25 years of Pride

By Mariya Alfa Staugaard

Brian Allesøe is 44 years old and was born and raised in Herning in Jutland. He moved to Copenhagen in 1996, the same year that Copenhagen hosted EuroPride. Since then, Brian has been to all Prides in Copenhagen up to and including WorldPride in 2021. Since 2018, he has also served on the board of Copenhagen Pride as an alternate.

“There is something quite magical about seeing people standing with their young children and passing on the idea that there should be space for everyone.”

How did you end up going to Pride in Copenhagen for the first time? 

It’s really related to my coming out story. I was in Copenhagen in 1995 visiting a friend, and that’s when I realized I was gay. I was going back to celebrate New Year, and at some point before that, my mom asked about my plans, and I told her that I wanted to go to EuroPride and that I was gay. So we ended up having a conversation about it. At that point, I had already planned on going to Copenhagen for EuroPride, and then it ended up with me moving here.

What was your experience of EuroPride?

I had no idea what was going to happen, so I just bounced around at some of the parties. Israel’s Plads (in central Copenhagen, ed.) was ‘PrideTown’ and you could buy a dog tag that gave discounts in different places. I was new to the scene, but I quickly got a small network of friends in Copenhagen. 

What has made you return to Copenhagen Pride in the years since, did it just come naturally?

Yes — wouldn’t miss it for the world! The highlight, that’s the parade. I’ve been on a float, I’ve walked the route, and I’ve been a spectator. But often you just stand and watch the parade, and when everyone has passed, you go down to City Hall Square. There’s been a parade every year, but in very different sizes.

What has it been like to see the parade grow bigger over the years?

It’s been great to see how much of a celebration it’s become and how many people it attracts. Standing on a float and coming down to Vesterbro Square and witnessing the sea of people who are just so happy… There is something quite magical about seeing people standing with their young children and passing on the idea that there should be space for everyone.

One of my favorite Pride stories is about one of my old colleagues from when I was a waiter. He was a big guy with a lot of tattoos, and he definitely wasn’t very ‘gay-okay’. A few years after we had worked together, I suddenly saw him watching the parade with two little boys holding Pride flags. So I went over to him and said he was probably the last person I expected to see standing here. And he replied: “I can understand that — and I owe you an apology.” He had realized he didn’t know how they would grow up to be, but if he filled his little boys with the things he had said to me, he risked losing them one day.

Have you had any negative experiences with being at Copenhagen Pride?

Not in Copenhagen, I’ve been lucky. The only negative experiences I’ve had was in Istanbul in 2017, when I went to show my support. It was crazy, I experienced some extreme things. The police were there in full riot gear and were definitely not there to look after us. I saw this young guy, who had put on a rainbow flag as a cape, walking towards a group of right-wing extremists, knowing that he would get beaten up, but that was perhaps the only thing he felt he could do to shout and claim the right to be himself. I was blown away by that courage and the desperation, too. That’s what made me want to do something and get more involved in Copenhagen Pride.

How was it to finally experience WorldPride this year?

It was a bit bittersweet. I had been looking forward to it, that it was going to be so massive — and then came corona. But it ended up being great after all. The most fun was the parties,  also in Fælledparken, but especially City Hall Square. I was completely blown away by how amazing it was compared to what I had feared. I hope that we can do something similar going forward. 

The theme of this edition of HeartCore is ‘Spirit’. What do you think is the spirit of Copenhagen Pride?

Inclusion. That there’s space for all people. I’m a bit of an emotional creature, so I always get to a point in the parade where I have to just go and be by myself and cry for twenty minutes, because I can’t take any more. All the people who are feeling something at once, it can be absolutely overwhelming. Everyone makes space for each other and it’s just like getting a big hug from 300,000 people.

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