Photo: Jeppe Mehlsen

When you think of Aarhus Pride, the first thing that pops into your mind probably isn’t volunteers, even though activism has always played an important role in the Pride movement. Over the years, Pride events have grown from political protests to include positive promotions of self-affirmation, dignity and equal rights, building community, celebrating gender variance, and increasing LGBT visibility as a social group.

Volunteers are an essential part of making the magic of Pride happen and this year Aarhus Pride once again proved this statement: on the first Saturday of June, a team of more than 90 volunteers were busy with putting up the lounge zone, staging, cleaning, assisting in the bar, helping members of the public and those in the parade, as well as doing lots of behind the scenes work.

Photo: Jeppe Mehlsen

An opportunity to cast off any expectations and simply be yourself
In 1987, Denmark became the first country in the world to recognize same-sex partnerships. In 1996, the Danish Parliament passed laws banning indirect and direct discrimination on the labour market, based on sexual orientation. The laws also covered discrimination based on gender, religion, social background, race, faith and political affiliation. Although same-sex church marriages weren’t legalized until July 2012, the nation is still widely seen as a frontrunner in liberal acceptance.

Mads Dyrmose, Volunteer Coordinator at Aarhus Pride.

“I believe that Aarhus Pride’s role is to continue the debate, get people out of their tiny houses bringing the discussion about who LGBT people are, why we need to stand out for ourselves and show the diversity of the human race. The fact that LGBT people have real prides in Denmark and all over the Western world also sends a message to Eastern European countries, African countries, Asian countries where it’s not allowed to be LGBT. This is not about small city pride in Aarhus, it’s a statement that ripples out to all corners of Denmark and then all around the world,” says Mads Dyrmose, Volunteer Coordinator at Aarhus Pride.

Mads got involved in Aarhus Pride 7 years ago as a volunteer himself, and as the event grew bigger and bigger, he joined the board becoming a Volunteer Coordinator.

“Working hard for something that has a purpose, gives me drive. It is important to me that every time Aarhus Pride takes up some reaction because there are still people out there who don’t think that LGBT people have to be out on the streets and speak openly.”

The overwhelming sense of community
“This year using mostly Facebook and word-of-mouth we managed to involve 93 volunteers. Many of the volunteers are not LGBT themselves, but they are willing to support Pride values,” continues Mads. “We had many first-timers, including internationals, but, of course, there are some people who keep coming back and I’m one of them.”

More than 93 volunteers made this year’s march happen, doing their best to create an electric atmosphere for LGBT people to celebrate their community.

“In my opinion, the main reason why people want to volunteer for Aarhus Pride is that it looks fun from the outside and people want to be a part of this. Volunteers who are LGBT feel that they’re supporting their own community, and those who are not, support diversity. This is all about coming together instead of sitting in your own corner of mentality.”

Volunteers can be an amazing resource, but managing volunteers is every bit as challenging as managing paid staff, perhaps even more challenging in some ways.

“Volunteers need to feel that they’re not at work, that they are a part of something big and meaningful and my work is to give them that feeling,” goes on Mads.

My major principle when working with volunteers is: never say “No” to anyone. Always say “Yes!”, always be kind, don’t act like they’re your employees, they’re helping you out while doing the things that bring the difference to the world. And, of course, consider every single volunteer’s feedback, as there’s always something you can do better.

Although Pride gives cause for celebration, there is still much to fight for. But, as Mads sums up:

“Everything you do creates a ripple effect, because everything you do, makes someone react and then someone else, and someone else…”. Seeing the progress that has been made with LGBT issues over the last years is something that fills me with optimism, even if we still have a way to go. Having a Pride parade is an opportunity to come together, fight hate, bring love and have a great time along the way.”

* Why Pride? In June 1969, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons rioted following a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City. This riot and the protests that followed were considered the birth of the modern LGBT equal rights movement and sparked Pride marches across the country. Initially, the last Sunday in June was celebrated as “Gay Pride Day,” but today Pride has expanded to a month-long series of events, attracting millions of participants around the world.

* Aarhus Pride is a pride parade in Aarhus, Denmark and the largest Danish event focused on LGBT issues outside Copenhagen. The first event was held in 2012 and has been repeated every year since. In 2018, about 7,000 people took part in the 3.5-kilometre-long parade with floats and flags.

Aarhus Mayor Jacob Bundsgaard on stage at Pride Square. Photo by Jeppe Mehlsen