Saturday, June 11, I will be marching in the Capital PRIDE parade with my Nordic colleagues. I am looking forward to wave the rainbow flag, meet old and new friends, and get a chance to front a cause I really believe in: human equality.
The other day, a colleague asked me why I have this personal investment in LGBTI issues. The answer is, that my commitment comes from understanding. And that my understanding comes from interaction. I have gay friends and gay colleagues. I have seen how the frames of their lives have changed over the past few decades, as society has moved from abhorrence to acceptance. For me, the world is a better place when prejudice is defeated and dignity prevails. Doing my part seems only natural.
I also have to admit participating in PRIDE is a lot of fun. Human expression is plentifold – and PRIDE shows this with great force. I embrace the celebration of diversity.
«Y» we still have a way to go
Few PRIDE celebrations have culminated the way last year’s did, when the US Supreme Court made history, granting same sex couples equal dignity in the eyes of the law. That was a huge step towards creating a more inclusive society.
Norway has ensured legal protection through civil partnership for same sex couple since 1993, and gave equal status to same and different sex marriages in 2009.
However, we are not finished yet.
For example: While being gay in places like DC and Oslo is uncomplicated, people in other areas still face hardship. And while being a gay man might be seen colorful, to a larger degree, people still see alternative gender expressions as a stigma.
Let’s celebrate the advances we have made for human equality. Let inclusiveness and understanding guide us to acceptance and protection for those not having reached it thus far. On that note, I am proud that Norway on June 6th joined the frontrunner countries for protecting the right of Transgender people. Recognition of legal gender now depends on the person’s own identification rather than having to undergo sex-reassignment surgery.
“Y” the embassy has LBGTI rights as a priority
The celebration of 2016 PRIDE is not the first LBGTI effort of the Norwegian Embassy in DC. In fact, Norway and the US are close partners in furthering the rights of LGBTI people internationally.
We share values, so we team up to further human equality globally. The Global Equality Fund is one example, to which Norway and the US are two of the main contributors. The fund provides emergency assistance to LGBTI activists who are subject to mistreatment or lack of protection. Norway and the US work together to coordinate and develop improved policies in the UN likeminded group, and outside the multilateral system such as the upcoming LGBTI donor’s conference in Montevideo, Uruguay.
In his proclamation of PRIDE Month 2016, President Obama said, “LGBT individuals deserve to know their country stands beside them”. Let’s show them that we stand beside them as individuals too – hope to see you at the parade.