July 5, 2016 at 10:40 pm EDT | by Jimmy de la Cruz
Paris Pride parade highlights trans rights
Paris Pride, gay news, Washington Blade

This year’s Paris Pride parade highlighted transgender rights. (Photo by Flora Bolter)

Paris’ annual Pride parade, known as Marche des Fiertés, took place in the French capital on Saturday.

Equal parts protest and celebration, the parade attracted thousands of LGBT denizens that included a plethora of usual characters: Street performers in PVC cat suits, demented nuns, dancing cowboys and sailors and belly-dancing transsexuals.

For the first time ever, Inter-LGBT, the group that organized the annual event, allotted the most prominent spot in the parade, which is usually reserved for politicians and celebrities, to emphasize trans rights.

The Gay and Trans Collective Association for Equality, an LGBT group known by the French acronym ACTHE, marched front and center. It brought attention to the issues facing the transgender community with this year’s motto: “The rights of trans people are in a state of emergency: Stop forced sterilizations! Stop violence! Stop insecurity!”

French Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo were among the prominent politicians who took part.

“Our city will always be a bulwark against homophobia because openness and tolerance are part of its DNA,” Hidalgo told Têtu, a French gay magazine.

LGBT organizations were also present, including the Gay and Lesbian Sports Federation, which fights homophobia and discriminations in sports. ACT UP Paris and Amnesty International — which had a festive vehicle with yellow signs that read, “Human rights are my Pride” in English and French — were among the international advocacy groups that also took part.

Paris officials postponed the parade, which usually takes place on the last weekend in June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots, because of security concerns and the lack of police personnel available because of soccer’s European Championships.

Instead of the usual 4.6 kilometers, the parade was reduced to 2 kilometers, running along the River Seine from the Louvre to the Bastille monument.

ACTHE in a press release urged French officials not to cower under fear and pressure.

“Give in to fear, giving in the LGBT-phobes, this is just giving up on our struggles, our battles, our rights to live, and our diversity,” it said. “Give in to fear, is to give in to terrorism.”

Fear and terrorism were on the minds of many parade participants.

Two brothers who said they were members of an Al-Qaida branch in Yemen on Jan. 7, 2015, stormed into the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine known for excoriating political and religious figures, and shot to death 12 journalists and cartoonists who were inside. Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier, who was editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo, was among the victims.

A group of terrorists who pledged their allegiance to the so-called Islamic State last November killed more than 100 people in a series of attacks that took place at the Bataclan nightclub and at other locations throughout Paris.

This year’s Pride march took place less than a month after a gunman who also pledged his allegiance to ISIS killed 49 people inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. The massacre sparked widespread outrage around the world and sparked renewed debate around gun control in the U.S.

“This year’s Pride parade was under heavy protection, and all of us were determined for it to take place, despite the risks we had been warned about,” Flora Bolter, co-chair of the LGBT Center of Paris-Île-de-France, told the Washington Blade. “The atmosphere in the days leading up to the parade was quite electric, and for the first time we had to have security checks for all people entering the area. You could feel the tense determination everywhere.”

Bolter told the Blade that this year’s parade reinforced the necessity of equal protection under the law for LGBT people.

“This was a very political parade, with clear and urgent calls for action, and it was nonetheless a great success, in spite of many difficulties, and perhaps even thanks to them,” she said, “The very real possibility that our parade could be canceled made people realize how important it was to take part, be proud of who we are and face those who would silence us.”

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