Palermo, Italy is anything but the most obvious place to hold a Pride event. Fact is, this year it has been a very special Pride, not just for me getting so involved in what is my first ever Pride, but for the whole city which has, at its fourth event of this kind, played host to the National Pride! I’m even prouder of my hometown now after these 10 beautiful days.
Some of you may recognise Palermo as being famous for being so caught up in the mafia; and to be fair the city does bear the physical and emotional scars of what has been, but in these last years it’s grown up faster than many give it credit for. There’s a thriving anti-mafia movement and kids are being brought up believing that they can go to school freely, be treated fairly and one day even set up a business that won’t ever face the consequences of not being affiliated with a mafia group. Now, they can also start believing that they’ll never be alone if they’re uncomfortable in their own skin and don’t fit the gender they were assigned at birth.
It began a week ago last Friday with a fashion show humourously named “Smoda”, loosely playing with the Italian word “moda” which means fashion -much as in England we might use “antifashion” as our own take on the term. Meanwhile in the rest of the city, rainbow coloured building illumination lit up the skyline to mark the start of the Palermo Pride.
Over the following week came a whole cohort of politicians, TV hosts, actors and exponents of the many LGBT groups to support the event. The American ambassador sent a video message giving his and his government’s support to the event. One TV show broadcast live from the Village to the nation; debates and discussions were held every day; musicians, artists and DJs played all evening until the small hours; and many drinks were poured down the necks of those present. It was a great event which brought people mostly from Palermo and the rest of Sicily, but also from the rest of Italy: united regardless of sexual preference, dress-sense, social habits or age – as it should be.
The message was clear to everyone: it’s not just about the party, it’s not just about your friends, it’s about being equals and sharing the same society. Some people went as far as suggesting the LGBT Pride should be renamed to include heterosexuals in the acronym, thereby further negating the divide between gender identities and emphasising the inclusive nature behind the LGBT rights movement. Then came the Parade.
There were officially 135 THOUSAND people for the Parade on Saturday! Apparently, that makes us the 5th biggest Pride Parade in Europe! In fact, we’ve even set 2 records: Biggest Pride Village in Europe and Most Southern National Pride Event in Europe. Teenagers, parents, families, couples, grandparents were all there, whether they participated, danced, took photos or merely looked out of the their windows and waved cheerily. A great atmosphere, the likes of which I’ve not seen anywhere!
Here’s to next year’s Pride and also to Palermo as candidate for European City of Culture 2019.