3 influential women in the pride movement

Homotropolis has had the pleasure of interviewing three inspiring, strong women with a significant voice in the pride movement. Common for all three is their long track record of working with LGBTQI rights and their natural thrive for equality.

3 influential women in the pride movement

From the left: Chair of Stockholm Pride Britta Davidsohn, Chair of Mozaika and President of EPOA Kristine Garina, and Vice Chairperson of Copenhagen Pride Ane Rindom

Ane Rindom is the Vice-Chairperson in the board of Copenhagen Pride. Ane got involved with Copenhagen Pride in 2015 and has previously been a board member of LGBT+ Ungdom – a Danish LGBT+ organization for young people.
Ane is 29 years old, born and raised in Copenhagen by parents who both come from different provinces in Denmark. She still lives in Copenhagen where she got a fantastic apartment in Christianshavn; one of the old areas in town.

Main goal to reach through pride
The way we talk about gender and gender norms along with creating some political focus on the ongoing discrimination that LGBT+ people still experience in their everyday life.

Britta Davidsohn is the Chair of Stockholm Pride. Britta joined Stockholm Pride at the age of 24 and has been involved in other LGBT movements before where she initially got involved through her work at the Young Women’s Shelter and Empowerment Center.
Britta was born in 1986 in a town with 7,000 inhabitants close to Stockholm. She grew up in a partly Jewish family in a working class area. Her family lived in the workers quarters of Scania, where her father was emplyed while her mother worked on the railroad. She had two older siblings.

Main goal to reach through pride
More inclusion within the pride movement and LGBT movement.

Kristine Garina is the Chair of the advocacy organisation Mozaika working for protection of LGBT rights in Latvia and organizing pride in Riga. Kristine is also the President of EPOA – European Pride Organisers Association.
Kristine got involved in the pride movement by coincidence after joining a hostile pride parade in Riga back in 2005. Since then she has been an active part of Mozaika.
Kristine was born and raised in Riga, Latvia. She has a mixed family background with a Latvian mother and a Russian father.

Main goal to reach through pride
To increase the visibility of LGBTQI people in Latvia.

Please tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up and what is your family background?

Ane: I’m 29 years old, born and raised in Copenhagen by parents who both come from different provinces in Denmark. I still live in Copenhagen where I’ve got a fantastic apartment in Christianshavn, one of the old areas in town.

Britta: I was born in 1986 in a town of 7,000 inhabitants close to Stockholm. I grew up in a partly Jewish family in a working class area. We lived in the workers quarters of Scania, where my father was emplyed while my mother worked on the railroad. I have two older siblings.

Kristine: I was born and raised in Riga, Latvia. Funny how, when the pride movement started in Latvia, we were accused of “foreign import” and “western influence” and it’s all “run by foreigners”, but I had always lived in Riga and got my education at the State University of Latvia. I am a Riga kid all through!
My family was one of the “mixed” families in a very difficult geopolitical situation. My mum is Latvian and my dad was Russian. He came to Latvia when he was 3 years old right after the war and therefore he was never granted Latvian citizenship when the country became independent again. There was this tension between Latvians and Russians and I could never understand it, being half Latvian and half Russian myself it didn’t matter at all to me. I don’t get nationalism and nationalities. We’re all human! If I had to define myself I am probably European because of geography and cultural heritage, but it all seems a little silly to me. I could totally be a citizen of the world. My dad passed away a few years ago, never been accepted in the country where he lived his entire life and where he married and raised children. I am fully aware of the terrible history that led to that but surely it wasn’t a 3 year old child’s fault. It always felt unfair and unjust. And unkind!

How and when did you get involved in the pride movement?

Ane: I got involved with Copenhagen Pride around 2015 when I had just left the board of LGBT+ Ungdom – a Danish LGBT+ organization for young people. I got involved after the chairperson of Copenhagen Pride, Lars Henriksen, sat down with some colleagues and I and told us about the organization and their work.
I’ve been involved in LGBT+ work since around 2010 so I’ve spend a great deal of my time working with different LGBT+ issues and I could probably have ended up in another organization just as well, but I was intrigued by the possibility to work for greater representation and inclusion in an event that has been seen as a party for gay men primarily.

The article continues after the photo.

