Monday, June 10, 2013

New Symbol in Geneva Makes Pro-Gay Statement

Only when we start to acknowledge injustice can we really eradicate it. Reflecting a hate-crime committed 447 years ago, today the City of Geneva uses a cold moment in history to set a profound symbol for the future. The placement of an engraved plaque in the city’s center near Bel-Air - with the endorsement of the Geneva mayor Sandrine Salerno and the undertaking of NETWORK, an organization of gay leaders - is set to serve as a living memory of hope. Hope against hate.

The story taking place today is one that dates back to June 10, 1566. That’s when Bartholomé Tecia, a 15-year-old student, was sentenced to be drowned in the Rhone River after being convicted of homosexuality. By commemorating his wrongful death through a plaque in the City of Geneva, representatives of the group NETWORK say Geneva is making an international statement towards the universal understanding for human rights.   

“When someone passing by sees this plaque, it will signal the symbol behind Bartholomé Tecia. A message lives on. It is a witness to how history sets a vision for us, as we make sense of the upbringing, culture, society and lifestyles of that time,” said Dominique Rachex of NETWORK Geneva in a press release.

Likewise, it also makes one think of the number of LGBT people locally and across the world that still encounter prejudice and discrimination. The tragedy of Bartholomé is certainly not a unique case of hate. There are records of 31 others, who from 1444 to 1662, were also sentenced to death because of their homosexuality. And, in recent times, from anti-gay legislation in Uganda to the recent homophobic killing of 32-year-old Mark Carson in New York, the symbol of Bartholomé is more relevant than ever.

With June bringing celebrations of pride, the new plaque in Geneva is a strong presence in the right direction that all Swiss can be proud of.  

“We are very proud to have contributed to the creation of a place of remembrance and hope,” said Oliver Fritz, President of NETWORK Switzerland in a press release. “It’s a witness to the time we are living in and to the kind of discrimination we hope will soon be obsolete.” 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

It’s Pride Time! Enjoy, But Don’t Be Comfortable!!

If anything, Switzerland is a discreet place. Proof in the many royals, celebrities and high-profile CEOs who find comfort in visiting paparazzi-free. Arms folded, eyes down is the nature of the Swiss, and even the more outgoing immigrants soon enough find themselves conforming. It may seem a cold way of life, but it’s a peaceful one.

Peace often equals happiness. But does it equal equality? In a world that is overall unwelcoming for gays, Switzerland is an easy place to get comfortable. But gays here legally don’t enjoy equal rights and do face discrimination. What was once a huge leap for the LGBT community in Switzerland, the registered partnership, now looks like outdated legislation. Switzerland must move ahead.

It’s pride time and it’s time to show that we aren’t comfortable. It’s time to demand more. And, with pride in Switzerland, options are aplenty! Hold your head high, have fun, and don’t be discreet at one of these upcoming events:

All Families Matter
Zurich Pride Festival, June 8 (parade and main event)

No surprise the biggest pride celebration in Switzerland is in the country’s largest city. The Zurich pride parade kicks off at 14:00 in Helvetia Square, and Swiss Germans don’t mess around when it comes to timing. 14:00 is clearly 14:00 and not a minute later. And, if you’re planning to walk along with the parade floats, make sure you wear good shoes. In Zurich the parade’s speed is more that of a light jog rather than a leisurely stroll.

The theme of the Zurich Pride Festival is “All Families Matter.” One of the aims is to make it clear that, while the Swiss registered partnership is a compromise, LGBT families matter as much as all others and deserve real equal rights. Indeed, “All Families Matter,” and do they ever! Just think of the shocking opposition to the French “marriage pour tous.” Discrimination and hate are strong, we must be stronger.

