Pride Day in the Streets of Zion
A Lesbian Mormon at Pride Day in Switzerland
By Guadalupe García
Pride Day took place this year in Sion ("Zion"), the capital of the Canton of Valais. In Sion a (Catholic) bishop resides, who is very conservative and a bigot. Every year Pride Day in Switzerland takes place in a different city.
I grew up in Brig, near Sion. Sion is in the French part and Brig in the German. I don't whether Brig is a province or a village, but it is not a modern city. In the rest of Switzerland, Valaisians are called "The ones behind the mountains," because they are so narrow-minded and backwards. As a young girl I suffered a lot there, because I was a foreigner and they didn't treat me well. After living in the US I decided never to live in Valais again. I settled down in Bern, which feels like home.
Not only are they racist in the Canton of Valais—-they also oppose anything that is different from the old ways. The artisans, however, are opening up a little, because they make a lot of money with the tourist industry. I have to admit that it is a beautiful country, and I enjoy its beauty when I go to those mountains.
When the organizers chose Sion, the Valaisians began to protest and sign petitions against the event. But Swiss law protects demonstrations, and therefore for the Valaisians it was a lost cause. The Bishop instructed all the priests to preach during mass against the immorality and the sins of gays and lesbians, and he called us "the work of the Devil." Everyone was outraged!
In Bern there are many gays and lesbians who grew up in Valais, but left their hometowns to live without guilt-trips and attacks. A few Valaisians, however, sympathize with our cause and opposed the Bishop's preaching.
When I knew for sure that Pride Day was going to be in Sion, I told Paz, my partner, that we had the right and even the duty to go to Sion. I don't have good memories of this town, but we had to go and support Pride Day. Not only because I'm a lesbian, but also because I grew up in that region.
It was a rainy day in Bern. I though how happy the Bishop and the Valaisians would be, believing that their prayers had been heard. They thought that attendance would be poor, but they were wrong. More than 5,000 people went to the city. More than 4,000 were on our side, and a small group was there to protest the event.
Paz and I went to pick up my goddaughter Aïcha, who was going to spend the weekend with us. We took her with us to Sion. As we got there, we noticed that it wasn't rainy—just overcast. We arrived at the gathering place, listened to some speeches (some politicians do support us), and we began to march. Never had I seen so many police officers. A few days before the event, the opponents said that they were going to stage a counter-demonstration. The police thought that we, being as they say "abnormal," were going to attack the Christians.
The city was in a state of constant alarm. The police didn't allow the drag queens or other provocateurs to join the parade. They also forbade the opponents to participate in the parade. The opponents decided to demonstrate in front of the church instead, on a street that was part of the parade. They knelt down and prayed on behalf of us sinners. I don't like preaching or provoking, but I wish I'd had a big sign with the words, "If you're without sin, throw the first stone"
Meanwhile, 3-year-old Aïcha was waving her little flag and having a great time, sitting on Paz's shoulders and holding my hand. Everyone thought that Paz and I, as a lesbian couple, were Aïcha's moms. I didn't want to explain the whole thing, and many people took snapshots of us.
It was a quiet march, without loud music or commotion. In one sense I liked it. This way people and reporters didn't have a chance to zoom in on the drag queens—just us, as normal as we are. We are all different and drag queens have their own way of being, but they always get all the media attention, and people believe that all gays and lesbians are like that.
Sion had bid for the 2006 Olympic games, but they lost their bid. Valaisians were shocked that they weren't selected--they thought they were open to the whole world. In their ignorance and hypocrisy, this was a major blow. But as we marched through the city, some Valaisians cheered at us, and that's always encouraging.
What is normalcy? What does it mean to be normal? I do not think anyone is normal, because we all have something special that doesn't fit the mold. As Paz, Aïcha, and I walked down the street of Sion, we were a normal trio. We are a normal trio. For me, you are normal when you understand and accept yourself. I do not fight nature. I am one with nature. It doesn't matter whether you are hetero, gay, or lesbian. If you accept nature, nature embraces you and you're normal.
Link to the official site of Pride Sion 2001
(in French and German)