After many years of fighting for equal rights, the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community is finally gaining worldwide acceptance. In central Europe, the Czech Republic is one of the countries which supports LGBT with film festivals, pride parades and even LGBT clubs at the universities, including Anglo-American.
Chiagoziem Obiakor, known to most students as “Gogo,” is a Political Science and Society major and the founder of AAU’s LGBT club. “I looked at the universities in the UK, where I grew up,” says Obiakor. “They had LGBT clubs to accommodate this community which I didn’t see here, so I decided to create one.”
The first informal meeting of the club was held on Nov. 20. Members discussed the problems of coming out, the difficulties they face in society and ways to tackle them. The discussions are tentatively planned to be held once a month and take place mostly on campus, with food and drinks provided. The meetings will be followed by a trip to a gay club, to explore all the diversity of Prague’s night life.
“I come from an African background,” says Obiakor. “I know what it is like to be gay and black in an African country.” This was one of his main reasons for creating an LGBT club. Also, Obiakor is convinced that there may still be misunderstandings among homophobic students at school.
Outside of school, the strong support the LGBT community enjoys in the Czech Republic was evident most recently at the 16th Mezipatra Queer film festival, which ran Nov. 5 – 11 in Prague, and Nov. 12 – 18 in Brno.
After viewing 66 films, a jury awarded prizes for the best feature and short films at the closing ceremony of the festival in Prague, held at Kino Lucerná.
The best feature was “Sworn Virgin” (2015), a debut work directed by Laura Bispuri. It tells the story of an Albanian woman named Hana, who gave up physical love forever as the price for becoming a man in an isolated Albanian mountain community governed by strict, ancient laws. The best short, “09:55 – 11:05, Ingrid Ekman, bytem Bergsgatan 4B” (2014), by Swedish directors Cristine Berglund and Sophie Vukovic, is about a former dancer, Ingrid, who is just finishing a treatment. When a former student, Frida, comes to help her, she awakens Ingrid’s almost forgotten intimate desires. All the films will be available for purchase online in the near future.
“The Czech Republic is one of the most liberal places for LGBT, but it still needs more festivals like Mezipatra,” says Azadeh Mohammedi, a Prague-based Iranian theater director and actress, who was one of the student jurors. Like many other interviewees at the festival, Mohammedi noted that while more could be done, Czechs are very supportive compared to neighboring Poland, a conservative Catholic country. “Since the end of the communist regime, religion doesn’t play a big role in this country [Czech Republic],” Mohammedi says.
LGBT events let people express themselves freely, without being judged. “The inexpressible excitement lls you up seeing so many LGBT people all around you at events like Prague Pride and Mezipatra,” says Beathe Linde, a Prague-based Norwegian actress and the member of the community.
Prague Pride 2015 created a furor in August with the most diverse program in the five-year history of the festival. The Pride Parade was held on Aug. 15, a colorful event with participants enriching Prague with thousands of bright rainbows.
Another event that energized the local LGBT community was a “Kiss in” protest in front of the Russian Embassy in Prague on Sept. 8, 2013, which attracted more than 100 people for a kissing marathon. Among the four organizers were actors Jay DeYounker and Lindsay Taylor from the Prague Shakespeare Company. The goal was to send Russian president, Vladimir Putin, a message that “the community won’t stay quiet while inequality and violence towards the LGBT population still continues in Russia,” according to the online magazine Lui.
At AAU, the LGBT club will help anyone who is afraid to speak up. There are no rules for becoming a member; it is open to both gay and straight, professors and students.
Obiakor offers a message for all possible members: “This is a club where you can be yourself, be free, not think about what society thinks, be who you are,” he says. “Everyone was born different. If you born to be gay, that’s good, bisexual, fantastic. You are unique in your own way.”
By Elizaveta Khodarinova