Love In Any Language
Happy Pride from Portugal
June is LGBTQ+ Pride month in the States—and also in Portugal and many other countries around the world. Lisbon held its annual Pride March this past weekend.
The date had been on my calendar for months. Pride month and Pride celebrations have been a big deal in our family since Filha was quite small. Many of our closest friends are LGBTQ+, including Filha’s Aunties and Uncles.
Marido and I both grew up in ultra-conservative religious cultures which denied and oppressed any type of gender identity or sexual expression outside the strict binary of man+woman.
We wanted to parent differently. We wanted our daughter to understand that narrow-minded boxes are too small to hold the entire human experience. And since we lived in the gay mecca of San Francisco, there were a wealth of Pride celebrations to partake in every June.
The very first Pride events were held in 1970 in San Francisco, New York, LA, and Chicago to commemorate the Stonewall riots of 1969. So San Francisco Pride has been a thing for 52 years. Over that time, it has evolved from a protest—a defiant shout of existence—to a party. And I do mean a PARTY.
Each June, the entire city is festooned in rainbow bunting; the Pink Triangle shines its beacon from Twin Peaks; the dykes march through the Castro on a Saturday and then climb astride motorcycles to lead the Pride Parade up Market Street on Sunday. And that parade—what a parade it is. There are bands and acrobats and floats and costumes to die for. Body glitter is plentiful, as is nudity. It’s more than a celebration. It’s an Extravaganza.
COVID shut down Pride in 2020 and 2021, so it’s been a while since we attended. But one of the first questions Filha asked when we started talking about moving to Portugal was, “Do they have Pride there?”
LGBTQ-friendly laws were on our list of must-haves when we considered where we would live. Portugal was the 8th country worldwide (and the 6th in Europe) to legalize same-sex marriage when they did so in 2010, and in 2016 same-sex couples became eligible to legally adopt. The ILGA-Europe ranked Portugal 7th out of 49 European countries in relation to LGBT rights legislation in 2019. And in March of the same year, Portugal was named the world's best LGBT-friendly travel destination, along with Canada and Sweden. (More about LGBTQ+ rights in Portugal)
Last year, we had been in the country only a week before the annual Pride celebrations. We barely knew how to navigate the block around our apartment, let alone locate a neighborhood in Lisbon—and COVID was still going strong. So we sat it out. But this year, I looked up the date of the Lisbon march back in January.
On Saturday, Filha pulled out rainbow flags she had saved from her years in San Francisco and donned her favorite t-shirt with a rainbow of birds perched on the chest. As afternoon turned to evening, we set out on foot from a friend’s apartment in Lisbon in search of Pride. We had a general idea of the vicinity, but the city isn’t taken over by the celebration as it is in San Francisco. As we walked down Avenida da Liberdade, it seemed the general population was unaware that something special was going on.
Filha began to worry that we’d missed it, somehow. But as we climbed the hill to Jardim do Príncipe Real, we heard the cheers. We turned a corner and there it was.
In San Francisco, Pride is a mammoth, glittering spectacle. In Lisbon, it is a simple march of the people. A protest more than a parade. Still a celebration, with rainbow flags—and transgender, lesbian, leather, bisexual, pansexual, demisexual flags—flying joyously above the crowds. (There are more than 30 LGBTQ flags, did you know?)
But instead of parading with elaborate floats and sparkling costumes, Pride in Lisbon is regular people wending their way through Príncipe Real down to the banks of the Tagus River. Waving their flags or wearing them. Laughing, chanting, talking with friends. Celebrating the freedom to be their true selves.
Pride in Portugal is distinctly lacking in American aesthetic—that mindset of, “You know what this needs? Some politicians! Some celebrities! Some corporate sponsors handing out iTunes gift cards!”
The official description of the Marcha do Orgulho LGBTI+ de Lisboa reads, “The LGBTQ community will occupy the streets of the city so that their voices can be heard once again, celebrating what has been achieved, and fighting for what has yet to be achieved.”
It was beautiful.
“We’ve found your people,” I told my daughter, who has been exploring her own queer identity quite deeply this past year. “Do you want to join them?”
She nodded, eyes wide, and we stepped into the happy throng. As we walked through the streets together, she took it all in. All the people marching—kids like her, adults, families—speaking a milieu of languages. She got a look on her face that makes people think she’s about to laugh. But I know that look. It’s the one she gets when she’s feeling really proud.*
*Photos and story posted with Filha’s permission
Meanwhile in the US, right wing extremists are disrupting Drag Queen story hour at libraries and planning riots for Pride parades. And so my LGBTQ+ friends and family continue to march, to strut, to wave that rainbow flag yet again in a defiant shout.
They are here. They are everywhere. They always have been and always will be.
This month and every month, I celebrate that truth.
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