Vice-Chairperson of Copenhagen Pride, Ane Rindom, at Montpellier Pride Parade promoting the bid to host WorldPride in 2021. The parade took place following the InterPride's Annual General Meeting, 2016.

Vice-Chairperson of Copenhagen Pride, Ane Rindom, at Montpellier Pride Parade promoting the bid to host WorldPride in 2021. The parade took place following the InterPride’s Annual General Meeting, 2016.

Britta: I had been involved in other LGBT movements before I joined Stockholm Pride at the age of 24. In the first two years I was involved through my work at the Young Women’s Shelter and Empowerment Center. I then started as a week volunteer working with security at Stockholm Pride and did that for two years. I have now been in the board for four years.

Kristine: By coincidence! I had traveled a lot and seen prides in different countries and when the first pride came along in Riga in 2005, I was naturally curious and wanted to go and see. I had no idea what was gonna happen. I read about it in a paper a day before and just went. I had planned to watch it from the street like they do in cities where I had previously seen pride parades. But when I got there it was completely different. It was suddenly NOT the city I grew up in and thought I knew. It was hostile, hateful, loud and angry. There was a handful of people gathering for the parade. Around 50 I guess? Eventually we were 70 marching. And there were thousands of people who had gathered to protest. They were yelling, throwing things, cursing, they had totally surrounded the area where the pride people were gathering. I was on my own. I squeezed through the crowd and joined the pride group. I felt that there was no other choice. The pride marchers were heavily outnumbered, they looked scared and confused. I decided to join them pretty much immediately. That was a turning point.
Firstly, I suddenly saw a different face to our city and our country. I had no idea we could be so hateful and aggressive. I didn’t agree with it and I didn’t want to just live with it. I wanted to change it.
Secondly, I met wonderful people at that pride march and we bonded over the whole experience. It was hostile, and at the end we literally had to run and hide. I exchanged phone numbers with those I was walking with and got invited to a meeting afterwards to discuss what to do and how to change this. That’s how it began. 6 months later we founded Mozaika, an advocacy organization that was going to work towards equality for LGBT people in Latvia. We took over the organizing of pride the following year. Here we are, 12 years later, still organizing prides. (among other things!)

What is your current role in your pride organization?

Ane: I am the Vice-Chairperson of the board of Copenhagen Pride. I work with organization and structure within the organization, e.g. trying to reorganize the organization. Besides that I work with trying to create even more inclusion and representation in both the organization and in our events. The organization has moved a lot in previous years in terms of inclusion, but we are not quite there yet, so we still need to work on creating a more inclusive and safe space for everybody.

Britta: I am the Chair of Stockholm Pride.

Kristine: I am currently the Chair of the board of Mozaika. We have set up an informal group within Mozaika that only works with pride and I am Co-Chair of that group together with my colleague Kaspars Zalitis (who also walked at the first Pride in Riga in 2005 although we didn’t know each other back then). The two of us and a small group of very dedicated people formed a core team that put together a pride event.
I am also the president of EPOA – European Pride Organisers Association. EPOA is a network of European Pride Organizations and the licensor of EuroPride.

What are the primary pride related issues you want to change?

Ane: I’m really interested in trying to change the way we talk about gender and gender norms. I think a lot of the issues we have are a result of the norms and expectations that society has created regarding gender.
Besides that I hope we can create some political focus on the ongoing discrimination that LGBT+ people still experience in their everyday life whether it happens at work or in the streets or anywhere else.

Britta: I want to work for inclusion within the pride movement and LGBT movement. A lot of community groups are being questioned and people from many groups do not feel they are totally included. That is the main thing I want to work on.

Kristine: In Latvia the biggest issue is visibility of LGBTQI people. A majority of people are sadly still in the closet. There are many goals to pride but my personal main goal with pride is to give those people a chance to see other LGBTQI people and know that they are not alone. With every year as the pride grows they will also grow more confident and will eventually come out and be part of the community, engage, or just live their lives openly without fear. That’s in my opinion the main goal. Of course there’s lack of legislation and legal protection that basically doesn’t exist in Latvia, blah blah, but all that will be so much easier to achieve when there are open and visible LGBTQI communities out there in society.

Being a woman who actively engages in the pride movement, how would you describe your power of voice?

