Shannon Power – As Pride celebrations continue around the world, the upcoming parade in the tiny nation of East Timor is a welcome reminder of why Pride exists at all.
East Timor (Timor Leste) is one of the world's youngest nations. It has been on a path of self-discovery after gaining independence from Indonesia in 1999.
The new nation – located about 2,000kms (1,246 miles) north-west of Australia – has been busy developing itself from the ground up. So there hasn't been much time left to think about the LGBTI community and its needs.
But as the LGBTI community gets ready for this week's Pride festival, it wants to make sure government hears its demands.
'Timor-Leste's LGBTI community is a powerful force for inclusion and acceptance. In a region growing increasingly hostile to the community, we compel support from all walks of life,' Pride Timor organizer Natalino Ornai Guterres told Gay Star News.
LGBTI people face daily discrimination in East Timor. A shocking 2017 report showed queer women and trans men faced extreme levels of violence, often at the hands of their own family.
East Timor really needs Pride
Guterres has been a key figure in promoting LGBTI rights in East Timor. He helped orchestrate last year's historic message of support from Prime Minister Rui Maria De Araujo.
Guterres also put together the country's first Pride parade last year which became an international news story for its color and overwhelming success.
Guterres knows that while there have been some achievements, equality is a long way off.
'Being the country's second Pride parade, this year's event is a combination of both a protest – for all the struggles that we still go through – and a celebration – for all the things we have achieved over the past year after the first Pride parade and the PM's message last year,' he said.
History in the making
Last year for the country's inaugural Pride parade, organizers expected about 300 people to attend. They ended up getting double that, which is pretty impressive considering the tiny population of East Timor.
But following on from the success of last year, this year's parade is going to make history. The parade will be a political protest and celebration of the LGBTI community. But it's also a chance to showcase the many delights East Timor has to offer tourists.
'You don't want to miss out on the unique opportunity of being part of a history,' Guterres said.
'The event is a carnival-like, there will be a DJ playing local and international songs on a float as people march demanding for inclusion.'
'In addition to the parade, there will also be other events leading up to it, including an after-party that serves as a fundraising event for the CODIVA Transgender Clinic.'
Transgender marching band
Transgender people in East Timor face daily harassment and bullying. So Timor Pride organizers have invited a transgender marching band to lead the parade this year.
'Giving them the opportunity to walk on the main road of the country's capital city, feeling proud and safe to be themselves, will be a meaningful and a groundbreaking experience,' Guterres said.