‘Norway still needs Pride and parades’

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NEWS ANALYSIS: This year’s Pride Parade in Oslo was the biggest ever, attracting an estimated 40,000 marchers and 200,000 spectators during the weekend. It was led by government ministers and the city’s mayor, to send official messages of tolerance and inclusion that are perhaps more needed now than ever before.

This year’s Oslo Pride Parade attracted record numbers of participants and spectators. PHOTO: Oslo Pride

Newspaper Aftenposten, for example, editorialized on the proverbial morning after the big parade that even though attitudes “have come far” in recent years, there’s “still a need to promote Pride.” It’s important, the paper added, for Norway to be a clear voice in the international campaign to allow people to decide for themselves who they choose to love. That, Aftenposten claimed, should be part of basic human rights.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg opened her official residence earlier in the week for a celebration of Oslo Pride and organizations that promote equal rights for LHBT – lesbians, homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people. She also officially opened Oslo’s Pride Park downtown, and noted in her remarks that there’s still a need for attitudes to change, towards full acceptance: News bureau NTB reported how Solberg was concerned about a new survey showing that fully 20 percent of Norwegian men questioned are not comfortable if found standing close to a gay man. “We can’t have that, so we still have a ways to go in this country,” Solberg said.

Her comments came as one of Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK)’s top football commentators, Lise Klaveness, was being subjected to mean and hateful comments in social media as she covered the World Cup as the first woman to offer play-by-play reports. Klaveness, an attorney and former pro-football herself whose partner is a woman, did her best to overcome it all and simply do her job, but the campaign against Klaveness was disturbing at best in a country known for promoting equality.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg, speaking at an Oslo Pride event last week. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

Norway otherwise is known for being early out in recognizing LHBT partnerships and marriage. Government minister Linda Hofstad Helleland, in charge of family and equality issues, played the main role in a public debate last week over why there aren’t more openly gay men in sports. One cross country skier, Stian Grastveit, spoke openly in local media last week about how difficult it was for him to come out to family and friends this past spring. Now he intends to help break barriers for others, by urging more openness and the importance of diversity.

After Helleland asked why hardly any gay men come forward in Norwegian football, former star Jan Åge Fjørtoft agreed to take up the issue. “I know many players who are gay, but who haven’t dared to come out,” Fjørtoft told newspaper Dagsavisen after last week’s public debate aimed at confronting prejudice and anti-gay attitudes. Helleland blasted how the word “homo” in Norwegian is often used as a slur.

Meanwhile there’s been other criticism during the past week that many businesses and organizations simply flew symbolic rainbow flags last week to market themselves and drum up sales. As Pride events ran their course for the 32nd year in Oslo and the first in many small towns around the country, there were some accusations that commercial enterprises flying the rainbow flag don’t necessarily practice what they preach.

The rainbow flag symbolizing gay pride and diversity adorned the prime minister’s residence as well. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

Some also accused politicians of using the Pride movement for their own personal gain. “I think I noticed it already last year, something artificial and not genuine,” wrote Erland Bakke, CEO of Motormouth, in Aftenposten. “I’ve heard politicians say that they intend the win the fight over homosexuals. I feel that does more to stigmatize than to include people.” Bakke also wrote that he even more dislikes all the companies “who clearly see gays as a very attractive customer group.” He singled out Norway’s biggest bank, DNB, as among those “using millions to support Pride” and homosexuals. DNB promptly responded that “we don’t support Pride to score quick points.” Rather, claimed DNB’s marketing director Aina Lemoen Lunde, the bank is “an important player in Norway,” with a diverse employee base itself and simply views Pride as a worthy cause. Even the buses and trams in Oslo were flying rainbow flags last week.

For tens of thousands of others, the Pride events were simply fun. “This is far from my first Pride parade, but it’s the first time I get to march first,” Trine Skei Grande of the Liberal Party, who was named Norway’s government minister in charge of culture in January, told NTB. Her government colleague Health Minister Bent Høie of Solberg’s Conservative Party, an openly gay man who often attends public events with his husband, was also marching. Grande called the parade a “fantastic” event, “a little like the 17th of May used to be before all the rules.” Others called it a “giant people’s party,” celebrating solidarity and love.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund