Hundreds of thousands of people are set to descend on Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmö, Sweden as the two cities join forces to celebrate equality and love and host WorldPride 2021.
Running from August 12th to August 22nd, 2021, Copenhagen 2021 will proudly take over the bi-annual observance of WorldPride from New York City and raise the banner for pride, acceptance and equality as part of the “biggest and most ambitious LGBTQIA+ event ever hosted in Denmark.”
Denmark in New York caught up with Lars Henriksen, Copenhagen 2021’s event manager, to discuss the unique global event’s impact on the Danish capital, Denmark’s leading role in advocating for LGBTI+ rights, and how WorldPride in Copenhagen will differ from it’s predecessor in New York City.
Denmark in New York: Copenhagen Pride is an annual celebration of equality, inclusiveness and diversity. And, next year, in 2021, the City of Copenhagen will finally host WorldPride. What does it mean for Copenhagen (and Copenhagen Pride) to bring the global observance to Denmark?
Lars Henriksen: Bringing WorldPride and EuroGames to Copenhagen and Malmö is like bringing the two events home. Denmark is a frontrunner when it comes to LGBTI+ rights and Copenhagen City Hall was the first place in the world where legally same-sex unions took place back in 1989. In addition, Copenhagen has repeatedly been recognized as the most gay-friendly place on Earth.
In that sense, we are tying the past with the present. Remember, Copenhagen 2021 is about human rights, sportsmanship and love. I can’t find a better place to celebrate equality and love than in Copenhagen and in 2021 love will indeed be in the air.
I think we have an obligation to raise the bar for inclusion and use the platform we have in front of us to share the important message about equal rights and inclusion. In Denmark and the rest of the Nordic countries, we have easy access to politicians and decision-makers compared with many other countries. We need to use that access to make the politicians aware of the need for change and insist that LGBTI+ rights equal human rights. Copenhagen 2021, WorldPride and EuroGames offer a unique opportunity for us and Copenhagen to make the rest of the world aware that in too many places LGBTI+ persons are still living with discrimination, inequality and in fear of what might happen to them because of their sexuality, gender expression and identity. That is wrong. And we need that to change. We need to provide LGBTI+ communities around the world with the same rights as anybody else.
Denmark is a frontrunner when it comes to LGBTI+ rights and Copenhagen City Hall was the first place in the world where legally same-sex unions took place back in 1989.
I sincerely hope that what we do in Copenhagen will be seen and heard globally and that the progress that is being made in Denmark, Sweden and the rest of the Nordic Countries will influence decision makers and politicians in other parts of the world in benefit of the global LGBTI+ community. All we are really asking for is to be included and be treated the same way as anyone else.
I also want to mention the protection of Her Royal Highness The Crown Princess of Denmark. It’s the first time in history that a LGBTI+ event has a royal protector. Together with the Crown Princess, we are writing history and showing the rest of the world that the Danish Royal Family is standing up for diversity and human rights. For me, having the Crown Princess by my side means we are being supported from the highest level and that means a lot to me and I’m convinced that the royal engagement can help make the change we eagerly are working for at Copenhagen 2021.
In 2019, WorldPride was held in New York City, marking both the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion and New York City’s leading role in LGBTI+ rights. How will Copenhagen mark WorldPride differently than New York City in 2021?
Lars Henriksen: You can’t — and I won’t — compare Copenhagen 2021 with WorldPride in New York. We went to New York for WorldPride and took it all in. At the closing ceremony we officially took over as host city for the next WorldPride and, in 2021, we want to do it our way. Copenhagen is not even half the size of New York and that means that Copenhagen 2021 will be not only smaller in size but also different.
We are hosting EuroGames and WorldPride at the same time meaning that we will have a different emphasize on sports. There will be 29 different sports to compete in for Copenhagen 2021.
We want to focus on human rights and that will be the overarching theme for all we do at Copenhagen 2021. We have our Human Rights Forum that will present a large scale human rights conference, a democracy festival for the public, and an inter-parliamentarian plenary session held at the Danish Parliament, Folketinget. In addition to that, we are working on a very ambitious outreach program where we want to provide the opportunity for activists around the world — primarily the Global South and other places where resources are spare — to participate in Copenhagen 2021.
