The 10th Anniversary Chiang Mai Pride Parade last night (Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019) was a resounding success. A thousand people marched about a mile to a plaza in front of the historic Tapae Gate where another 300 of us waited and were joined by a few hundred wanderers. The mood was enthusiastic and the plans were flawless. Congratulations to the organizers and sponsoring organizations. (Thanks to photographers who posted pictures on Facebook, borrowed for this blog-report.)
What was accomplished, in my opinion shared with others, is a demonstration that things have changed for the better in the last decade.
On this date in 2009 the first Pride Parade came to an abrupt end before it began when truck-loads of red-shirted counter-demonstrators roared up to the launching site for the parade with loud threats and intimidation. They were accompanied by scores of police who trapped the marchers inside a religious compound behind a tall iron fence while other police tore down the stage at the parade’s intended destination two blocks away.
The idea, furthered by public officials (who had previously issued permits and promised cooperation) was that a display of nearly naked gay men besmirched the reputation of Chiang Mai as a cultural gem and bastion of conservative cultural values. No matter that nobody was even partially unclothed. Truth was the first to flee, followed by those fleetest afoot. In fact, Pride #1 was a victim of the political struggles of those times that had nothing much to do with LGBTK people, but with political factions trying to get “air time” on TV any way they could.
This year the parade organizers made sure ahead of time that the public officials had been conspicuously recognized for permitting the parade. Police were glad to provide traffic control, and politics were no longer likely to interfere. It was smiles all around.
After a long, fun walk from the very spot where the 2009 parade had been aborted, past the place where they had planned to end, then twice as far again (providing a lot of chances for people to join, which some did), the parade, led by a brass band, came to the plaza.
The program included three Las Vegas type performances by a troupe of bi, gay and transgender dancers from a local cabaret theater. Then short greetings were brought by representatives of LGBTK Chiang Mai (including moi). A poignant time in the evening was when the crowd lit peace candles following the theme, “end violence against people of diverse genders.” Trophies were awarded for great costumes as the event came to an end and the plaza was turned back over to the pigeons and tourists.
Well done, Sirisak, coordinator-in-charge!
Again I wonder what was accomplished. What do they do, these Pride events, now held in scores of cities worldwide?
This one was specific. Its message was, “We have come a long way. We can march unafraid.” And, “The future is in good hands,” as the Millennial Generation took over and ran the show last night. It was to sustain enthusiasm.
Other parades in other places proclaim, “We’re here and we’re queer! We’re loud and we’re proud!” with outrageous costumes to prove it. In this regard Chiang Mai Pride 2019 was subdued.
Most Pride events underscore gender diversity and blurred binary demarcations. They push collective consciousness to be more inclusive. This one did that, too.
A few are defiant, courageously confronting opposition that often greatly exceeds our memorable conflict in 2009, now laid to rest, as a short video last night proposed.
What all Pride parades and festivals have in common is the rebellious assertion, “We do not yet have full equality. Notice us and see that we are unashamed and unintimidated. You have to deal with us because we dwell among you.”
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.