torstai 6. heinäkuuta 2017

Helsinki Pride 2017, Acting Against Discrimination

For me this Helsinki Pride was full of political substance. As a representative of Dreamwear Club I attended numerous political meetings and panels.

The first of this kind was on Tuesday. It was about non discrimination at work places arranged by employer organizations, labour unions and the Non Discrimination Ombudsman.  They had a Finnish carrier Finnair as an example of non discrimination policy. I was not convinced it would be the policy they have instead the diversity of the background of the staff to get their result in that area. So it was maybe too an easy case.

                       The panel of trade union, employers and officials

I told them about our survey about gender diversity at work places last year. I also emphasized the importance of being proactive to be ready in the situation where the workplace faces the fact a qualified employee turns out to be neither cis nor hetero. I also told about our educational material about how to get the equality plans live at the work places concerning the gender diversity.  


On Wednesday noon I took part in the evening about Transact, arranged by FinnishAmnesty, and Finnish LGBTI organizations Seta and Trasek. I had told about our visit to minister Juha Rehula who is responsible of this matter. In 2015 he showed us some sympathy but due to agreement made during the government negotiations he couldn’t do anything. Now he was a protector of the event, though not present. Instead him his successor and thus soon coming new minister Annika Saarikko was there with opening words. Unfortunately she rushed away before the discussion.

                                               Annika Saarikko

     The panelists, Jeanette John from Norway, Sakris Kupila and Panda Eriksson

We heard about the legal situations in four Nordic countries. Of these four only Finland still have infertility demand in the law before one can change her/his legal gender. Denmark has the most advanced law allowing a person just change the gender code by self determination. Norway and Sweden are also heading for more liberal direction.  They told there are some severe problems even in their legislation but compared with Finnish situation it’s much better in every other three countries.
Demand on non fertility is announced to be a violation against human rights by European human rights authorities. So in Western Europe only Finland, Switzerland and some minor countries has it in their legislation; Belgium just got rid of it.

In FInland there are two papers for the new trans legislation: One was done during the former and more liberal government and the other is a initiative made by a Member of Parliament. Neither of them contain self-determination and both have some inadequate changes to the rights of young trans people. So we hope the new minister Saarikko will start preparation for a new law which has the elements a modern transact should contain.

In late afternoon I attended the other panel discussion arranged by the LGBTI networkof the Finnish Parliament. The audience asked them about the situation of the maternal law initiative, transact and the situation of LGBTI asylum seekers. The LGBTI asylum seekers have quite hard difficulties on the other hand because of the discrimination they face in their accommodation spaces and on the other hand because of the immigration authorities who don’t believe their stories.

                The members of Parliament answering the questions from the audience 

I asked the Members of Parliament whether they are aware of the situation of the name law preparation. It turned out they weren’t so I gave them an advice to take the issue to their agenda: The new law would propose almost all the names should be gendered so it would make the non binary people harder to get the suitable names for their gender expression. Opposite to Swedish legislation the new proposal doesn’t even identify the possibility for a person to have both male and female names. They appreciated my notion and promised to do something.

After three such political sessions I decided to do something else. So I went to Lavatanssit (dance hall ball) to meet friends and shake my legs. The band is always the same and always as fascinating: The Vallila Tango Orchestra playing Finnish traditional dance music with some energy by its British singer with genuine rock background.

Thursday was reserved for some rest and household but it didn’t go that way: A friend from Bureau of Non Discrimination Ombudsman called and asked me to the meeting – time for getting ready and be there was two hours! Five years ago it would have been totally impossible but now I've grown faster and could made it - I was amazed! 

The agenda was co-operation with police and LGBTI-people. The relations between these groups haven’t been especially warm. The main reason for that is the conversation on a closed and secret FB group for policemen was revealed and it contained lots of racist substance. On the other hand the Non Discrimination Ombudsman had invited many authorities to join Helsinki Pride on their truck which had waked anger among many people who think such institutions may not be supported or let be pink washed under the rainbow flag. Many also reminded that the Pride movement has originally started to resist police violence in Stonewall riots.

