A drag performer on stage during Zurich Pride, Switzerland

Zurich Pride:
Alpine inclusion


Can Zurich, the financial powerhouse of Switzerland, deliver an action-packed, immersive Pride experience? We visited to witness the city swapping its grey suits for a technicolour rainbow during the annual Zurich Pride festival.

Speaking to the face of Zurich Pride, Julia A. Müller, it quickly became apparent to us that the festival was going places: Julia was poached by the Zurich tourism board to work full-time as the director of Zurich Pride just last November, and she certainly has high ambitions for the festival. Throughout the year, a team of 80 volunteers arranges logistics and liaises with corporate partners to ensure the whole city is behind the concept.

This year was the event’s 30th edition and we were able to experience its new site at Landiwiese, selected specifically to accommodate the growing attendance. A popular park by Lake Zurich with the snow-capped Swiss Alps as a backdrop, it offered picturesque scenery, though ultimately, this couldn’t match the drama from the acts on stage.

Drag Fest on the first night was a parade of fashionistas that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a catwalk. We enjoyed them serenading us, as well as cracking bilingual jokes. However, the crowning glory of the night was a performance by recent Eurovision winner, Nemo, which had been hotly anticipated by the crowd. Nemo’s energetic execution of their winning song ‘The Code’ brought a rapturous response from the audience; the perfect homecoming for Europe’s new, non-binary icon, who also offered a heartfelt interview after the song on their hopes for greater LGBTQIA+ rights.

Our highlight, however, was a protest staged on the second day. We’d noticed that the organisers studiously avoided the words ‘carnival’ or ‘parade’, as there are causes the community is still fighting for, such as securing and further strengthening rights for transgender and non-binary people. During the march, countless participants proudly flew both the transgender and non-binary flags, and we took the opportunity to speak with locals to understand the issues at hand. Unlike Bern and Lucerne, for instance, Zurich recently decided not to introduce gender-neutral bathrooms in restaurants, which are proven to alleviate anxiety of those who identify outside of the gender binary when using bathrooms (not to mention the potential for discrimination).

In spite of this, you get the sense that the city is moving forward, and its elaborate Pride festivities – and demonstration – attest to this. Thinking of going next year, but don’t want to attend on your own? Worry not, the event has a group called ‘PrideUnity’, which solo travellers can register for. You’ll be taken around the site by a member of the organising committee and they’ll create a welcoming environment for you to meet new people. An entire Pride week before the festival, with a plethora of inclusive activities such as city tours, dance classes, church services and cinema performances, is also staged each year. Plus, Julia A. Müller runs the gay and lesbian film festival Pink Apple, which takes place around the end of April/early May each year.

One aspect that made our first Pride parade experience so inclusive was the fact that everyone was bilingual. The placards were, in fact, mostly in English. Visitors are encouraged to join the parade and speak with the participants. Zurich, to us, felt like a city that knows how to work hard and play hard. And that’s something they can be proud of.

Baldwin flew to Zurich with SWISS Air, which departs from several airports across the UK.

www.zurichpridefestival.ch | www.zuerich.com | www.myswitzerland.com

Photography by Michal Drozd and Henrique Ferreira

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