Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Around the World in Another 80 Gays : Part 22) Pride Takes to the Skies

Previously :  42) The Dance of The 41 (1901) gave its name to the derogatory term for a gay man in Mexico which was used by 43) Alberto B. Mendoza (b.1971) in the name of his lgbt organisation which annually honours 41 lgbt Hispanics, one of whom was 44 ) Dr. Alicia Gaspar de Alba (b.1958), a writer of a lesbian mystery novel, a genre pioneered by 45) Katherine V. Forrest (b.1939), a former editor of Naiad Press whose books were published in Czech by 46) Markéta Navratilova (1975).

46) Markéta Navratilova (no relation to the more famous Martina, as far as I know) founded LePress in 2007. It was the first lesbian publishing house to be established in the Czech Republic. Markéta had lived in the UK for a couple of years and was impressed by the amount of lesbian literature that was available in mainstream book stores.

Back home in the Czech Republic Markéta’s friends expressed an interest in reading lesbian fiction but none of the publications were available in Czech. This led Markéta to found LePress as a way of expanding the lesbian literature market into eastern Europe. Looking at the back catalogue of Naiad Press which had been sold to Bella Books Markéta selected two romantic novels which she published as the first Czech language lesbian novels in the Czech Republic. From such small beginnings LePress has grown to include other lgbt publications and genres, including children’s books like the famous “And Tango Makes Three”.

Markéta Navratilova is also an activist. She is a member of the organising committee of the 2019 International Gay and Lesbian Association Europe conference to be held in Prague, and of the organising committee of Prague Pride.

Another member of both committees, and the core team manager of the 2019 conference, is 47) Czeslaw Walek (b.1975). His involvement with Prague Pride came about through his career as a lawyer and human rights campaigner. Between 2009 and 2011 he was Deputy Minister of Human Rights and Minorities. In late 2010 Czeslaw was approached by a group of people who wanted to organise the first Prague Pride. They asked him to draw up a constitution for their committee. His position as a Deputy Minister meant that he had established contacts with the government and police and he attended the committee meetings to offer advice.

By January 2011 the committee was looking for a Chair. Czeslaw was persuaded to accept the position. “Let’s try for a month”, he is reported to have said. Seven years later, in July 2018, he’s still Chair of Prague Pride.

Czeslaw’s appointment as Deputy Minister came during an unstable period in Czech politics. Just two months into the job the Czech government collapsed, and two years later the Human Rights Minister resigned and Czeslaw was put in charge of the department.

One of the areas in which Czeslaw is particularly pleased to have made an impact was the increase in the rights and attitudes towards the Roma community. In 2003 he was appointed Director of the Office of the Governmental Council for the Roma Community. It was in collaboration with Roma groups and the Equal Opportunities Party that Czeslaw campaigned as the Green Party candidate in the 2013 Czech parliamentary election.

His appointments were, so far, non-elective, and during his time in office there was only one openly lgbt member of the Czech government, Gustav Slamečka, the non-elected Minister of Transport (2009-10). Czeslaw didn’t win his Prague seat in 2013 and so didn’t earn the honour of being the first openly elected member of the lower house of the Czech parliament.

However, there had already been an openly lgbt member of the upper house, the Senate. He was 48) Václav Fischer (b1954). He was elected as an independent, openly gay, Senator for Prague’s municipal district 1 in 1999 with a massive 71% of the vote. During his three-year term of office he worked on the European Integration Committee. He decided not to seek re-election at the end of the three years.

Part of the reason for his success in the election was due to him being a successful and popular businessman. In 1999 his airline company, Fischer Air, was (after Skoda and Budweiser) the most recognised corporate brand in the Czech Republic. The origin of the company went back to 1980 when Václav, then living in Germany, founded the Fischer Reisen travel agency.

Following the Velvet Revolution and the long-overdue collapse of the Communist Czech dictatorship Václav leapt into the growing tourism markets. This was the basis of his success. By 1995 his business had become so successful that he was able to sell the original German part of Fischer Reisen to Lufthansa, and with the money bought a fleet of planes and set up Fischer Air.
Despite this success Václav Fischer and his company were declared bankrupt in 2003. The Czech economy was not stable enough to sustain the demand of his services. In 2005 Václav returned to Germany and set up other travel/tourism ventures and currently runs Aircraftleasing Meier and Fischer.

Vaclac Fischer is one of very few lgbt businessmen to run an airline. Another, who also has links to Lufthansa, is 49) Sir Michael Bishop, Baron Glendonbrook (b.1942).

Next time : We fly down to Rio with Lufthansa.

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