This year, the honour goes to Georgian human rights activist Anna Rekhviashvili.
From a distance, Pride might seem like a non-stop party—the kind of bacchanalian revel that gets moralists to wag their fingers. The reality of the event, though, is quite different: there’s plenty of upbeat dance music and glitter, but there’s also a political aspect to the proceedings that might not usually get as much attention but is no less important.
Each year, Pride names an international grand marshal, an individual who has demonstrated exceptional leadership in LGBT advocacy. Today, Pride Toronto announced its 2014 international grand marshal: Georgian human rights activist Anna Rekhviashvili.
Rekhviashvili is the community centre director of the largest LGBT organization in Georgia; in an interview with Torontoist, she described the difficulties of organizing in the eastern European country: few LGBT individuals are out, gay men worry about meeting people through social networking sites for fear of being attacked, and the Orthodox church stokes homophobic fears. Last May, a peaceful event in the Georgian capital to mark the International Day of Homophobia and Transphobia was greeted with thousands of counter-protesters—17 people were injured. Georgia is now looking at implementing anti-gay laws similar to the controversial Russian legislation that passed in late 2013.
As the international grand marshal, Rekhviashvili will march in the WorldPride parade on June 29. And this year, all of the former international grand marshals will also be in town for the festivities.
WorldPride will also feature a human rights conference, with academics, experts, and activists from over 50 countries.