Christopher Street Day 2015: The Pride of Berlin

Where I come from Prides aren’t called Prides, or even Christopher Street Days, but “Equality Marches,” and before that, they were called “Marches of Tolerance”.  In 2005, the March in my hometown of Poznan was banned by the mayor and then stopped by the police.  Until two years ago, going to such march meant taking a risk of getting hit by a stone, as there was always a contra-march where the nationalists and conservatives walked to “defend real Polish family values.” But things are slowly getting better in Poland. The contra marches stopped, and the pride parade in Warsaw grows bigger and bigger every year. However, the mayor of our capital still refuses to patronize the event, even though the organisers request her presence every year.

CSD will always have a very special place in my heart, as it was the first Pride I went to in my life. I was relatively new to Berlin and still in awe of its diversity and openness in comparison with what I knew from home. There is an ongoing discussion in the Berlin community, with critics complaining that the CSD has become too commercial, and is not sufficiently  political. That's why there is always a second parade, the Kreuzberger CSD, and that's why last year the Pride in Charlottenburg and Mitte split into three smaller marches with slightly different agendas. To me, it seemed petty and exaggerated and contrary to the feeling of unity in diversity the CSD is usually based on. Fortunately, this time the organisers managed to find a compromise, and combined political involvement with the festivities. The motto of this years' CSD was: "Wir sind alle anders. Wir sind alle gleich" ("We are all different. We are all equal.") According to the rules, 70% of the space on each float had to be covered by political messages. Every year the lack of marriage equality in Germany is the dominating issue, but I think this year we were all especially loud about it, being both excited and jealous after hearing the news from the US the day before. Amnesty International carried banners reminding that in some countries it's still illegal and very dangerous to be gay, bisexual or transgender and there was a whole float dedicated to Russia and its dreadful law.

Once a born New Yorker complained to me that the CSD is “nothing” compared the New York Pride. Well, are comparisons ever a good idea? CSD is just a different kind of Pride, maybe closer to other Berlin celebrations like the Carnival of Cultures for example. There is an intimate, familiar feeling to it. Anyone can join the parade and march, and there are always plenty of colourful personas, as people love to dress up for the occasion. It’s easy to talk to strangers and make new friends. The finale takes place by the Brandenburger Tor: the parade finishes there, the place is full of stands serving drinks and food, selling gadgets and costumes or informing about relevant organisations' work. And the party goes on! This year we were marching under the threat of a storm, which we saw coming not only in our weather forecast apps, but also in the form of dark clouds on the horizon. It started raining only in the evening, a sudden, strong, pouring rain. I was by some small make-shift stage, which was playing cult pop and dance music and we didn't stop dancing, some of us took their umbrellas out, some didn't, we were all soaking wet and happy and, when the sun came out from between the clouds, we even got a rainbow. When checking the news later, I couldn't help but think how far we have come: the rainbow came from rain and not from water cannons.

By Zuzanna Grajzer

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