As some of you may know, I’ve recently moved from Budapest to Norway with my partner, Anna. I had one recurring thought before moving: where will we find community? I wasn’t just concerned about finding a community to be a part of, but also interested in learning about the community here. By the community, I mean the LGBTQ+ community.
When I moved to Budapest from the Midwest of the USA, I was pleasantly surprised to find a thriving LGBTQ+ community. I really enjoyed attending qLit events and Labrisz events. It was unique for me that I could find a lesbian* event to attend almost every week. I like a little bit of everything, so it was also thrilling to see the diversity of events: pub quizzes, ping pong, picnics, game nights, films, workshops, etc.
Leaving a city of roughly 2 million people, Budapest, to come to a city of roughly 200,000, Trondheim, I had my doubts about what life might be like here for a lesbian couple. So, this is the first in a series of short articles to try to explore that question. What better place to start than Pride?
Welcome with a rainbow
Our first surprise while wandering through downtown Trondheim was the number of rainbow flags. We saw them in shop windows or hanging outside buildings, even in front of the school, the cathedral, and the police station. It was quite shocking to see them at the schools, cathedral, and police station considering the situation in both our home countries, the USA and Hungary. (You know the situation in Hungary, but in the USA there are also similar “Don’t say gay” laws that have been passed in some states like Florida. There are also grassroots campaigns to ban LGBTQ or other “liberal” books from school libraries.)
Once we saw the poster advertising Trondheim Pride, it made a little more sense. It turns out Pride in Trondheim is in September, not in the summer. Lucky us! We arrived at just the right time!
The 25th Annual Trondheim Pride
Pride began in Trondheim in 1997 and this year marked the 25th annual celebration. The festivities lasted from September 1st until September 11th. There were a lot of events on the program like workshops, films, plays, operas, a Pride Ball, concerts, drag bingo, discussions, and even just a meeting for waffles and coffee (https://www.trondheimpride.no/home/ ). We didn’t get to attend all the events, but we’ll focus on the most well-known parts of Pride: the opening and the parade.
The opening was held at the Rosendal Kafé of the Rosendal Theatre. As soon as we arrived, we realized showing up on time was not a good idea. The place was packed! The venue had both indoor and outdoor seating, but inside there were only about 8-10 tables. There was only standing room when we entered, and, honestly, there wasn’t a lot left. I estimate there had to have been about 100-200 people.
Fortunately, for the beginning of the opening, we were ushered into another room with a little more space. From there, an acapella group sang from a balcony for the crowd below. It was a playful performance which took well-known songs and rewrote the lyrics. My favorite was their rendition of “Uptown Girl”:
“Straight cis girl
she’s been living in her white cis world
as long as anyone with hot blood can
so now she’s looking for a lesbian
that’s what I am.
And when she’s walking
She’s looking so fine
And when she’s talking
She’ll say that it’s time
For more diversity
More indeed than you see
In this straight cis world.”
After this, everyone went back to the café and there were some other performances and speeches.
We aren’t not really the type to go to parades or crowded events. To be honest, I did not attend any Pride parade in Budapest, and Anna was there once and never returned. We have, however, seen Pride parades in Vienna, Dublin, and Rome. We’ll compare our experience to those.
First and foremost, we were shocked to see how many people attended the parade and the festivities around it. There were thousands of people. The main town square had many different booths set up with things for sale, games for children, and information tables for different organizations (like Amnesty International, a local fertility clinic, etc.). There was also a small street with food vendors. Many people walked around to explore these booths before the parade began and after the parade there was a giant stage set up in the main town square for different performances (concerts, drag, etc.).
We decided to walk to the first street of the parade and then wait to join it. This way we had the chance to see all the participants before we became a part of it. Each group which came out brought a new surprise for us: a group of “Proud Teachers”, a children’s marching band (teenagers probably), classes from schools in the city, the university, businesses, etc.
Everywhere we looked we saw families. Parents and children. I mean, the majority of people at this parade were not gay by the looks of it. To be honest, when I think of Pride, the first thing that comes to mind is gay men in thongs dancing through the streets to loud music. I cannot describe what I saw in Dublin or Rome to be “family friendly”. It’s not really something I would want to be associated with as a lesbian either. I was happy to see that Trondheim Pride was not so male-centric or focused on just partying. It was really a family friendly event about support and tolerance.
As we know in Budapest, no Pride parade is complete without the police. Earlier in the day we were confused that we hadn’t really seen any in the streets or lining the parade route. It turns out that they were in the parade! The police department and the fire department both marched in the parade, in uniform. (Later we did see there were a few police officers directing traffic and monitoring the crowd in the town square.)
Walking in the parade was a surreal experience. I can’t explain how it felt to walk the parade route and see the streets lined with people just coming to show support and shout “Happy Pride!”. As far as we know, there were no counter-protesters, probably because this wasn’t a protest; it was a celebration of what it can be like to embrace diversity and live together in unity.
I hope that someday we get to experience this kind of Pride in Budapest too!