From Kevin Sessums: Day five in Romania

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Kevin Sessums is dot429’s new editorial director, and is blogging about his experiences while traveling in Eastern Europe on behalf of the US State Department this month as part of an LGBT human rights/cultural exchange mission. _______________________________________________

This past Saturday I marched in the the gay pride parade in Bucharest with the US Embassy there. Most of the members of the embassy staff wore t-shirts with a quote from President Obama inscribed on the back espousing LGBT equality. We marched behind a banner equating LGBT right with human rights and started out from Bucharest’s Arcul de Triumf which is one of the reasons the city is known as “the little Paris.”

There was a heavy police presence as well – not just along the boulevard where the parade route was held but deep into the parks on either side of the boulevard. Indeed, there was no one in the parks on a Sunday afternoon but the police. At one point I trailed off to try and find a toilet and finally found one on the outskirts of the park and had a hard time convincing the police to let me back to march.  Maybe they thought with my shaved head I was a skinhead or something.

One of them – who, no doubt, had gaydar I sensed as mine was going off as we stared at each other – said to let me through. We knowingly smiled at one another as I passed by. I talked to one of the organizers of the event afterward and he said the police had earlier cleared out some troublemakers and he was worried about later. But everyone was safe when I left before the rally was over because my ride from the embassy was leaving. 

The out gay British member of the European Parliament, Michael Cashman, brought his husband onto the flatbed truck with him where he was addressing the crowd at the rally afterwards. “We’ve been lovers for 30 years and he’s been my husband for the last six,” he told the cheering crowd. “You might be 500 strong here today in Bucharest at this march,” he continued. “But I am here to tell you that the 500 million people who are represented in the European Parliament stand with you today in solidarity.” 

It was great to be part of the delegation from the US embassy who showed such support for LGBT rights as well. I overheard the charge d’affaires Duane Butcher giving a press interview before the start of the march and he said, “Some of us were too young to have marched in the great civil rights marches of the 1960s but this is the great civil rights battle of today. We are proud to be marching for LGBT rights here in Bucharest. If I were back in America, I’d be doing the same thing.” 

So would I. But it was very moving to have been doing it last Saturday with my Romanian brothers and sisters. I was inspired by them.

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