Opening speech – Pride Week 2023

See this year’s opening speech here or read the full transcript below

Dear all. Dear Copenhagen. Dear LGBTQIA+ Community.

Welcome to Copenhagen Pride 2023. I am here today with a very special feeling, as this is the 10th Pride Festival I have had the pleasure to help organize as chair person wherefore I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our kind, fun, dedicated, skilled, ambitious volunteers who year round every year work tirelessly to create a Copenhagen Pride that is a bit larger, offers more events and continues to improve. 

I am tremendously proud of the work we do and impressed with your labour and determination. 

Copenhagen Pride is created by volunteers for the LGBTQIA+ community, and because so many invest time and energy in our organization, we manage to create much larger and better than our economy and organization ought the be able to do. To all of you who reap the benefits of this enormous volunteer effort: Remember, when you meet them, to give them a pad on the back and show your appreciation of the work they do for all of us. 

And if you find yourself wanting to join and help create content and realize Copenhagen Pride, the opportunities abound. We are an open and vibrant community, that welcomes both people and ideas. The more we are with diverse experiences and interests, the better equipped we are to create contents that will make even more people experience a Copenhagen Pride that is relevant, educational and fun. 

While I am expressing appreciation and recognition, it is also worth marking 2023 out as a year of important anniversaries. Two beacons of our community celebrate significant birthdays as Bøssehuset (the Gay House) this year has existed for 50 years and LGBT+ Denmark a full 75 years. 

We are immensely grateful for your existence and continuous work to promote diversity and inclusion, and more so that you are such good collaborating partners to us. We know each other. We trust one another and we know, that we want the same results. We don’t do things in the same way, but on the goal we heartily agree. And it is this goal we focus in on, when this year we celebrate Pride under the motto: Come Together: That together we are best, strongest and most. 

Bøssehuset (the Gay House) is Denmark’s longest existing Queer performance space and persists in challenging and debating norms through art and performance in ways that still surprises and remind us, that if we adapt to gain acceptance, part of what makes us unique and special disappears as a consequence. Thank you for continuing to remind us, that we are good and loveable exactly the way we are. 

LGBT+ Denmark is not only Denmark’s oldest LGBTI+ organization, but the second oldest existing LGBTI+ organization in the world. Since the summer of 1948 when Axel Lundahl Madsen decided to risk everything and as a consequence lost both his home, his job and his political party membership, the Forbundet, Landsforeningen, LBL, LGBT+ Denmark  – yes – a coveted child is known by many names, represented a continuous expansion of the rights, we as LGBTI+ folks enjoy in Denmark today, and it in the grateful memory of all those who through the years have represented the organization, served on its’ numerous committees and projects that our gratitude is expressed today. Thank you for all the hard effort. Thank you for our collaboration. May both continue for many, many years to come. 

And to both celebrants: Congratulations! So much praise is due.

As I stand here today at Denmark’s largest Pride festival, I also wish to express our recognition for all the prides that take place across the country – across the realm. This year the season has seen around 20 pride festivals from Nuuk furthest to the west to Christiansø in the most Eastern. We are, at Copenhagen Pride, immensely proud of the unity we represent and how we form a nationwide movement to show, that LGBTQIA+ people are everywhere and that no place is neither too small nor too large to underscore the importance of belonging to a community and that true communities are not conditional. They – and the pride movement – accept you as you are, and we will do our utmost to acknowledge, support and include you. 

We are strong, when we stand and march together. That is how we show, that we till leave no one behind or outside. And we must maintain the fact, that we are a positive movement. That we are FOR things – not against anyone. That we work for more rights and more possibilities for more people, because when we create that, we allow more people to flourish and fulfill their potential. 

In that endeavour – in our insistence on being open towards the world and approach those who attempt to limit us, lies also the paradox that is inherent in tolerance. Because how far should our tolerance extend? Are we obligated to tolerate the intolerant, embrace our enemies, meet resistance with love? My answer to that would be YES! It is the only possible answer, even if it appears absurd to hence be accepting of oppression and discrimination. 

But what is the alternative? That WE allow ourselves to be provoked into intolerance, violence and hatred? That we become like those who oppress us? If we allow ourselves to be led into that trap, we stand in danger of losing our humanity and no longer be on the side of the righteous. 

I believe, that our constant approachability and peacefully outstretched hand constitutes the biggest provocation to them. Because it exposes them and shows, that the terrifying image, that try to paint of us as non-human is more of a reflection of them. THEY are the ones imposing their views on others. THEY are the ones with a special agenda. THEY thrive on forcing others to live according to their definitions and norms. All the things, they are busy accusing us of, then they reframe our movement with terms such as WOKE and present this empty common denominator, that they are rarely able to explain themselves as the terrifying image of us. 

Because what is it, that they are against when they declare themselves as opponents of WOKE?

It is kindness, respect of others, openness, approachability, basic good manners, politeness, caring and responsiveness. 

I have no problem finding myself on that side of the debate, as accused of being those things. 

Beause, when they declare to be opponents of Woke, they have at the same time admitted to being the proponents of unkindness, lack of respect for others, closedness, hostility, poor manners, rudeness, callousness and self sufficiency. 

