The Organisers of the Lithuanian Pride Expect up to 20 000 Participants

Lithuanian Pride is not only a protest for equality for LGBTIQ+ people, but also a celebration of community culture. “The public is increasingly looking more favourably on the visibility of the LGBTIQ+ community, and greater public support also empowers members of the LGBTIQ+ community to participate and be themselves”, says Eglė Kuktoraitė, Communication Manager at the National LGBT rights organization LGL, which is organising the Pride, in a press release drafted by LGBTIQ+ community website jarmo.net.

People with homophobic beliefs often say: “You can be who you are, but why you need to show off?”. So why do we need a Lithuanian Pride event? Why is it important to show ourselves to the public? What are the main goals and values that the march aims to highlight? jarmo.net asked Eglė Kuktoraitė.

LGL organised the first LGBTIQ+ Pride festival in Lithuania Rainbow Days back in May 2007, and has been organising Baltic Pride events in Vilnius since 2010.

As the need for the LGBTIQ+ community to talk about LGBTIQ+ human rights challenges more than once every three years is becoming clearer, LGL will organise the Lithuanian Pride festival in Vilnius in 2024 and 2026, and the traditional Baltic Pride festival will return to Vilnius in 2025.

We are delighted that, in keeping with tradition, since 2024 Lithuania will annually host the Lithuanian Pride, an international human rights and cultural festival dedicated to the LGBTIQ+ community and its allies, which will be given the prestigious title of Baltic Pride in 2025, and which will later compete for the title of Euro Pride in a strategic cooperation with Vilnius City Municipality, socially responsible businesses and the LGBTIQ+ communities.

Lithuanian Pride events send a clear message to the public: LGBTIQ+ people are a part of our society and has been demanding equality since 1993. The slogan of the march organised by LGL has remained the same since 2010: we march for equality for LGBTIQ+ people. So, we are not only working towards short-term political goals, but also towards the long-term goal of equality for LGBTIQ+ people in all spheres of life.

We are pleased to see the impact of the LGBTIQ+ community marches: society is becoming more open, and not only individuals, but also organisations and businesses that support equality for LGBTIQ+ people are taking part in the marches. The annual marches will increasingly contribute to the visibility of LGBTIQ+ people in society and to the normalisation of the LGBTIQ+ community’s presence in the public sphere.

The Lithuanian Pride march will provide an opportunity not only to protest the inequality of LGBTIQ+ people in society, but also to celebrate the resilience, togetherness, and culture of our community.

We invite you to join the Lithuanian Pride event on Facebook and follow the news on social media.

In addition to the previously mentioned objectives, the event aims to spread the idea of June as World Pride Month in Lithuania. We know that many company employees inventively mention the importance of equality and diversity in the workplace and initiatives during Pride Month. Socially responsible companies that sponsor the festival are putting equal opportunities policies into practice. The festival therefore provides a platform to raise awareness among the public and LGBTIQ+ communities.

How does the march contribute to the visibility and recognition of the Lithuanian LGBTIQ+ community?

The Lithuanian Pride march will be an opportunity not only to demand equal rights, but also to celebrate our community’s resilience, togetherness, and culture. We would like to take this opportunity to invite groups of 5 or more people who will be participating in a joint group to register quickly.

On 7 June we will be organising an important event for LGBTIQ+ rights – the International Conference “LGBTQI+ Inclusive Education for a Change in Diverse Society”, which will take place in the conference hall of Vilnius City Municipality.

International cooperation, exchange of best practices, collaboration with decision-makers, academia and inclusive businesses is essential to tackle the complex problem of bullying of LGBTQI+ young people and poor emotional climate in schools.

This year’s highlight is the high visibility and activity of the drag culture community. Unfettered creativity will be unleashed not only at the Balaganza and Dramatica events at the Soho Club, but also on the big stage of the final concert. We will see new Lithuanian drag stars and winners and participants of the World Drag Race show – from Rita Baga from Montreal to Sederginne from Amsterdam.

Rita Baga

What challenges do you face in organising LGBTIQ+ themed events in Lithuania?

We had to move the 2022 Pride theatrical event “Pride Voices” to Vilnius because Kaunas theatres and cultural centres boycotted our requests to rent premises in Kaunas – the European Capital of Culture.

Also, every time we organise a Pride event, we still face the problem of sustainable funding and lack of institutional support. So, raising funds to cover the costs of the events is still a challenge.

Together with police officers, we have already perfected the algorithms for the operation of major Pride events, so there are no longer any security challenges for the participants.

How does the Lithuanian Pride promote a positive attitude of Lithuanian society towards the LGBTIQ+ community? After all, we often hear people say, “why is there a need to publicize themselves, they were there before, but they didn’t bother anyone”.

LGBTIQ+ people have always existed, but persecution has pushed them to the margins of society. Baltic Pride events have contributed to the liberation of Lithuanian society and changing attitudes towards LGBTIQ+ people. LGBTIQ+ people are now freer to engage in activism, to be open, to come together and fight for their rights. We hope that Lithuanian Pride events will also bring permanence, as the community will know that every June Vilnius will host the biggest human rights event.

How the work with other organisations and institutions in organising marches is going? Do you encounter any resistance or obstacles?

Since 2016, LGL no longer faces institutional resistance or obstacles when organising Baltic Pride marches. Incidents are no longer recorded at the marches. However, we remain vigilant.

We are delighted with our successful strategic partnership with Vilnius City Municipality, other organisations, and socially responsible businesses.

This month, we will organise a meeting where we will invite representatives of LGBTIQ+ communities to discuss how communities can meaningfully participate in Lithuanian Pride and implement their initiatives.

Traditionally, we will also focus on volunteering when organising Lithuanian Pride. If you are interested in volunteering for Lithuanian Pride, please contact our Colunteer Coordinator Violeta via email violeta@gay.lt.

What impact have previous Pride marches had on Lithuanian society and its attitude towards the LGBTIQ+ community?

I think that change is best shown by facts. In 2010, the Baltic Pride march was attended by 350 participants, who were met by a crowd of 2 000 counter-protesters. In 2013, police officers ensured the safety of 1 000 participants by arresting 30 public order offenders.

In 2016, the Baltic Pride march took place on Gediminas Avenue, with around 5 000 participants, and was opposed by 50 counter-protesters, who looked lonely and confused. In 2019, 10 000 participants took part in the march, in 2022 – up to 20 000 participants.

This shows that the visibility of the LGBTIQ+ community is increasingly welcomed by the public, and that greater public support empowers members of the LGBTIQ+ community to participate and be themselves.

As I understand it, permission for the event has already been granted? How many participants are expected?

We got the permit for the event last year and we hope to attract 20 000 participants.