How things change. If as recently as 10 years ago someone had mentioned the idea of holding a Pride Parade in any town in Cyprus they would have been laughed at and mocked. There was more than one reason for such a reaction.
First, Cyprus was a small, conservative and oppressive society, which frowned upon any deviation from the norm, be it in sexuality, lifestyle or behaviour. Diversity was not encouraged even though it was tolerated and, as a result, many members of the LGBT community avoided coming out. This was the another reason for laughing at the idea of a Pride Parade 10 years ago – there would have been a very poor turnout because many members of the LGBT community, to protect themselves, were not open about their sexuality in the way they are today.
Our society has not completely overcome its prejudices – the Church still has influence over many people – but there have been big leaps of progress in the last few years. On Sunday a Pride Parade was held in Nicosia for the fifth successive year and each year the turnout seems to be increasing. There are no homophobes organising parallel protests as happened the first time the parade was held. Such was the public disapproval of the parallel protest that its church-backed participants did not organise one again.
Nicosia Mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis should take some credit for championing the event, which has now become an annual fixture accepted by the overwhelming majority of society. The political parties have also backed the parade, perhaps not too enthusiastically, but the fact that deputies take part sets a good example. It could be said that after five years the parade has gone mainstream, accepted by most people as nothing out of the ordinary.
There is still much that can be done to help the LGBT community. We do not know how successful the government initiative to set up a national committee for the promotion of multi-culturalism and acceptance of difference will be, but it is a positive step, regardless of how effective it will be. Transport minister Vasiliki Anastasiadou, who represented the government at the parade, said this committee, “apart from its other actions, will undertake to formulate a plan of action for safeguarding the rights of LGBT individuals with the aim of tackling discrimination and homophobia.”
It is important to note the growth in social acceptance of the LGBT community in the last few years, even if homophobia has not been eliminated. That will take longer, but nobody can dispute the progress that has been made in the last few years.