Joburg Gay Parade

7 October 2012 

Yesterday, at Joburg Gay Parade, about 20 black lesbians and gender non-conforming feminists from the One in Nine Campaign were assaulted and intimidated by Joburg Pride organising committee members and their marshals. The Campaign disrupted the parade to demand one minute of silence to remember those members of the LGBT community who have been murdered because of their sexual orientation and gender expression. Campaign members were distributing leaflets to explain why they were there. Instead of engaging with us, Pride organisers assaulted us, threatened to drive their cars and trucks over us, called us names and told us we had no right to be at the parade. As lesbians and gender non-conforming people, we had every right to be there and to claim the space and assert our demands as anyone else attending the parade. 

The first pride in Johannesburg took place in 1990. Bev Ditsie, a forerunner of the LGBT movement in the country, said to the pride gathering that day: “Today the world is going to know that we here in South Africa have been oppressed for too long. We can’t stand it any more. … Today we are making history.” Simon Nkoli spoke after her: “I am black and I am gay. I cannot separate the two parts of me into secondary or primary struggles. In South Africa I am oppressed because I am a black man, and I am oppressed because I am gay. So when I fight for my freedom I must fight against both oppressions.” 

A quarter century later and nearly two decades into the “new” South Africa, the oppression that Bev and Simon named remains just as present in the lives of black lesbians, gay men and bisexual and transgender people. The difference is, pride has ceased to be a space for charting new futures and has, with a few exceptions, been stripped of all political content. 

The de-politicisation of most prides has allowed the old, racial apartheid to be translated into a new, economic apartheid, which is clearly evident in many pride celebrations. Capitalist consumerism and individualistic rights claims now characterise many prides in South Africa, as they characterise most other spaces for the LGBT community. This is not the history that Bev, Simon and others imagined  they were making in 1990. They, and we, never imagined that pride would become little more than a marketing and pinkwashing tool for corporations whose ostensible support of LGBT rights serves to mask their rampant violation of other rights. We never imagined that we would matter only if we constituted the “gay market,” had “double income, no kids” and were aflush with the “pink rand.” 

10.10.2012 | por franciscabagulho | Gay Parade, Joburg, LGBTQI