Ane: I do think I have power of voice – but I also think that I have had to fight more for people to listen to me than if I had been a man. And I have to fight for my right in every new encounter with new people.
All the pride organizations I know of have an overrepresentation of men and I think it has been difficult for people from other representations to feel heard and included in those groups. I still feel overlooked and taken out of voice when sitting in a room full of male pride organizers – they don’t see me and what I can bring to the table.
I can also say that raising my voice about the misrepresentation has opened a lot of my colleagues’ eyes and has helped a lot in creating a more inclusive space and an awareness of the problem.

Britta: My experience is that women are taking a bigger and bigger role in the pride movement. Just over the few years I have been involved there has been a development. But I still find myself in situations where men learn the names of other men but not of the women, where men are referring to men by their names and to women by their sex or their looks or where men don’t say hello or talk to me at all until they find out I’m the chair.

The article continues after the photo.

Chair of Stockholm Pride, Britta Davidsohn, is interviewed about EuroPride in Stockholm 2018. TV4.

Chair of Stockholm Pride, Britta Davidsohn, is interviewed about EuroPride in Stockholm 2018. TV4.

Kristine: Mozaika and the pride movement in Latvia in the last 10 years have been very strongly dominated by women. Quite the opposite from pride movements elsewhere in Europe. In Latvia we actually struggle to get men on board. I can safely say that women and non-male identified people in our organization have no problem in having a voice. I had never felt lack of power due to my gender in this movement until I joined EuroPride and found myself at some point the only non-male on the board of 8 people.
When I look around at the pride movement in general in the Western world it is still a ‘man’s world’. A white, gay man’s world. I know that prides struggle to change that, but it is a long process and sometimes painful to realise that it needs to change. Somehow it’s been different in Latvia. Women took power. I think it made us into a better organization.

Women seem to be a minority in both pride events and pride organizations in general. What do you think is the reason for that and does it have any consequences?

Ane: I believe the male dominance in pride organizations is a result of more than one thing. First of all I think it stems from the culture in which gay men have historically had a position of power – just as in the rest of society – and this power has created an environment where there’s a tendency for men to choose or look for other men when a position is to be filled. That has reinforced the tendencies for men to take positions in the organizations – just as men do in the rest of society, where men still hold most of the positions in boards and the like.
Besides that, I think that the male dominance has a lot to do with the experience that a lot of LGBT people have had, where they have been bullied or held out of power when they where young. When they later get to be at the top of the power scale in an environment where they are the majority, that can make them – without noticing – maintain or use the same structures or suppress other groups to remain in power. I think we need a revolution where men step aside and let other people take their positions – that be from all letters of the acronym.
I think the underrepresentation of other people than men has a lot of consequences. I think the most important job for a pride organization is to create an event that covers the entire acronym of LGBTQIA+. When people are not included via representation it is a lot harder to create an event thats takes in all aspects of these people. The lack of both female and other representations is a big problem in terms of creating a pride where everybody feels and truly are included.

Britta: I think role models play a big part. When I saw women my age taking a big role in our organisation was when I understood I could as well. Women need to be visible but also to be able to make an impact. Diversity needs to be both seen and experienced. For women to take part women need to be welcomed and visible.
The consequences of a non-diverse pride movement and festival will be – and is – a pride with less colors, fewer and more simple debates and a lack of what pride is and should be.

Kristine: What I just said to the question above. I don’t know why, but we seem to be an exception from the rule here in Mozaika. Also, in more hostile and homophobic environments it’s often straight females who take charge. Maybe because it is a little easier for them. There is no fear of being outed, being fired or hurting your family because of your sexuality or being discriminated. Straight women are amazing allies to the movement in places where LGBTQI people don’t feel safe enough yet to become visible and open leaders themselves.
As for the Western world pride movement and the LGBT movement in general – I guess we are no different from the rest of the world, where men have been in charge and dominated every public space for centuries. Of course it influences the LGBT movement as well. We are part of the bigger picture where gender equality has been seriously addressed only recently. Okay, it’s more complicated when you realize the world is actually not binary, but getting rid of male dominated boards/management/power structures is a no brainer!

Tell us about your biggest achievement in terms of pride.

Ane: I think my biggest achievement has been helping turn Copenhagen Pride into a more normcritical and inclusive organization. I think we can go a lot further if we try to question the norms in our society – both within and outside the LGBTQIA society.

