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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Feeling the pride

I'm happy to say that my daughter and I joined approximately 3000 others (including colleagues from the U.S. Embassy) on Saturday afternoon in celebrating Baltic Pride March 2016 in Vilnius. In light of the recent tragedy in Orlando, as well as entrenched discrimination against LGBT people in the Baltics, it was important to get out and join the voices celebrating acceptance and inclusiveness (if you're wondering about my wife's absence, Shu-E wasn't feeling very well and opted to stay in bed). Amber and I joined the others just after lunch as we gathered in Lukiskes Square (Lukiškių aikštė) on what would turn out to be a warm, sunny afternoon:

My daughter poses with Doering, who has done so much to help the three of us adjust to our new lives here:

The parade kicked off at around 1:00pm as the marchers started down Gedimino Avenue (Gedimino prospektas), with representatives from various embassies in Vilnius near the front of the column:

Ambassador Deborah McCarthy (second from the right behind the banner) showed her support for the cause...: did your humble scribe, in his finest Tacoma Rainiers jersey:

This couple and their cute daughter attracted a lot of attention from photographers: 

The parade made its way toward Vilnius Cathedral (Vilniaus Arkikatedra): 

The scene behind us on Gedimino Avenue. The yellow party bus provided a thumping techno soundtrack throughout the parade, making me feel at times like Technoviking

The haters were out, of course, but their numbers were small and their protests peaceful. Many in the crowed happily took selfies with the protesters' signs in the background. This banner says something about the marchers being from the pedophiles' union...:

...while this gentlemen I think is wondering which authority allowed this parade (it's the best I could do using Google Translate). According to the formula,  the European Union plus the LGBT community equals no doggie-style sex?:

The parade made its way into Old Town...

...and past Cathedral Square and Gediminas Hill: 

A selfie of our own. And, yes, I do know the identity of the photobomber:

I was told that the person holding this sign is a well-known homophobe public figure in Lithuania. His words are the usual claptrap about saving children from "gay propaganda" (in the U.S. it would read the "gay agenda"). What is the obsession these folks have with anal sex?:

Sharp-eyed readers will have already noted by now that, while the  Republic of China does not maintain diplomatic relations with the Republic of Lithuania (the nearest Taipei Mission is in Riga, in neighboring Latvia), Amber made sure Taiwan would be represented in the parade:

The procession made its way into Bernadine Gardens (Bernardinų sodas), the end of the parade route: 

Some of our friends from the British Embassy. The U.K., of course, has had to deal with its own tragedy this past week, with the senseless murder of MP Jo Cox. It's a sobering thought, but here's hoping her death will encourage the British public to do the right thing by voting to remain in the EU: 

We didn't stay around for the speeches. My daughter was tired from the walk and wanted to get an ice cream. I was proud that she took part in the parade, and she said that she'd enjoyed herself. I certainly had a good time in the festive atmosphere, and I hope this parade will play an important role in changing attitudes toward the LGBT community in Lithuania:

The two of us took a walk through the gardens after leaving the pride march. As part of the deal for the promised ice cream, my daughter had to take a couple of swigs from a bottle of Vytautas Mineral Water, "Earth's Juice". Judging by the reaction on her face, she obviously gave a negative fuck: 

The gardens themselves are worth spending time in, especially on a day as nice as Saturday. There are a number of walking trails begging to be explored (my shorts and hiking boots are still in our yet-to-be-delivered household effects, unfortunately), and we did venture up one set of wooden stairs for some views over Old Town:

Kayakers on the Vilnia, with the Bernadine Church & Monastery in the background: 

Amber did get her ice cream, of course, as we stopped at an atmospheric Old Town cafe on the way back to our new apartment (new for us in that we were finally able to move out of the temporary quarters and off of the compound. Now if we can finally get all of our stuff in one place again...). Dad relaxed with yet another of Lithuania's locally-brewed beers. I'm sorry, what was that about craft beer "booming" in Taiwan?:

Friday's afternoon's brief but heavy downpour resulted in a stunning rainbow as viewed from our living room window (I confess to playing around a little with the saturation), and an auspicious sign for the next day's event

Father's Day has already passed in Lithuania (it being on June 7 this year), but this Sunday was the American version. Our celebration was largely uneventful, but we did make our first GPS-aided auto excursion, going to Akropolis, a large shopping mall about a ten minute-drive from our apartment. While having lunch we watched a practice session for a large group of aspiring hockey goalies, before the Zamboni machine came out to clean the ice for the regular skaters who soon followed

POSTSCRIPT: The following is an article on the parade from today's Baltic Times. I would've just given the link to the piece, except that non-subscribers have to put up with a box screaming an annoying "Subscribe Now" that blocks much of the story as you scroll through the article:

VILNIUS, June 20, BNS - Between 1500 and 2000 people marched in a Baltic Pride parade in Vilnius without any serious incidents Saturday, the police of the Lithuanian capital has said.

Six drunken people were detained during the event, Paulius Radvilavicius, spokesman for the police, told BNS, adding that some of them were shouting obscenities, one carried a knife and urinated in public.

Ambassadors from several countries, European and Lithuanian politicians, human rights activists, members of the LGBT community and supporters, representatives of civil society organizations and a delegation of the University of Vilnius joined the march. Participants carried the flags of sexual minorities as well as Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the UK, Israel, Russia, the United States and Sweden.

A small group of protestors heckled the parade-goers at the Cathedral Square, which, however, had not led to any incidents.

Even though Vilnius' authorities issued permission for up to 1000 people to participate in the LGBT march, the actual parade, which is the third such event ever hosted by Vilnius, actually drew more people.

Baltic Pride is an annual LGBT event that rotates between the three Baltic capitals.

Organizers of the event say that it is aimed at increasing the visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the society and its tolerance. Meanwhile, critics describe it as propaganda of homosexuality running against Christian values.

The first Baltic Pride march in Vilnius was held in Upes Street outside the city center in 2010. The local authorities tried to refuse permission, but a court allowed the event to go ahead.

In 2013, the city did not want to allow holding a Baltic Pride march in Gedimino Avenue and instead proposed the more remote Upes Street, but a court decided that such a restriction was unfounded.

Around 500 people LGBT people then marched through the central avenue.

Protests were held against the Baltic Pride marches both in 2010 and 2013. The police used smoke and tear-gas grenades to disperse the protesters. 

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