I do not doubt for a second which of the two visions for the future I would rather live in, and which I hope to help pass on to future generations. 

This, however, does not mean, that we should not protest, debate and confront intolerance. 

We live in a time where Social Media and the political world thrives on pitting sharply adversary views against each other. Gain momentum from simply being adversary. This, sadly, also means attacks on the LGBTQIA+ community and we, the individuals who form it, in proportions that we have not seen for many years. Where our right to be is debated and our existence brought into doubt or flatly rejected. 

This is when Drag Queens are accused of grooming children, when we are demanded to not show ourselves openly in society, but tone ourselves down to not provoke the majority, when the debate on the mere existence of trans people is legitimized. 

Human rights, we have been promised though all the years since the adoption of the International Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 are universal, unalienable and unassailable. 

The reality show differently. All around the globe, the humanity and rights of LGBTI+ people are constantly being violated, deprived and denied. 

We should never accept that our rights can legitimately be up for debate. Human rights are not an opinion. They are not determined by politics or religious or social norms or opinions. That is exactly the promise the declaration of Human Rights makes to us: that they are for all, with no exceptions and that nothing justifies that we are denied them. 

And hence: they are not up for debate.  

It is not an opinion to deny trans folks their right to exist and access to medical treatment and legal rights. It is a violation of the Human Rights. 

It is not an opinion whether intersex children should be subjected to unnescessary cosmetic surgery. It is a violation of the Human Rights.

It is not an opinion that homosexual people should not be protected from discrimination and abuse or have the right to marry and form families. To deny that is a violation of the Human Rights.  

We cannot accept the diminishment of our humanity as happens when the majority decides what rights we should be afforded or not – how much equality we may be allowed to enjoy. 

To place us in a less fortunate position based on our sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or variations in our sex characteristics is to deny our humanity and our equal worth. 

That is why we gather today for Pride. And this is what we insist on every day throughout the year, all our lives. We do not accept oppression. We confront it. 

And we confront it in Denmark and in the world. Either through direct support to the courageous activists who at the risk of their lives fight in countries where the opposition is much larger and more life threatening than here, or by insisting to mention them and the injustice they are subjected to, at every opportunity, we have. 

We protest against the draconic new laws in Uganda, that threaten LGBTI+ persons with death, life imprisonment and persecution. 

We protest against Russia’s continued oppression of their LGBTI+ citizens by denying them the possibility to live openly and by obliterating their families and subjecting them to hatred and persecution by the state. 

We protest against the Persecution of Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan in the name of Islam. 

We protest when countries with which we have traditionally shared values, roll back rights, as we have seen it in Poland, Hungary, Italy and the United States to just mention a few. 

We protest when the Turkish government bans pride marches and criminalize the legal gathering of LGBTI+ folks in organizations. 

And we protest, when our own politicians do not use their power and influence to expand the possibilities for minorities – globally – and at home. 

We must use our freedom to speak up against injustice where ever we encounter it. We will not abide racism, misogyny, homo -, bi-, or transphobia, but promise to confront those who attempt to oppress us and hold them accountable for both their actions and their inaction. 

Denmark used to be regarded as a world champion on matters of human rights and solidarity. We spoke with a weight that was justified by our commitment and willingness to help, where help was needed and to support people who were refugees or in other forms of distress. That position we no longer enjoy. 

When refugees arrive on our doorstep, the objective is to keep them at a distance and preferably out. Unfortunately this also harms the LGBTI+ individuals who flee because of the persecution, they are subjected to, and who have no where to go. We talk about them as groups and statistics, but each and every one of them is a human being in distress, who needs our help and welcome. 

This year also marks the 80th anniversary of the action that in October 1943, managed to save nearly all Danish citizens with Jewish roots. We thrive on the accounts of how people worked together to bring our compatriots to safety. What we sometimes forget, however, is, that our efforts would have been futile if there had not, on the opposite coasts of the Øresund had been Swedes ready to welcome our fleeing citizens. 

An old gentleman, who was 16 years old when the action took place, remembered that fateful night at the annual Aschwitz Day this January at the Black Diamond:” What remains my most vivid memory from that night, is when the hatch to the storage hold opened above our heads and a female Swedish Soldier said: “Välkomna til Sverige” (Welcome to Sweden). And then he wept. 80 years on from that dramatic night. Because this:”Welcome” was a testament to the success of his escape. Because anyone can flee. But if no one is ready to welcome you to sanctity the flight is in vain. 

This reality faces practically all LGBTI+ people in the world. That the will to welcome them does in no way match the indignation that we express towards the abuse and the injustice, they are subjected to. Without our open arms they are doomed. 

For this reason we will today express a common plea for more compassion and greater forthcomingness. Save or LGBTI+ siblings. Bid them welcome to Denmark. 

Let our solidarity today stretch from City Hall square and far beyond the borders of the country. 

That is the plea and the message when in 2023 we celebrate Copenhagen pride Week under the motto. Come together. That we take responsibility, invite in and embrace. 

Happy Copenhagen Pride Week 2023

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