Britta: A big achievement is how our international work and network has grown. The growing diversity in our organization is also something I am very proud of – and I know it is a struggle that will continue.

Kristine: I think pride itself is an amazing achievement. We have a small team (a very small team) and just witnessing what we can do is quite overwhelming. The highlight? I guess after a decade of struggles with pride being banned several times, many court cases and negotiations with the police and the city, when the parade in Riga finally for the first time stepped on to the main central street (Brivibas street which translates into Freedom Street) in 2015, 10 years after the first pride in Riga, that was very emotional for everyone. We did it!

Tell us about your worst experiences related to pride.

Ane: I think my worst experiences have to do with being invisible. Being a young female working in organizations dominated by white gay males, I’ve experienced not being seen, not being listened to, and simply being forgotten. I unfortunately think it is a product of organizations where the search for a partner or the like takes up a lot of the attention.

Britta: My worst experiences are about the discussions inside the movement when people want to block out people from other community groups. I’ve been in discussions on whether sex workers, trans people (because trans being a choice of lifestyle and not about sexual identity, because of trans people looking to cis), kinksters or LGBT people with specific professions should be welcome at pride. It makes me both sad and angry and it makes me fear whether we are losing what the whole pride movement is about.

Kristine: I don’t want to do that! I think it’s not helpful to anyone. I was in Moscow when they first attempted to organize a pride. I was part of Amnesty International pride security team in Belgrade when it got really bad. Loads of terrible things have happened. I can tell you the funniest one though. At the Baltic Pride in Vilnius protesters threw a smoke bomb into the crowd. But they didn’t calculate in the strong wind and ended up throwing all that smoke at themselves. That’s my way of dealing with it. With a sense of humour. Without it you can’t do this job.

Who is your role model in terms of activism and who is your inspiration?

Ane: I’m not sure I have a role model in terms of activism. I admire so many activists and their work. Everybody who takes a stand and tries to change the world is a source of inspiration for me – especially people who dare to give power and voice to others in their fight are my heroes.

Britta: I have to give the answer my mother. She was involved in the women’s rights movement in the 70’s and 80’s and I discuss a lot of these issues with her.
I also look up to and try to always keep in mind the people I meet who are one of the first or one of a few activists within their country, city or political area. People who have a much bigger fight to take and who somehow manage to do it much on their own. I am amazed and moved.

Kristine: I don’t have one. I don’t really believe in role models. I think us, activists, we all do the best we can, always. Cause we’re not in it for the money (ha! definitely not!), and we are our own inspiration. It is incredibly satisfying to be part of a movement that brings change. That itself inspires me. All our volunteers who give their time to the cause, they inspire me!

Did we forget to ask you anything important? Please feel free to ask yourself that question that we forgot to ask.

Ane: I think an important aspect of the lack of representation in pride organizations has to do with the way we put our organizations together. If we don’t go out and look for relevant people from other representations and if we believe that it’s not the organization that has a problem if there’s an underrepresentation of specific groups – then we as organizations have a problem. I think everybody can bring something to the table – sometimes the table is just not made for all, so we as organizers has to change the chairs in order to make them fit the people we want in. We should never try changing people in order to make them fit into our chairs.

Britta: I would like to add the importance of network. To have other people from your minority groups (which ever that might be) to turn to when things get tough. You need to have people to talk to when you experience bad things – where you know you won’t have to start by explaining why you are feeling the way you do, why what happened is problematic and where the problem won’t be questioned. It is also much easier to find strength and to find a way to move forward with people who know what you are talking about and are experiencing the same thing.

Kristine: I think it’s quite important to ask where we’re going and what is the end goal. And I always say there is no end goal because we’ll never be done. Not in our lifetime anyway. We are only as strong and as free as the weakest link. So as long as there is a gay person afraid for his life in Chech-nya or an LGBT kid executed in Iran, we are not done. We are all in this together and we shouldn’t leave anyone behind and say we’re done because things have improved tremendously in Scandinavia or Canada.
In some places in the world that we considered to be progressive we are now discussing if women have rights to reproductive health choices. So progress is very easily undone. We are not even half way yet if you look at the world. Don’t leave anyone behind!

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