In the meeting representatives of Seta and Trasek told they have got a lot of hate messages after been in media. They also told they were not taken seriously enough when they reported this to police. One problem is misgendering and problems with ID card. According my experience such problems are far more frequent with other authorities than police. Still another problem is a thought that police should treat every customer equally, many times interpreted that they should do it in same way which makes it insensible to needs of the customer.  Seta and Trasek people didn’t tell incidents where police has been an active part of LGBTI-hate though. 

I’m very much concerned the fact that the total amount of hate speech increases the tolerance to interfere to the matter which could on the other hand increase the feeling to be mistreated for being a discriminated minority and on the other hand encourage the hate speakers do it more and more openly.

                                                    Bee Bailey

There were two special guests in the meeting: Bee Bailey from British National Trans Policeassociation and Rob Verf from Dutch Pink in Blue. Both told their associations had been founded for need for support to trans or gay policemen. Gradually the official police organizations had found out they could use the special skills and network these LGBTI organizations have. So nowadays they have their own budget and extra time resources for their special tasks. They also make the rainbow issues known among the other policemen. Rob stressed out that they may not change attitudes of every policeman but they can guide them to adopt this aspect as a part of their profession. As not every policeman is capable to handle these kind of cases in Netherlands there are a center in every major town where members of discriminated minorities can report crimes against them to a person who is not a policeman.

                The whole symposium, photo by Seta

In Finland the situation is totally different. There is only a few openly gay police and there is no education on LGBTI issues in basic or continuing education of police. We offered our help to this matter and encouraged the Finnish gay police (we had one in the meeting..) to get organized – for their own and also for the customers benefit. The members of the Police Board of Finland told us that they will start a program for anti discrimination including LGBTI issues very soon. Rob told the progress in Netherlands was very slow and step by step and I’m afraid it will be even slower in Finland. But I’m sort of thrilled that I could be a part of such an important change, however long it will take.

On Friday I finally could do the domestic things, such as laundry, dishes and baking my traditional mushroom pie for the picnic on Saturday. In the evening we still went to the opening of the exhibition of our artist friend Maimu Brushwood. She performed her poems both on video and in live session. After that we still wanted to visit a Pride supporter Hotel Clarion which happened to be very near the art gallery.

                                    Maimu in action

                                          At Clarion

On Saturday we naturally took part of the Pride Parade. The weather was quite chilly - again. We marched in the Gender Diversity Block containing somewhat 350 people. There were about 35 000 people in the whole parade which is about the same as last year. There was much less audience along the parade route though, due to not so good weather.

                                      Tuija ready for the parade


Maybe the other thing was there was a warning of Nazi raid. There had been some incidents in the Parade during the years, the worst being an attack with pepper spray. And the a small number of Nazis were active also this time, mostly just making videos of us. We tried to stop them video shooting the trans kids we had in our block to cover the camera with a rainbow flag in a fishing rod. There also were some hard criminal Nazis openly near the parade but actually they were strictly guarded by their “personal police”. Finally it turned out the worst thing for us was a plastic bag of horse shit and even this action was stopped very discretely by police. Also the Nazi demonstrations near the parade were stopped.

Actually there was an incidence from the other extremists: Two anarchists sat in front of the truck where the guests of the Non Discriminating Ombudsman were. They were moved away very fast and since they resisted they were also arrested by police. I’m not happy about such an activity: The actions should direct to the accurate and acute problems - even against the police if needed. Now the police taking part to Pride parade as a guest is expressing goodwill to rainbow people and also an important sign to the police staff. On the other hand we have been very much sheltered by police against Nazi attacks many years. So for me maintaining the thought of the relation between police and LGBTI people in the times of Stonewall riot is a mere romantic radicalism without any wish to make the world better in this area.     

The parade ended to a nice Kaivopuisto park where we had our picnic. My pie was a success, I had no problems to get rid of it. 

           Meeting Rob and a Finnish police chief Måns Enqvist at Kaivopuisto Park

After a short time at the park we headed home to change for the last traditional act of our Pride schedule: The Sherry Coffee Ball by lesbian organization Mummolaakso. The music was not live but the DJ Laila-Annikki has a sense of the audience to make people move. And I moved, indeed!

Happy and hopefully warm enough summer for everyone!

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