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Henkilökunta bloggaa 2.7.2013

Pride times

The summer is the high season for the queer population of the world. It starts already in May with the international day against homophobia and transphobia May 17th and it culminates in June, July and August with Pride Festivals and colorful parades through the streets.

Even if the Pride Festival today often is understood as a week of pride, colorfulness and joyfulness, it is important to remember that its roots are the resistance against homo- and transphobia. Even if the rights of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) population has improved in many countries during the last decades, the recent discussions on the hate rethorics of the internet shows that homo- and transphobia remains a big problem even in more LGBT friendly countries like the Nordic ones. And in many parts of the world the LGBT community is still harassed and criminalized and in those societies even the writing of a text like this could lead to imprisonment or fines.

The roots of Pride, and especially of the American LGBT movement, are often traced back to a particular event, the so called Stonewall riots, which took place in Greenwich Village in New York June 26th 1969. During that particular night the patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn resisted the police harassment and violence that had become all too common for members of the LGBT community.

Even though Stonewall is one background to the international Pride tradition as it is known today, most countries have their own historical events which lead to their national LGBT movement. In Finland the first demonstration against homophobia in Finland was arranged in July 27th 1974 by the Finnish LGBT organization Seta. It was a demonstration against the discharge of the church youth instructor Seppo Kivistö. Since then Seta arranged Liberation Days (Vapautuspäivät) until year 2000, when the festival was renamed and turned into Pride.

Today Pride is celebrated around Finland throughout the summer (next time in Pori 19.7). Last week Helsinki Pride (24-30.6) was celebrated - a festival that has grown to be one of the biggest summer festivals of the capital. The week was filled with over 90 different events: discussions, cultural events and festivities. I was especially thrilled to see that there were so many mainstream cultural institutions taking part this year!

Culture for All Service also took part in Helsinki Pride by arranging Diversity in Picture Book (one seminar and two workshops: illustration workshop & writer's clinic) together with the organization for LGBT families (Sateenkaariperheet ry). Around 30 participants, most writers and illustrators themselves, turned up for the seminar during the warmest day of the Pride week. The introductory lectures of the seminar were held by Mia Österlund, a feminist researcher of children´s literature, and Anna Moring, a researcher of LGBT families. The introductory lectures were followed by a panel discussion with the authors Tiia Aarnipuu and Leena Virtanen, and the writer and illustrator Katriina Rosavaara. Virtanen and Österlund were the instructors of the writer´s clinic and Rosavaara and illustrator Linda Bondestam of the illustrator´s workshop. The whole program in Finnish can be found here.

The engagement of the audience during the seminar and the feedback to the seminar show, that there is a pressing need for children´s books in which queer themes and LGBT families are represented. There is still no such book in Finnish today. The positive news is that there is a bunch of authors and illustrators out there with queer manuscripts waiting to be edited and published.

Let´s hope the publishers see their potential and understand, that the topic of queer families is not a minor one, but that it is rather of common interest. Families come in all shapes and forms - and art for children should reflect this richness in ways of living.

I wish you all a gay summer!

Rita Paqvalén
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