Also, we will use EuroGames and the focus on sports to further discuss human rights and the mental and physical health of LGBTI+ persons who are over-represented in the statistics when it comes to suicide, attempted suicide, mental illness and general bad health.
What role do you think Denmark should have when it comes to advocating for LGBTI+ rights? And, how has Denmark lived up to its reputation in this area as a human rights advocate?
Lars Henriksen: We can be proud as Danes that Denmark is a frontrunner when it comes to securing basic human rights for the LGBTI+ community. That said, there is still room for improvement and the battle hasn’t been won yet. That’s important to understand. Too many LGBTI+ persons in Denmark and globally are still struggling with obtaining the same human rights as people outside the rainbow community. In Denmark, specifically, we need to fight for the intersex and transgendered persons who are lacking the same rights as the rest of us in the rainbow community.
Denmark and the Danish government have an obligation to stay in front and insist that progress for LGTI+ persons are being made. I was very proud when Denmark became the first country in the world — finally — to remove transgenderism from the list of mental illnesses.
I hope that the Danish government will use their presence in the UN Human Rights Council to raise the issue of LGBTI+ rights. I know the UN might not be the most flexible of organisations but being part of the Human Rights Council is a unique opportunity for Denmark to show the rest of the world what is at stake. Raising the issue of the lack of rights for LGBTI+ persons globally in the Council would be a strong statement that would find resonance in many countries, organisations and companies. By doing so, Denmark would be considered a champion for human rights on the international level.
Apart from the two Pride marches in Copenhagen and Malmö, there will be a Human Rights Conference focusing on LGBTQIA+ issues. What will the Human Rights Forum add to WorldPride 2021? And What long-lasting impact do you hope WorldPride 2021 will have both on Copenhagen and the global community?
Lars Henriksen: Having a global impact in different fields is a key aim for the Copenhagen 2021 Human Rights Forum. The worldwide decriminalization of same-sex relationships by 2030 is one of the main goals we want to see heavily discussed and pushed for in 2021 by governments, politicians, activists and all other attendees as a minimum form of global progress. The rights of the LGBTI+ community are unalienable Human Rights that have to be fought for. There is, furthermore, the strong tendency to show the general public that Pride is not a party, it is a protest bringing hundreds of millions of people to the street every year and all over the world. These people cannot be ignored.
Copenhagen 2021 will, because of this, have a strong focus on Human Rights, and create awareness that Pride is a Human Rights manifestation and not “just a party”. Next to that, minorities and intersectionality within our community will be on the agenda. We cannot talk about inclusion, if we do not, in practice, include our community at large and give them a voice. Extra attention will be given to the intersex and the transgender community and to community members with a different background, a handicap, or for example, religious community members.
We moreover want to develop an in-depth understanding of the general public present in Copenhagen about the LGBTI+ community, to demand politicians to take action on LGBTI+ rights and challenges, to help confront and break down stereotypes and to share best practices from all over the world. In the course of the events, we will be critical towards our own governments, the European Union and the west, demanding them to do more, within our own region and outside. We have a responsibility to push governments to take action and protect the global community from hate crimes, discrimination and punishment. The diversity between the events and the aim of the different events within the Human Rights Forum create opportunities to target different groups, including politicians, activists, media and the general public, and bring them together to create awareness and understanding.
In order to make an impact and be inclusive, we are determined to organize Denmark’s most relevant International LGBTI+ Human Rights Forum including an ambitious Outreach Program, to ensure strong participation from all parts of the world, with a special focus on marginalized communities on a global, regional and national level. We want to break down barriers and prejudices in the public, in Denmark and internationally. I hope Copenhagen 2021 can help people understand the struggles of the LGBTI+ community and make them more openminded to us and our case.
I hope that will make Copenhagen an even greater city where diversity will thrive no matter who you are and how you look. I want the entire world to have a bigger focus on human rights after Copenhagen 2021 and I hope that we will take some important steps to improve the life for LGBTI+ persons all over the world.
Thinking back on Copenhagen 2021 people should be talking about us as the place where progresses were being made and where politicians and decision makers finally pledged to ensure equal rights for LGBTI+ persons.
Emilie Haaber Lynggaard is the Strategic Communications and Press Trainee at Denmark In New York