the attitudes of millions of Poles. We now have a young generation that is more progressive than ever, and increasingly immune to the aggressive messaging of the religious right.”

In the United Kingdom, the Methodist church recently voted to allow same-sex marriages. According to LGBTQ Nation, “delegates to the Methodist Conference voted 254 to 46 to endorse a definition that says marriage is ‘a lifelong union in body, mind and spirit of two people who freely enter into it.’” Meanwhile, Spain passed a law allowing 16-year-olds to change their legal gender on their own authority and 14- to 16-year-olds to do so with parental consent. Four days later, a young gay man was beaten to death outside a nightclub in Galicia, sparking protests nationwide.

Despite such tragic exceptions, however, acceptance really has come farther in western Europe than in the East. As ranked in the 2019 study Social Acceptance of LGBT People in 174 Countries, 16 of the best 25 countries worldwide are in western Europe, while the former Soviet republics and Eastern Bloc countries are scattered between #36 (the Czech Republic) and #158 (Moldova). Hungary is #65, Poland #70, and Russia #120. The United States, by way of comparison, rings in at #21.

Art Notes

Photograph of 2019 Boston Pride Festival CC BY-SA 4.0 NewtonCourt. Illustration of eyeballs with Chinese flag by julientromeur. Photograph of 2019 pride parade in Rzeszów, Poland, CC BY-SA 4.0 Silar.

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