This story was originally published by Meta.mk. An edited version is republished here via a content-sharing agreement between Global Voices and Metamorphosis Foundation.
The second Pride Parade in Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, took place on the 26th of June, under the motto “Beyond the Walls.”
After a one-year pause due to the pandemic, over a thousand supporters gathered in the city center this year and, in their own words, protested oppressive policies, homophobia and transphobia, but, at the same time, celebrated the hope for a society with greater solidarity and justice.
The high temperatures didn’t prevent the the LGBTQI+ community and their allies from coming out and raising their voices in celebration of differences, love, equality, and freedom.
With flags, banners and music, the Pride Parade started at 10 o’clock at the Zhena Borec Park in front of the Parliament, and, from there, the attendees marched through the city center toward the City Park, where the later the festivities (an open air party with a concert and dancing) took place.
The supporters sent the message through their banners that, among other things, there will be “no more hiding” and that “beauty is in the diversity.”
This year, the Skopje Pride Parade was attended by President Stevo Pendarovski and ministers Radmila Shekerinska, Jagoda Shahpaska, Irena Stefoska and Mila Carovska.
— Stevo Pendarovski (@SPendarovski) June 26, 2021
The Parade’s organizers stressed that the pandemic has shown everyone what it’s like to be living within four walls and that everyone has learned how the LGBTQI+ community has been closed in and forced to live behind walls, but not by their own choice.
For years, members of the LGBTQI+ community have been physically attacked, and been victims of domestic violence, hate speech and threats, but the public prosecutors, the police and other institutions kept silent, said Elena Petrovska of the Coalition Margins, which is part of the Skopje Pride’s organizing board.
This silence wants to erase us and is inspiring violence against us and that is why we are demanding a substantial change in the procedures for these acts and prosecution for them, just like for any other citizen. We are not citizens of a lower rank. The Pride Month is returning us a little bit in the past, it makes us see what we have achieved, the advancement, and how to continue onward.
She stated that the Gender Recognition Act must be urgently adopted because “the human rights aren’t debatable and no one is obliged to prove their own humanity in order to be protected by the system.”
Petrovska also addressed right-wing policies and the propaganda spreading false information, which, she said, want to twist the image of the members of the LGBTQI+ community in society and to present them as pests. She stressed:
The bigger and stronger this propaganda and attacks are, the more our resistance will grow stronger. None of us mustn’t be reduced to ideology, we are human beings that deserve equality and respect. No one and nothing will prevent us in our fight, will not take away our energy and derail us from the road to our freedom, as we have love and power.
“It is absurd in the 21st century to deny the rights to a normal and dignified life to a citizen,” stated Maja Morachanin, MP, the coordinator of the Inter-partisan Parliamentary Group for Promoting the Rights of the LGBTI People.
“This is why the message we are sending during the Skopje Pride is to stop the discrimination of the LGBTI people, the hate speech, the hate violence, stigmatization,” said Morachanin.
At Shkolka Stage in the City Park, Marija Kostadinovska, the parent of an LGBTQI+ daughter, introduced herself as “Ana’s mother,” and addressed the attendees and stated that, for children to come out of the closet, their parents must also help. She appealed:
As the poet Mika Antic once has said, love your children even when they are guilty, because life will punish them even when they are not. They are allegedly guilty because they are true to themselves, for being so much independent, because they know who to love and we as parents must allow that for them in order to live this life as they should.
The Skopje Pride Parade, which took place in Skopje for the first time in 2019, was organized by the National Network Against Homophobia and Transphobia.