Organising Pride celebrations and commemorations globally during covid times has seen a creative blow in the virtual and hybrid convenings. It’s been over a year since the World Health Organisation declared the Novel Coronavirus as a global pandemic, wherein humanity had to self-reorganise, since then, it’s been business unusual for many aspects of society, including pride celebrations. It came as no surprise that a number of pre-planned pride activities had to be cancelled while others quickly adapted to the new way of doing things. This period also gave rise to innovative and broader pride celebrations such as Pride Afrique which took place in August 2020. What this Pride did was provide for an unusually bigger audience across multiple countries. The power of technology!
Much has been documented and written about the importance of remembering the stonewall riots that took place in the United States of America on the 28 June 1969 when the police raided the Stonewall inn, a popular gay bar in New York city. This was followed by a series of violent protests by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans people, though the events were not the impetus of gay rights movement in the USA, the protests galvanised forces for LGBT political activism. Three years prior to the Stonewall raid, a similar raid had taken place in South Africa. It was in January of 1966 when the South African Police raided a party in Forest Town, Johannesburg and arrested nine men for masquerading as women and participating in ‘indecent activities.’ This was followed by further legally restricting same-sex activities which resulted in the Amendment of the Immorality Act of 1969 which was gazetted by the then government on the 26 May 1969, which prohibited two or more men from being together and performing any act that would arouse ‘sexual passion’. The amendment also raised the age of consent for male homosexual activity from 16 to 19, although ‘sodomy’ and ‘unnatural acts’ were already criminal.
As from the 1st of June, media is abuzz with the word Pride Month in many parts of the globe as LGBT Pride celebrations are taking place, most commemorating the Stonewall. I often wonder if the month of June is also befitting of Pride Month celebrations in South Africa. This despite the month of June being declared as the Youth Month in the country, commemorating the student uprising that took place on 16 June 1976.
The celebration of Pride in several cities takes place in the month of June to recognize LGBTQI history and the progress made towards equality. Due to COVID-19, many annual Pride events and festivals have been cancelled. Beyond the festivities, the significance of Pride is to promote the visibility of LGBTQI people; provide an opportunity to break stereotypes; and show support to family and friends who are queer.
In the light of the hate crimes that have been happening around South Africa since the beginning of this year, I must say it’s quite deafening the silence of leaders who normally would speak against violence perpetrated against women and children. There have been attempts made by the LGBTQI community itself however the movements seem to be on their own despite some proclamations made by the President of the Country during the Freedom Day Celebrations condemning homophobic and transphobic murders. “This is something we should be deeply ashamed of. I want to send a very strong message that hate crime will not be tolerated in our society,” Ramaphosa