My Pride2020 - Kristine Garina, President of EPOA

Kristine Garina has been President of the European Pride Organisers Association since 2015, and has been involved in the organisation of Pride in Riga, Latvia since its very beginning. She tells us her hopes for #Pride2020 and beyond…


Kristine, what do you think are the biggest challenges facing the LGBTI community in Europe right now?

We’ve been talking about the rise in populism and the extreme right as our biggest challenge for quite a while now. Unfortunately now it has transformed into a much bigger problem and this extremism and populism is now part of our lives. I think the biggest challenge that we face every day is to challenge the idea that it is ‘another opinion’ that needs to be considered and debated. Legitimising extremism and debating the undebatable has become a norm, and we have to change that.

Here in Europe the rights and freedoms of the LGBTI community are openly questioned, even the very existence of LGBTI people is questioned, gender identities are being openly ridiculed, children don’t receive proper information about sexual and gender diversity in schools, and the world has quietly accepted all that simply as a reality. There is so much of it all around us that the biggest challenge is to change the perception that these things are part of some democratic processes or changes that are inevitable. They are not. 

How can the Pride movement help to combat these challenges?

Pride is the most effective tool we have to raise the visibility of the LGBTI community. Through visibility the Pride movement can literally take on every challenge. By visibility, by the number of people, by the diversity of events and the diversity of our community, by support from society, parents, allies and support from other organisation we can clearly show that LGBTI people do exist in every city, country or region, that trans and non-binary people’s gender identities are valid, that education can be fully inclusive.

Every Pride march in every city or town can prove the populists and far-right extremists wrong by growing support from the community and Pride partners but also from all kinds of allies – organisations, institutions, groups, individuals. By growing our Pride events – and not just in size but also in diversity, locations, accessibility, inclusiveness – we are able to grow representation, be more visible in all parts of our lives, all parts of the society, and all communities and combat the idea of the LGBTI community’s existence and rights being up for debate. 

What’s your biggest hope for Pride in 2020?

Unity. To me that means national and international solidarity, working together within the communities, reaching out to those who may need more help, and making real effort not to leave anyone behind.

At EPOA we have been trying to achieve that but it’s not enough until we all get behind the idea of being in this together. We’re off to a good start with our Poland campaign as an example of that, and I really hope that such positive networking and uniting our forces to make a bigger impact where it matters most will become our second nature in 2020. 

Looking further ahead, how would you like to see Pride develop in the rest of the decade?

I would like to see Pride develop into an even more globally relevant movement and a platform for global, intersectional solidarity. We are the biggest and most visible movement in the world and we should be looking at issues that truly connect us everywhere – LGBTI rights, migration, climate, gender equality, reproductive rights… There is so much that is under attack right now that concerns us all.

Our biggest challenges are everyone’s challenges. And to me that’s the way for our Pride movement to become truly globally relevant and not just to LGBTI rights. We have skills, infrastructure, experience, and reach like no other movement. It is quite possible that Pride will be transforming, changing – it already is. It will grow in directions we may not expect. The rest of the decade will depend on how the movement will adjust, accept change and take leadership in this new world that we see so urgently emerging right now.  

Which Prides are you really looking forward to visiting in 2020 or beyond?

For me the most important prides in 2020 are Baltic Pride and EuroPride in Thessaloniki.

Baltic Pride in Tallinn (June 1 – 7) is important because Baltic Pride is my home Pride regardless where it is – Riga, Vilnius or Tallinn – and it’s only the second time that the Baltic Pride march takes place in Estonia! Estonia was always ahead of the other two Baltic states in terms of LGBTI rights but the situation is deteriorating fast with a far-right party being part of the Estonian government coalition. Baltic Pride is a strong message of Baltic solidarity and we’ll all be there – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania together. 

EuroPride in Thessaloniki (June 20 – 28) has a special place in my heart. It is a much needed and anticipated EuroPride that is hugely important for the entire Balkan region. Having visited Thessaloniki Pride the previous two years, I literally cannot wait for their EuroPride magic!

I’ll also be at Copenhagen Pride (August 17 – 23) one year before WorldPride 2021, as this is definitely a must for me! It’s one of those events you always want to go back to and see the progress just because – how good can you get? I am sure we will all be overwhelmed by WorldPride 2021 in Copenhagen!

Belgrade Pride (September 18) 2020 is exactly ten years since I was last in Belgrade and attended Belgrade Pride for the first time. I am eager to see for myself the progress and experience the difference that ten years of hard work, determination and international solidarity can make. And of course, we’ll be looking ahead to 2022 when they will host EuroPride!

Finally, what’s your most cherished memory of a Pride?

EuroPride in Riga in 2015 when the Pride march reached our central street – Brivibas Street – which translates as Liberty Street – that always, even in the times of Soviet occupation, symbolised hope for people to one day become free. The Freedom Monument where the street starts is probably the most important place to everyone in Latvia who remembers living in oppression and fear. 

Since the first Pride in Riga in 2005 we’ve been told countless times that we’ll never march on Brivibas Street, politicians and city officials were laughing at our suggested routes that would go anywhere near ‘what’s next, you’ll want Brivibas Street!’ as if this was totally impossible. Ten years later in 2015 when the EuroPride march turned on Brivibas Street and we did march on it with the Freedom Monument behind us, that was the most cherished memory of a Pride for me. 

Follow Kristine on Twitter @KristineGarina and Instagram @kristinegarina.

Images: Lilly Kronlund/Sveriges Radio, Augustas Didžgalvis.

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