Football fans at a Dutch versus Germany match put on a show of solidarity with the Ukraine’s gay and trans population by supporting a lesbian activist during Euro 2012 celebrations in Kharkiv.
Human rights campaigners had raised concerns about the safety of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender fans attending the European Football Championships in Poland and Ukraine, which both have poor records on LGBT rights, with Amnesty International even suggesting gay fans should stay away.
However Clare Dimyon, a UK lesbian campaigner from Pride Solidarity who has won an MBE for her gay work in Eastern Europe, delighted Dutch fans when she joined their ‘orange’ parade through the city center on Wednesday (13 June), proudly waving her rainbow flag.
Dressed as ‘St Georgina’ – a spin on Britain’s patron St George – complete with a dragon puppet, she carried Euro 2012 mascots Slavek and Slavko, also decked out in rainbow regalia.
After the jubilant welcome she received in Kyiv earlier this week, Dimyon says she was moved to tears by continuing positive response from locals as she shouted, ‘Human rights for all Ukrainians’ and ‘England loves Ukraine’.
People rushed to have their photo taken with a rainbow flag – a sign, she claims, of many Ukrainians’ support for LGBT rights in the country.
‘Older people in particular made sure I understood that they were not only not against LGBT people but actively for them,’ said Dimyon, who insisted she felt safer as a lone woman in the Ukraine than among English football fans.
‘I lost count of the number of warm embraces, it was truly heart warming.’
She added: ‘St Georgina went to Euro 2012 in order to collect her rainbow and she found not only a rainbow but gold, or at least Dutch orange, at the end of it.’
In a completely separate action, online gay rights group All Out are continuing their campaign against an anti-gay ‘propaganda’ bill, currently being discussed in the Ukraine’s parliament.
The bill, similar to the one passed in St Petersburg, is expected to be voted on this week and would amend existing laws on ‘the protection of morals’, media and publishing, as well as the criminal code, effectively banning virtually all information on gay and bisexual issues and criminalizing LGBT human rights work in Ukraine.
Eager to capitalize on the media focus on the country during Euro 2012, All Out activists are planning to raise awareness of LGBT rights in the Eastern European state by tweeting during the Ukraine versus UK match on Tuesday (19 June).
As well as posting live coverage of the match using the hashtag #Euro2012, the All Out Twitter team will post messages about their campaign and will be joined by Germany’s first out gay footballer Marcus Urban.
All Out presented an online letter, signed by over 60,000 people from around the world, to President Viktor Yanukovych, urging the leader to speak out against the proposed bill.
Kyiv’s first ever gay pride parade was cancelled on 20 May after a threat of violence from right-wing football hooligans and the event’s organizer Svyatoslav Sheremet was later beaten by thugs.