Following the parade it’s party time. The pride park at Turbinenplatz is nicely located just in front of the Ibis and Novotel (Zurich City West). For all the club rockers, the night lights up in burlesque style at the WonderWorld Party, official pride party.
Like Everyone
Pride 2013 Fribourg, June 22

While pride in Zurich may be Switzerland’s largest, it’s by no means the only place to make a statement. Pride Romande, organized by the Swiss-French is taking place in Fribourg, a charming town of 285,000. The location choice is worth taking note of. After all, is it not the conservative areas where the LGBT community needs to make its case the most? If there’s any part of you that has ever said, “I wish I could do more,” then here’s an easy and fun way to participate. 
The motto of this pride is “Like Everyone.” Quite simply, gays are different, like everyone is different. And in the end we are all more alike than we may think, especially in the human need for rights.
Things in Fribourg get going at 12:13 – why not 12:15, well again, this is Switzerland and it’s all about timing, isn’t it! The parade rolls out at 13:13 in front of the Théâtre Equilibre and a whole list of activities are in place for the day.

Not to miss is the divine Catherine D’oex (pronounced Day), who has an iconic, yet approachable status with Swiss Romands. And for the club rockers, the “Very Official Pride Party” opens at 23:13. For accommodation, try the nearby hotel NH Fribourg, only a 2 minute walk from the parade start point, Théâtre Equilibre.

In the Same Boat
Party in Basel, June 15

All aboard! Once a year the gay community meets in Basel on THE SHIP in the Rhine Harbor. Things get started at 19:00 when the party is officially opened by the executives of Network, who represent gay leadership. Various organizations present themselves as the sunsets and DJs move in by nightfall. The party goes until morning, but should you wish to retire before the cock crows, find accommodation nearby at The Best Western Basel.

Happy Pride!

Friday, April 19, 2013

All eyes on France – Strong opposition against an even stronger issue

There are many reasons why Switzerland might just be aliving paradise on earth. Equal gay rights, though the country fares better than many, aren’t yet one of them. With stability taking a spotlight, change often moves at a glacial pace in Switzerland. So there’s ample time to see what others are doing first. Right now, with the French legislation “Le marriage pourtous” (Marriage for Everyone) eyes are on neighboring France.

They say a bad neighbor is a misfortune, as much as a good one is a great blessing. With 573 kilometers of French-Swiss border, it’s not surprising that Switzerland (especially the French-speaking part), takes some influence from neighboring France. So hypothetically, advancement on gay marriage so close to home, could open more doors for Switzerland in the not so far future.

But what’s being seen around the debate in France isn’t pleasant.

Formal legislative debates literally turned into a fistfight and, in a hateful outburst, Philippe Cochet, an ultra-conservative with the UMPpolitical party, associated gay adoption with the killing of children. At the same time opposing demonstrations heated up causing more than 70 people to be stopped on account of violence.        

Yet, while providing a “shock” factor across mainstream media, what has taken place in France is truly more shameful for the country than it is impactful for the opposition.

In Switzerland’s case, perhaps it’s easier to love humanity than it is to love one’s neighbor. Society is already turning the page on gay rights and continues to move forward. While French diplomats may think they are debating a revolutionary issue, gay-globalization is taking place across the developed world. According to ILGA Europe statistics from January 2012, several European nations are already ahead of France on gay marriage and adoption. And although it’s unclear where Mr. Cochet gets his news, so far no children have been reportedly killed.     

Now for all this opposition. Varrying sources report between 3,000 and upto 45,000 in Paris. Sure the numbers are impressive, and seeing such hate is saddening, but is the protest really that big? With the same city holding a gay pride of 700,000, the opposition is out numbered. Even little Zurich saw a pride of 35,000.

The movement for gay rights will not give way to those who think fistfights in a parliament are acceptable. It will not give way to those who think throwing chairs through bar windows is acceptable. In fact, those who participate in such acts and deem them appropriate should probably be evaluated on their ability to raise children.

As the opposition makes a fool of itself, the movement to marriage only becomes stronger. Good luck to our friends in France. We are watching for the final vote.