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Finally! We may again, we can again and, ... we are doing it again! Celebrate our Pride in full! After two years of waiting, canceling and adjusting, this year we are resolutely going for a full program with bells and whistles. Perfect timing for our 15th anniversary.

A lot has happened in the past 15 years. A lot of thing have been turned for the better for our community: adoption, the transgender law, the anti-discrimination law,... Yet a number of yards remain unfinished, in Belgium and in the world. Discrimination not just on the basis of orientation or gender, but on the basis of "being different," is not gone and it affects us all. It forces us to step out of the boxes and recognize the importance of intersectionality. On the other hand, increasing incidents with the rainbow flag show that what seemed acquired still needs awareness and vigilance.

There can be no question of allowing intimidation from any side to drive us back into the closet along with the rainbow. Also, recent disease symptoms evoke unpleasant memories of the 1980s, when HIV and AIDS were accompanied by disgusting stigma. Moreover, the world looks quite different after the passage of COVID-19 and the start of a new war in Europe as a successor to a cynical power struggle in Syria. A lot of LGBTQIA+ people found themselves isolated or had to flee.

A great deal has been accomplished, but there is still much to be vigilant and combative for. That is why we want to use this anniversary to look forward, more specifically 15 years into the future, to 2037. What will our society ideally look like then? What are our hopes, what are our dreams? Together we will search for Queertopia. Further on in this booklet you can read some interesting reflections on this subject.

But as I said, 15 years of pride is also a reason to celebrate. This year's program is even more impressive than the last "big" edition in 2019. On top of the program of then, we are throwing an extra opening night in the fairytale OLT Rivierenhof and a third edition of Trail of Stories with beautiful photos of beautiful people, made by Noortje Palmers and enriched this year with illustrations by illustrator Mattias De Leeuw, a Queer DJ Project in collaboration with Kavka and all the Lovers, and an extra party square at Sint-Andriesplaats with a literary program and more intimate dance festival. Further on in this booklet you will find the line-up of all this beauty we are particularly proud of. 15 years of Pride is also an ideal time to pass the torch afterwards. In 2008 I had the enormous privilege of working with an inspired team to lay the first building blocks of what today has become our city's most loving and connecting event.

Over the years we have managed to grow and blossom a tiny idea into an inspiring project that brings happiness and inspiration to a lot of people. I am incredibly grateful that I was able to make this happen with so many wonderful people (volunteers, fellow board members, partners, friends,... ). And I am convinced that the Antwerp Pride family will continue this work with equal enthusiasm.

Thank you to all the volunteers, partners, sponsors, authorities without whom we could not exist.

See you all there @ Queertopia

Bart Abeel, chairman Antwerp Pride vzw

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