Copenhagen Pride 2009 – Speech

As most of you know, there was an incident on Tuesday where one spectator thought it’d be a good idea to go to one of the Outgames sporting events and throw fireworks onto the field. A few of them exploded and an American runner was injured.

Now… The problem with insulting gay athletes is that they’re athletes. A couple of them ran after him and held him down until police arrived. He’s now detained by the police, the sports events continued and the runner was already back the next day to participate.

You know, one of the first messages of the gay rights movement was ‘We’re Here, We’re Queer, Get Used to It’. After this week, I’m looking forward to seeing the banners saying ‘We’re Here, We’re Queer, and We Can Run Faster Than You.’

It’s been an amazing week, and I want to thank the OutGames, The Copenhagen Pride, GLISA and everyone else who came together to organize this truly astounding, diverse and magic week. I also want to thank all of the athletes, fans, friends and allies, not least The Copenhagen Municipality who came out to make this a historic event for all of us and for Copenhagen.

A special thanks goes to the Copenhagen Police. You have been absolutely amazing during the recent months and especially during this past week.

My name’s HC Seidelin, and I’m the president of the LBL – The Danish LGBT Organization. I’m here this afternoon to give out two awards from our organization to people advancing gay rights around the world and here in Denmark.

But before I do that, I just want to quickly say something about what the OutGames means for Denmark and for me personally.

In October 2009 Denmark celebrates its 20th anniversary as the first country in the world to let same-sex couples enter a civil union. Last weekend we paid honor to Axel Axgil, the founder of our organization and the first man ever to get married to another man. Axel’s presence here really demonstrated to me that we’re all a part of something larger.

And that LGBT people and activists have been way before I was just a skinny boy in Jutland—realizing I fancied other skinny boys in Jutland. But it also made me realize that there are a lot more Axel Axgils out there, waiting for the world to tell them that the future has room for them too.

Events like the OutGames are a way for us to deliver that message. The OutGames is special because it’s an event where lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people can come together and represent not how we love, but what we love. The OutGames lets the world know that we really are everywhere. We’re in your families, we’re at your workplace, we’re on your sports field and yes, we’re in your locker rooms.

People are always talking about ‘the gay community’. But sometimes ‘the gay community’ is hard to see. You know, for a group defined by the term ‘homo’, we’re a pretty diverse bunch.

Some of us are from small towns, others from big cities. Some of us work in fashion or theater, others are plumbers and electricians. Some of us get up early every morning to go swimming, others think the backstroke is something you get at a massage parlor.

What I’m trying to say is, we’re here to celebrate not what makes us different, but what makes us the same.

It’s important for us to acknowledge that the gay community also includes a lot of people who couldn’t join us this week. And I’m not just talking about the members of our community who live in places where it’s illegal or unsafe to be out and open. No matter where you go, whether it’s Moldova or Massachusetts, you’ll find people struggling to be themselves, people who need to hear that the rest of the world supports them.

The OutGames sets an example to LGBT people around the world. It also sends a message to all the straight people: We are everywhere. We are united. And we can run faster than you.

Every year, the LBL – The Danish LGBT Organization gives an award to people who have advanced LGBT rights in Denmark and around the world. Over the years the awards have been presented to a wide range of politicians and activists, doctors as well as bakers, straight and gay alike. Our first award today is The LGBT Person of the Year.

This year the award goes to two people who were instrumental in getting the OutGames to Copenhagen. Any event that goes as smoothly as this one did has the feeling of being inevitable, like it had to be here. Trust me, this is far from the case, and a lot of hard work went into bringing this event to Copenhagen.
We at LBL feel incredibly privileged to participate in this event, and our award for LGBT Persons of the year go to the OutGames Campaign Manager and Sports Manager Ole Udsholt and Tommy Kristoffersen.

Our second award is the ‘Salmon’ award. Every year we give this award to someone who we think is swimming against the stream, and working hard for LGBT rights where it will really make a difference.
All the advances in LGBT rights we’ve seen in the last few years are the product of an incredible amount of work by lawyers, lawmakers and activists. Every same-sex marriage is signed on the shoulders of hundreds of hours of research and lobbying, not to mention thousands of pages of paperwork. Every single right and recognition that our community has earned we’ve worked incredibly hard for. And that work continues. This year we wanted to honor somebody who is intimately involved in that work, and this year’s Salmon Award goes to Sophie in t’Veld.

Mrs. In t’Veld is a member of the European Parliament, and the vice president of the Intergroup on LGBT rights. She has introduced a number of LGBT initiatives and has been instrumental in bringing up the issue time and again before the European Commission. She has also attended Pride celebrations just like this one in some of the most difficult parts of the world. For this work and more, she receives this year’s Salmon Award.

Last week I had the privilege of attending a speech where the great Israeli politician and activist Ayel Dayan addressed the question “Where do we go from here?”
And her answer was as simple as it is true: “Remember that the road ahead of you is always longer than the one behind you.” There’s so much more work to be done. The Human Rights Conference highlighted problems right now in Burundi, Uganda, The United States and Europe’s own Lithuania. We all face challenges; in this country, in your countries and all over the world. But this week has shown us how strong we are as a community and how much we can achieve when we come together in a love of freedom and freedom to love.

I thank you all for coming. Have a great night.

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