Ride Pride! Tirana 2018
Daina Rudusa, ILGA-Europe Advocacy and Programmes Officer
The sun came out in force for Tirana (P)ride on 13 May 2018. So did the local community. Which in this small Balkan nation is no small achievement.
Community coming together
Around 400 people took part in the largest, most colourful Pride Ride yet. The vast majority of participants were local LGBTI community members, a few representatives from foreign embassies or institutional representations stationed in Tirana, and less than a handful of activists from other countries.
This was a great achievement, a crucial one in fact, as the Albanian LGBTI community has been facing a strong backlash in recent months against anti-bullying activities carried out in schools. Organisers worried that the hate speech dominating media and social media in recent months would have prevented people from coming out, when in fact it had the opposite effect. Community members came together to say we are here, and we will ride and march and sing for our human rights, for our very being, for our place in this society.
No counter protesters
Despite the vocal opposition heard in media and social media in recent months, a total of zero counter protesters were present for the event. But you know who was there? Inhabitants of Tirana. As the march made its way along the city’s main boulevard, with community members whizzing up and down on rainbow clad bikes, led by a van blasting Pride hits and carrying two fabulous dancing drag queens, inhabitants of Tirana looked on. Some from their home windows, some from their cars. Some with interest, some with no visible emotion at all, some smiled, and waved and joined in. Serving as a reminder that the hateful messages posted online don’t necessarily reflect the reality in society.
Another sign of progress was the police. Police officers were there in strong, but not overbearing numbers, marching along among the participants. No fences, no riot gear, no cars even, just police officers marching along, stopping some traffic along the way to make way for the marchers. Last year the police service tried to postpone the march due to undisclosed “security concerns” which never materialised. This year they fulfilled their duty honourably!
It is partly because of security that Tirana (P)ride originally took place on bikes. One could whizz off away from danger, if it arrived. They have retained their central place at (P)ride, though more for visual effect – it looks quite cool to see activists riding up and down the boulevard with rainbow flags blowing in the wind behind them. The security element is not so relevant any more – just as many, if not more, people took part on foot, no longer afraid for their safety.
Tirana certainly rode in the (P)ride season in style. It was a pleasure to be there, and to see the local community take ownership of this event in the face of a hateful backlash still ongoing in response to LGBT activists anti-bullying activities (which were, incidentally, fully signed off by the Ministry of Education) in schools.
Let’s hope this year’s Pride season has many more success stories to bring!