Union confederation LO in the pride parade, with their normally red logo changed to rainbow colours. -by Johanna Sköld Last week, Stockholm was taken over by Stockholm Pride, a 6-day gay pride event that ended with a big pride parade on Saturday. For m …

Tim Lezard Europe, Scandinavia, LGBT

Union confederation LO in the pride parade, with their normally red logo changed to rainbow colours.

-by Johanna Sköld

Last week, Stockholm was taken over by Stockholm Pride, a 6-day gay pride event that ended with a big pride parade on Saturday. For many Swedish unions, it is important to take part, show solidarity and acknowledge that fear of coming out at work is an important workplace health issue. Ahead of last year’s Pride Parade, the president of union confederation SACO, Göran Arrius, wrote a blog post emphasising the difficulties of not being yourself at work, of not being able to tell anyone about your weekend or vacations because of fear of accidentally revealing your sexuality. And he actually knew from personal experience. When he himself finally did come out at work, it was a great relief. His boss and coworkers took the news very well and only wondered why he hadn’t told them before, but he pointed out that far from everyone is that lucky.

Statistics show that half of homo- and bisexuals in Sweden have not come out at work. The work place is considered the most difficult place to be open about your sexuality at, mostly out of fear of it being negative for your career. It doesn’t make it easier when everyone assumes you’re straight as that is still the norm, or when colleagues make gay jokes. But while hiding such a big part of your private life, it might be difficult to fully become a part of the work community which in turn affects your general well-being at work. Even in a professional role, it is important to be able to be yourself! This is why many unions had stalls during all of pride week, where everyone could be informed about the unions’ work, ask questions about LGBT rights, or just stop by for a chat. The unions also arranged lectures and debates, for example on the topic “Why should your boss care about LGBT issues?”, discussing what responsibilities and what tools a boss has in order to make work environment safe and enjoyable for everyone. At the end of the week, unions also took part in the pride parade through a sunny Stockholm.

Taking the lead for SACO during the pride parade is their president, Göran Arrius, on a bike.

Even though lesbian, gay, bi- or transsexual people in Sweden enjoy rights that the LGBT community in many other countries can only dream of, there is still much work left to be done before everyone has equal rights in reality and not only on paper. But Stockholm Pride shows that many Swedes support this fight, as the Pride week is not only celebrated by the LGBT community but by the whole city. Almost all political parties are represented, as well as many companies, sports clubs and other organisations. With 60 000 participants and up to 500 000 spectators following the parade on the streets of Stockholm, it’s the biggest yearly reoccurring event of the city.

Finally, even though it has nothing to do with the unions’ work during Stockholm Pride, I need to share a video that gave me just a little more hope about humanity. On Friday, a lesbian muslim couple was blessed in public by French-Algerian Islamic scholar Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, who has previously opened the first gay friendly Islamic center/mosque in Paris. The clip is partly in Swedish, but Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed’s comments are in English and the images of the ceremony are probably self-explanatory. To view the video, go to http://www.svt.se/kultur/imam-viger.

Let’s hope that a day will come when this wouldn’t make the news anymore, but until then we can be happy for all small steps taken!


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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