I was out and about in my neighborhood yesterday when I saw a young couple strolling down the street together. The pair of them personified true love. With their arms wrapped around each other and big smiles on their faces, they stole the opportunity to seal a lip-smacking kiss, oblivious to the buzz of passing tourists and shoppers.
Should they care about being upfront with their feelings because they were two women, girlfriend and girlfriend? Not around here. I live on the island of Södermalm – often referred to as the bohemian quarter, it has a socially liberal reputation.
Gay couples displaying their affection are a pretty common sight in these parts and rarely would anyone turn a head on spotting two men hugging or hand in hand.
In the last decade, Sweden has worked hard in implementing measures to support the homosexual community and prevent discrimination.
But, as an article I wrote two years ago indicates, conservative criticism lives on. For example, there is still away a long way to go for traditional attitudes in the countryside to adapt to the open minds of the cosmopolitan capital.
Sentiments among my gay friends reveal this is still very much the case today and is not something totally unique to Sweden either.
In 2008, Stockholm hosted Europride – a large-scale pride event drawing crowds across the continent. Over the next two years, Stockholm Pride’s international solidarity fund contributed financial help and practical support for Europride 2010, which concluded in Warsaw this week.
The choice of the Polish capital was hailed as a breakthough – the first international Pride festival to be held in Eastern Europe, where homosexuals in many places face daily inequality and prejudice.
Not only does Sweden have to continue to concentrate efforts on gay right’s issues at home, supporting Pride events abroad allows the country to spread its message across borders.
Sweden is perceived as a progressive, gay-friendly country and continues to prove itself, with the same-sex marriage law having passed its first year anniversary.
Out and about in my neighborhood, I also see the rainbow flags are flying in preparation for this year’s Stockholm Pride, which runs from July 26 – August 1.
On second thoughts, perhaps I even got it wrong. The couple I spotted could have well been wife and wife.