Written by Simply Duma
As we close off October and say goodbye to another South African Pride Month celebration, I sit and ponder on what the significance of the event and occassion means to our queer peers today. I will always be happy that the young bloods are having fun and are exploiting their accessibility to the “soft life”, but what does it mean to us as a collective?
My first introduction to pride was through the amazing and groundbreaking series ‘Noah’s Arc’, the very first gay production I had feasted my eyes on. It was not only wholesome and really made me so comfortable and joyful, but it was also my first queer focused content experience. It not only validated my queerness, but also celebrated it. It was a groundbreaking piece of film that was the first American drama to cast an all-Black, all-queer group of characters. The idea of ‘gay pride’ was first introduced to me in the series and it sparked my curiosity and my research. The show really did act as a catalyst for so many gay boys (including myself) to start believing that one could live freely and openly, and have people that support me (even if they’re not queer) and get the man of my dreams. The only downside I can count is that it made me jealous of the privileges that international queer people had, with being able to celebrate their existence so loudly and proudly on a specific day.
This jealousy would be sated once I found out about South African Pride. To be very honest, I had no idea of there being a Pride of our own, but I was elated once I learned of it. I expected nothing less than community acceptance, to feel celebrated for my queerness, and the nostalgia of the acceptance and warmth I felt from watching it on Noah’s Arc.
My first gay pride was such an amazing experience. If I remember well, my first gay pride was in 2012 and it was at Zoo Lake in Johannesburg. That was one of the most exilarating experiences in my queer life to be honest – everyone looked fabulous and comfortable to be in their skin. People were dressed to the nines, and I was trying to wrap my head around being surrounded by so many gay boys and other amazing queer bodies. That was truly a life changing experience. Pride has then since changed – not only for the better, but I stopped having the same exciting emotions when I thought of pride as time and years went on. Something was a bit off and I was not aware of what made it so different. Whatever the reason, I had slowly but surely stopped attending Pride altogether.
Unfortunately, I had realised that we were slowly feeding into the stereotype. I wish more of our brethren could realise that we live in a world that tells us how act, think, move, etc. so feeding a stereotype would be allowing the world to dictate your life and actually trying to satisfy the stereotype whereas claiming your identity means defying the boxes that the world puts us in, it is going against everything the world says you are and actually being who you are!
LGBTQ+ people are among the most vulnerable populations because we are susceptible to coercion and exploitation, social exclusion, lack of social support, low self-esteem, high possibility of physical and mental diseases, and lack of access to proper health services as opposed to the non-marginalised communities, so our responsibility as queer bodies is to always let our own light shine because in doing so we are allowing the next person to do the same. And once the community moves together in a certain wavelength, there’s many challenges that can be expected to stand in our way.
Personally, I feel like learning about our heritage and history can help us understand how we became who we are. Not just as queer bodies, but as individuals. Having a historical perspective of our heritage can provide information about what we can expect in the future so that becomes a guidepost. The same way I watched Paris is Burning after being exposed to POSE, Rupaul’s Drag Race and other queer focused media and content could be the catalyst to learning more about queer ballroom culture. There is a connection between the past and the future. The combination of things we do on a daily basis and events that have occurred in the past will have an effect on what happens in the future. Also, acknowledging our queer ancestors really makes a difference to the work that they have done to ensure that the coming queer generations have a better queer experience. To a large degree, many of the decisions that are made today are done based on knowledge of what has happened in the past.
There are many ways to celebrate pride, not just for queers but allies as well. So I think I want to touch on what the members of the community (and the allies as well) can do or the steps they can take to celebrate pride more mindfully:
- Learn about Queer history (check out ‘On This Queer Day’ as a start)
- Discover LGBTQ+ films, series, literature, etc
- Wear your pride on your sleeve (get pride t-shirts, accessories, etc)
- Volunteer or donate at LGBTQ+ centres
- Attend pride with your queer friends or other allies
- Follow LGBTQ+ creators, entertainers, etc, and pay/support them.
In the end, I love seeing that we are aware of the social atmosphere and are more curious to learn about (as well as explore) the queer histories that have shaped our attitudes so far. However, be careful to not take advantage of this informations and platform, and always take note to remember how it was we came to being given these privileges. I hope you all had an amazing Pride Month, and I have no doubt that you will continue to spread the message of love and acceptance!