BY ROB SALERNO – Yesterday was the International Day Against Homophobia, a day when many queer communities around the world have tried to establish their own gay pride traditions independent of the June/summer Stonewall tradition that's become popular in North America.
First the good news: the ongoing democratization of Burma/Myanmar has led to the country's first large-scale public gay pride event. Although homosexuality remains illegal in the country, the law is rarely enforced. Hundreds are said to have gathered at a hotel ballroom in the former capital city, Rangoon, for music and talks in a demonstration of the budding community. Still, the community is young and public pressure makes many Burmese gays reluctant to come out, so the event did not feature a parade or public demonstration.
Meanwhile, an ocean away, Fijian gay activists attempted to organize a gay pride march in the capital city of Suva but were halted on the day of the event by Fijian police. The police claimed that they issued the activists a permit by accident and cancelled the event because they couldn't guarantee the safety of the participants. Although Fiji decriminalized gay sex in 2010, homosexuality is still taboo on the island, and Fijians are still governed by a military junta that took over the island in a coup in 2006.
And on Europe's periphery, Georgian queer activists marched through the capital, Tbilisi, but were stopped from reaching the parliament by a cordon of Eastern Orthodox priests and their followers, who blocked the marchers by shouting very Christian abuse and hurling deeply religious punches at the demonstrators.