In September 2021, the “WA Sphere” team organized Kharkiv Pride, the biggest LGBT event in the eastern part of Ukraine, for the third time. The march for equality, freedom, and rights took place on September 12. But KharkivPride is not only a march (however, the march, of course, was the central and the brightest event). Some numerous actions and performances figuratively talked about the importance of diversity and equality. This is how activists occupied the city space and creatively drew public attention to the demands of Kharkiv Pride:
- proper investigation of hate crimes;
- equal access to state institutions;
- inclusive education without bullying.
One of the first events was the performance near the Main Department of the National Police in the Kharkiv region. It was a kind of response to the silence of the police after the numerous attacks on PrideHub – it was attacked more than 20 times in only one year. None of the cases were properly investigated. At the entrance to the building activists placed a screen symbolizing the wall. The pride slogan was written on the screen – “We demand a proper investigation of hate crimes.” Then the acts of vandalism were staged: the “wall” was pelted with eggs, and covered with green paint and artificial blood, imitating everything that happened when PrideHub was attacked and left that all near the building of the police.
Also, as a part of Pride, a wedding of two girls took place near the Kharkiv Palace of Marriage – not yet approved by law, but with all the real attributes: guests, champagne, a cheerful queer choir, and brides in traditional wedding dresses. The performance showed that all state institutions, including marriage registration, should be available to everyone without exception, regardless of gender and orientation.
A drone with a bright rainbow flag supported freedom. An unforgettable way to confirm diversity: the drone flew over all the iconic places of Kharkiv. It was photographed over the railway station, Constitution Square, Derzhprom, KhTZ(Kharkiv Tractor Plant) park… It must be noted that it was the second act of that kind: in 2020, before Pride, a rainbow flag raised by a drone also flew in the sky over Kharkiv.
In addition, photo exhibitions about the life of LGBT people were organized in three city locations: twelve photo stories created by Arina Shapran and Viktor Vysochyn told about the most important things in life – graduation from university, making a proposal, traveling, or moving to another country. The exhibition demonstrated that LGBT people live the same lives as everyone else, enjoy the same things, and experience the same emotions. The photos hung on the Dzerkalny Strumok (Mirror Stream) for only 7 minutes – then the security guard took them down. However, in Sarzhyn Yar and near the main building of Karazyn University, the exhibitions lasted the whole day! It was also possible to see the photo exhibition at PrideHub.
Also, the release of a collection of rainbow shoes together with the Kharkiv shoe brand Rich was dedicated to Pride. Ten percent of the cost of each pair was donated to an advocacy campaign against hate crimes. And later, after the beginning of the full-scale war, “WA Sphere” organized a charity sale of the remnants of last year’s collection – all proceeds from it went to the needs of Kharkiv Territorial Defence.
And, finally, the key event of Pride was the March! The 2021 Equality March in Kharkiv was a record. It lasted 2 hours, and its participants walked almost 2 kilometers – from Svobody Square (Freedom Square) to Sarzhy Yar! Participants unfurled flags and shouted slogans, separate columns were formed: lesbian, trans, etc. In general, more than 3,000 people took part in March.