Recently someone asked me, “Cameron why is there is need to have Jo’burg Gay Pride and inconvenience us as motorists by closing off the roads around Randburg/Rosebank? Why can’t we also have a straight pride parade?”
To say the least I was flabbergasted but sadly there a lot of people who think like this. The best way to answer this question is by answering it with other questions like:
- Why would you want to have a straight pride parade?
- What kind of parade would it be?
- What purpose would it serve?
One function of a Gay Pride parade is to seek acceptance and understanding from society. Another purpose, it seems, is to spend a day with a group of supportive people. Any normal straight man doesn’t need to march in a straight pride parade because he can walk in any public space with his wife/girlfriend and not be harassed, judged, mocked, or harmed in any way because of his sexuality.
Gay Pride is a great celebration of a part of the population that has been discriminated against and denied human rights. It's a great way to protest that discrimination. It's also a great way to get information and support out there to people who may not have easy access to the kind of support they need. There is every reason to be proud to show that there is value in all humanity and to stand up and be counted as equal members of society.
The last time I walked holding hands with my partner at Sandton City I got a couple of stares, giggles and frowns as a gay black man from fellow Africans.
The question “Why can’t we also have a straight pride parade?” suggests that straight people are being deprived of something in some way. I just don’t see how that’s the case. Heterosexuality is embraced by our society. It is not a basis for discrimination.
Life in South Africa is a “Straight Pride” parade. Walk through a mall holding the hand of someone of the opposite sex. Will that generate a dirty look? Bring home someone of the opposite sex to meet your family. Will there be disapproval? Do you have to “come out of the closet” to announce you’re straight? My point is that heterosexual relationships are encouraged and accepted in society. And while there is more approval for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender (hereafter LGBT) relationships than in past decades, there is still not full tolerance and acceptance for those relationships in society.
Straight pride is everywhere you look. Advertisements, movies, people kissing and holding hands in public, people showing off their wedding or engagement rings, and people showing their children are all examples of straight pride or showing a lot of straight pride.
We had to fight to be accepted and get half the rights straight people have. No wonder we're proud of who we are and what we fought for.
In May this year Advocate S.P Holomisa, Chairman of the South African Constitutional Review Comittee entertained a proposal from the House of Traditional Leaders to scrap “sexual orientation” section from the bill of rights contained in Chapter 2 of the Constitution of South Africa.
The SA Constitution reads: “The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.”
The House of Traditional Leaders suggested a redrafting of the Bill of Rights so that it would in future be legal to discriminate unfairly against gay men, lesbians and other sexual minorities. Despite 17years of democracy and one of the most “claimed” liberal constitutions in the world, South Africa still has trouble accommodating those of us who are black and gay. Black African culture doesn't accommodate homosexuality and calls by House of Traditional Leaders are not helping us one bit.
Tradition, ritual, family is paramount in any African culture out there, so as a young black man I would need to be looking for a wife, making babies, and because I am not fulfilling those roles, society does not know how to deal with me. Hence there is still a need for us to have Gay Pride.
The tragic thing about being gay is that you risk not being part of the black community, not being part of the family, not being part of society in South Africa that keeps rejecting you based on your sexual preference.
We still have serious challenges as a homosexual community in South Africa. The removal of the sexual orientation term will mean SA LGBTI citizens will face rampant homophobic discrimination and in many cases homophobic hate crimes with no recourse, the task team on “corrective rape” will be null and void and the country’s strengthening LGBTI community will have to go into hiding. We cannot live in society like that.
Noxolo Nogwaza was 24 when her body was found last year in an alley behind a store in Kwa-Thema, near Springs. She was raped, stoned and stabbed in the East Rand Township that is notoriously linked to corrective rape and murder. Kwa-Thema is the same township where the body of celebrated female soccer star and Banana player, Eudy Simelane, was found in April 2008. Simelane was gang-raped, beaten and stabbed 25 times before being disposed of in a ditch.
Nogwaza and Simelane were champions for gay rights. Simelane was one of the first women to live openly as a lesbian in KwaThema, while Nogwaza led a local gay rights group – the Ekurhuleni Pride Organising Committee. There a plenty of examples like this about hate crimes and corrective rape based on sexual orientation.
It is sad to note that black people are discrimination against one another when they know how it feels like to oppressed and discriminated. Homophobia is a very close cousin of racism. If we as black people didn't have the whole black power movement and fight against oppression by white people we would still be stuck in that racist mentality. In that case black pride was needed (and sometimes it still is). White pride is completely unnecessary because they were never denied any rights. It is the same for straight people wanting to have a “Straight Pride” when they were never denied to access to express their sexuality they way they want to. In 2012 South African gays show their pride because they need to ensure their rights in order to live a happy and secure life.
Gay Pride is necessary and still relevant because there are people who do not feel proud of being gay especially some if you are black.
Some of us as black homosexuals go through things like this:
- Consider committing suicide and have committed;
- Physically harm their body (cut);
- Are verbally or even physically harassed and bullied;
- Have been disowned by their own family or friends;
- Forced into marriage with women by our families;
- Have been told that they are "condemned" and/or will "burn in hell"; and
- Have been told that being gay in “UnAfrican” and “Unnatural”.
Beyond gay parades and expressions of sexuality, there is a bigger picture to consider. Lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender people deserve to live and work in communities that are safe where we will not be attacked based on our sexuality. I think everyone, whether homosexual or heterosexual wants this for themselves and their families. Everyone wants respect. Everyone wants to be treated equally. Sexuality remains a major factor in how people are treated in society. Curiosity about parades and displays of affection are understandable, but the larger issue is the existence of inequality based on sexual orientation, race and class.
We need Gay Pride events we cannot be shoved back into the closet. And as I've shown, the forces against us are working overtime to deny our very existence and to take away our right to be who we were born to be.
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