With so much happening around the world, it is easy to miss or look past the good that is also taking place. Today marks the first day of Pride Month and due to the lockdown and quarantine regulations that have been put in place by various countries, many people are celebrating online.
Pride Month is in June because of the Stonewall Riots that occurred in Greenwich Village, USA, in 1969. On 28 June a gay club called Stonewall Inn was raided by the police. In response to this, there were riots. The riots lasted for about six days and those who were a part of it were very clear about their intentions. Protestors wanted the establishment of places where people of the then-LGBT+ could be themselves without the fear of being arrested.
DRUM speaks to three people who have been advocating for the inclusion and education of the LGBTQ+ community about what Pride Month means, how they are choosing to celebrate/commemorate it and the changes they would still like to see.
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Pride Month is extremely important as it reminds us of all the struggles the LGBTQ+ community have faced and conquered. It’s an opportunity for us to assess where we have progressed and regressed as a community. Most importantly, it’s a time to celebrate LGBTQ+ people and remind them that they are worthy of the respect cisgender people receive without having to demand it.
To celebrate, we are educating one another about topics that concern our community. We are flooding the Twitter timeline with the Pride flag. We are also reminding people that #BlackQueerLivesMatter. This is an important time for me because this is when we get to speak up on issues we face daily. Everyone is participating and no one can silence us.
Violence and the sexual assault of LGBTQ+ people are definitely at the top of the list. The constant abuse and hatred on social media and even in real life. I am personally tired of explaining all the letters in the acronym. I’m tired of having to explain different sexual orientations, romantic orientations and gender expressions. People have access to so much information but have committed very little to learning about the community.
I think it is not coincidental every time we celebrate Pride Month, the LGBT community is plagued with violence. Queer activists of colour must deal with the notion of representation which is more regarded than our reality. I strongly believe the importance of Pride Month is to suppress the language of visibility by offering members of the community at large substantive access to power. I’ve been advocating for Miss South Africa to be inclusive, to not just perform inclusivity but rather to challenge exclusivity in their pageant. We need to understand that representation does not equate to justice.
Today is not about celebrating. We get carried away with that term, but it’s about commemorating the Stonewall Riots in the United States. Today is not just about parades and flying the flag high, but about the riots that escalated because of police brutality. I’m not going to celebrate Pride Month throughout this month because there is nothing to celebrate. There are a lot of things happening to transpeople, queer people, around the world, for us to celebrate. I’m going to take this time to mourn those people and commemorate the leaders that have paved the way, your Marsha P Johnsons and your Sylvia Riveras, because those are the people who have equipped me with the strength I have today. I want to take today and the rest of the month to indulge in the notion that I’m living in a world where my pain is other people’s glee and it is my grief.
I am tired of the media attention that we as transgender activists, in particular, receive and the violence despite being loud and proud. Transgender lives have not been documented in South Africa. I am tired because I have to fight the narratives being consumed by society because it is telling people what queer womanhood and manhood should look like, what transness should look like. I am tired of being told I’m angry and I need to work on myself while society isn’t working on themselves. One thing I advocate for is that representation is not and will never trickle down to justice if there are no measures put in place. I am tired of living in a democratic country and yet not being given substantive access to power. I am tired of being trans before I am black.
The importance of Pride is to let people know that queer people exist, are here to stay and have always been here to stay. They are not here to listen to people to tell them who they are. People should accept that. Whether they like it or not, we’re here to stay and we’re here to win. It’s also to slowly but surely take away the stigma of what being queer is because it is very vast. It’s to show all the queer identities that exist and to bring us together. Outside of our own queer borders, life is not necessarily the easiest thing. This is the time to unapologetically have fun and be who you want to be.
Pride to me means having fun and being who you are, whatever that means, and being proud of it. Being able to live your true self throughout all the chaos that is existing in the world. I don’t necessarily celebrate this month, but I feel like I’m already proud as I am and I’ve found my own group of queer people around me that I’ve found more comfort in hanging out with instead of going to major events. I already celebrate it on a daily basis, I’m out of my shell. How I choose to celebrate it is by just being myself and spreading queerness wherever I can by informing people and supporting queerness.
One of the changes I would like to see within the community, outside the community and how people are treated is more acceptance. Especially with transgender queer bodies. A lot of transgender people still go through discrimination within the community. I would also like to see biphobia being eradicated because it exists within and outside the community. I feel like that needs to be revisited because there’s no reason for that. The oversexualisation of bisexual women needs to stop because it’s very dangerous. The killing of lesbians, especially in the South African context where correctional rape is happening. People need to be more educated. Queer lives are also black lives so when you say “black lives matter” it is not a separate fight. We still have a lot of homophobia around the black communities. This is the time for people to start rising and say no. As much as people support the fight against black oppression, we need to also support the fight against black queers.
In 2006, South Africa became the first country in Africa and fifth in the world to legalise marriage between same-sex couples, following an application by Marie Fourie and Cecelia Bonthuys to be allowed to marry. Before that, the constitution didn’t grant people of the LGBTQ+ community the same rights as the ones granted to heterosexuals. Today, our constitution expressly prohibits unfair discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. However, the discrimination and violence continues, and so does the fight to be treated equally in every sphere.
Here are some tweets in celebration of the first day of Pride Month:
???????????????????????????????????— ??buhle the chakra hun?? (@buhlengoma_) June 1, 2020
Happy pride month to a community that deserves visibility, respect, funding and continuous affirmations. A particular shout out to those who have to endure homo/bi/trans/queer phobia at home because your truth is not valid. I see you.— Lwa (@Alwande_xo) June 1, 2020
You matter. I matter. We matter ???????????????