Greenland: a dream at the top of the world: Affluence, modernity, tolerance, and civil unions: Forget everything you’ve ever thought about thought about remote, icy Greenland. The world’s largest island is at the forefront of the 21st century in more ways than one.
Intro: Latvia is a free country, since 1991, and now a proud member of the E.U. It boasts a expansive coast on the Baltic Sea as well as unique World Heritage turn-of-the-century architecture. It’s older citizens are conservative by nature, remembering the 60-year Soviet occupation, while younger citizens reach for the future through education and uninhibited exchange with the world. Not surprising however, as in other former communist-dominated eastern European countries, homophobia runs high fired by Catholic Church condemnation and neo-Nazi rhetoric and violence against LGBT people. Since the first Pride march in 2005 there have been threats, aggression and law suits to stop the event. But in 2007 with worldwide attention focused on the Riga city festival there were signs of social sobering with official permission and police protection; the modest Pride festival happened peacefully with success.
Presented here is a story from Passport magazine that looks at recent history and behind the hysteria to find a quiet brave gay community of hospitable and welcoming activists, citizens and business people.
Gay Italy today is a story of contrasts–between a conservative south and the progressive driving north, between an entrenched Catholic church and modern gay life, between traditional heterosexual marriage and demands for civil unions (DiCo’s), between religiously molded parliament members and their secularist opponents. The turmoil and passion behind all sides is seen by most as ‘life as usual’ in this most historic and artistic country.
A drive around this beautiful friendly country reveals fertile farms, soaring cathedrals and castles, a tormented past and a boisterous and fairly prosperous present. Scattered pockets of gay culture and life, in the big cities, are energetic but still muted and surrounded by much homophobia.
Intro: Like many other eastern European countries, Bulgaria is in the throes of changing from a dim Soviet satellite to a free thinking-free enterprise nation of progress. Included in this shift are new laws protecting homosexuals. A drive through the countryside and some talks with LGBT folks in Sofia provided many images and insights into the old and new ways of modern Bulgaria.
Intro: Gay Berlin is not hard to find. It’s present everywhere and in abundance. Even a world traveler who has seen all the major LGBT centers is impressed with the vibrant and audacious scene that Berlin offers. Here can one also find a gay museum, a gay mayor and some of the world’s most pro-gay laws. Two stories are offered here that scan the vast gayscape of this phoenix city on the Spree River.
Intro: Ireland is a visual treat with ancient stone walls, historic cities, colorful villages, sprawling green pastures, great ocean cliffs and warm hospitality. A three week drive around the entire periphery of the island revealed famous sites such as Dublin’s Books of Kells, Blarney’s Castle, the Giant’s Causeway, Waterford’s crystal factory and the grim war wall-murals of Derry and Belfast. Threaded throughout all these famous venues is a thriving and struggling gay and lesbian life force that was given legal birth in the early 1990’s when homosexuality was decriminalized. Since then, many organizations, individuals and activists have pushed for an equal share of modern Ireland’s social and economic prosperity.
Gay life is gaining steam slowly in very Catholic and very heterosexist Poland. With the weakening of the Catholic Church’s influence, the increased role of the Internet and Poland’s entry into the European Union (with it’s pro-gay laws), a place in the sun is being urged by an increasingly bold LGBT community. But the battlelines are clearly drawn as loud protests disrupted gay pride events in May and June 2004.
A guest author, a correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, offers a modern re-appraisal of gay life in Warsaw. From the grim and rusted Soviet repression a new era of openness and courage spurs homosexuality to dare to speak its name–despite strong ‘spiritual violence’ from conservative and religious activists.
Story 1 is by a guest author–a Sicilian-American–who describes his experiences and impressions of visiting modern gay friends and ancient Roman sites on the historic island of Sicily.
Story 2 is a report from the International Herald Tribune of June 2002 about Italy’s refusal to pass laws against LGBT discrimination and its denial of gay unions.
Intro: Among the many splendors of Greece, the city of Athens and the islands of Mykonos, Santorini and Lesbos head the list for lesbigay pilgrims. For those in search of a sexually muffled pilgrimage, try a boat ferry to the monastic peninsula of all-male Mount Athos. Between these two different worlds is a Greek culture slowly changing to accommodate new concepts of Human Rights with Orthodox traditions.
Intro: By way of internet and a four cylinder engine, we came face to face with a dozen lesbigay folks in Finland, Sweden and Norway, some married to their lovers, some cohabiting, others happy not to be coupled up. In warm evening cafes, aromatic restaurants and squeaky-clean living rooms we heard and saw what it was like to be homosexually inclined in modern Scandinavia.
Intro: Compared to the anguished and furtive lives many lesbigays endure in Catholic and Muslim countries, visiting secular Scandinavia is a light-hearted relief. Our drive through Finland included meeting a few lesbigay folks in Helsinki for some easy conversation. The focus was not about the drama of survival or hiding but clarifying and refining intimate feelings.
Intro: Want to go to Russia without the throngs of airports, the dense huddles of Moscow or sandwiched in a package cruise up the Gulf of Finland to Petersburg? Try the back road from Lappeenranta, Finland, through forty miles of wilderness to Vyborg, Russia. The route is a peaceful journey amid beautiful lakes and forests with hardly a sound and no masses of traffic. This unique trip is by way of the remarkably engineered and little known (outside of Finland) Saimaa shipping canal.