During the month of June, Pride is celebrated in several parts of the world. Many people see it mostly as an opportunity to dance in the street and wear a huge amount of glitter, but the first Pridethe parade was a political protest against harassment that LGBTQ + people were forced to endure daily. I'm bisexual myself, and after living in Zambia for the past six months, I've been reminded why Pride is still needed.
Homosexuality is illegal in Zambia, where I have lived and worked for almost six months. When the Swedish embassy in Lusaka hoisted the Pride flag on May 17 to mark IDAHOT, the international day against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia, the comment field drowned in negative comments. People live in the cinema when a scene with LGBTQ + people is played, even if only two men are holding hands. But most of all, it is noticeable in a forced silence - LGBTQ + people are not expected to exist, and when we do, we are still expected to hide.
It is only now that I have moved here that I realized what a safe and secure bubble I have lived in during my upbringing in Sweden. It's exhausting to be forced to hide part of who I am all the time, both at home and at work. When I watch series with LGBTQ + people on TV, I worry about what the neighbors will think and reduce the volume. My social media is private and I have not dared to share my Instagram with my colleagues, although it has made it more difficult to create meaningful connections.
Even though it's boring and uncomfortable, it's not really dangerous for me personally. Also, my discomfort is temporary, though the recent shooting at a gay bar in Oslo has shaken my confidence in my own safety at home in Sweden. Many groups find it much more difficult to protect themselves against harassment. The more one differs from the heteronormative norm, the greater the risk. Trans and intersex people are particularly vulnerable, but we all have the right to protection.
According to Global Philanthropy Project (GPP) Sweden is one of the countries that provides the most assistance in promoting LGBTQ + rights abroad. A common criticism of this work is that LGBTQ + rights would be a Western invention, which is now being imposed on African countries. In fact, many of today's laws are against homosexuality a legacy from colonial times. Of course, LGBTQ + people also exist in Zambia, although they are often forced to do so in secret or risk harassment.
Many LGBTQ + people also have the courage to fight for our rights. I have enormous respect and gratitude for these activists who dare to take a stand in situations that are not only uncomfortable but sometimes downright life-threatening. The advance we have seen since the Stonewall uprising, the starting shot for today's Pride parades, is the result of the LGBTQ + movement's stubborn struggle. That struggle continues today.
When I finally got out to my colleagues after six months of friendship, it turned out that two of my closest friends here in Zambia were also bisexual. In addition to regretting that I did not dare to say anything earlier, I was reminded that our greatest strength is each other. Pride is an expression of that community - which is growing stronger day by day, despite the obstacles in our path.