Friday, October 2, 2009

Jozi Pride

Drunk black drag queen at the carnival by Matthieu ::
it's Jozi Pride tomorrow. When I remembered this I couldn't help having a wistful distance-staring moment as I mentally relived my camp teenage years on floats and in clubs. I was so bloody political about it back then. Dragging boys to my matric dance because it was 'my right', planning my Pride outfits weeks in advance. Now I just think the whole thing is quite funny - I mean, what the hell is the point of Pride?

Sure, it's important for people to feel they can be themselves - any psychologist will tell you that. Hell, any person who isn't psychopathic would tell you that. But what cracks me up is how the whole thing is dressed up us some sort of important political display of solidarity, as if it has gravitas. And meaning. It's so deliciously self-righteous. I won't even go into the argument about how marches like that do more to hinder gay rights than to help them - reinforcing all the stereotypes they proclaim to denounce - because that is far too heavy a discussion for a parade which is essentially a party. Yes, the overwhelming majority of gay men don't wear feather boas. Or even Gucci. But if those who do want to have a big camp street party, then fan-bloody-tastic. Roll out the drag queens and the Kylie soundtracks. But don't pretend it's saving anyone! Don't pretend it's liberating the poor confused teenager with uber-religious parents and an unforgiving circle of friends. Or even better, as the Pride parades around the world now like to position themselves: that they are defendants of the oppressed and persecuted LGBT communities in tyrannical countries. I find it a little difficult to see how glitter falling from a sweaty pec could persuade an Imam or a Republican to think "hey, these guys aren't so bad. I've always secretly just wanted to wear glitter and get shirtless too. Maybe we should all just get along."
To take yourself seriously or not to take yourself seriously. That seems to be the question which Pride is failing to answer. If the parades are having an identity crisis in post-liberation South Africa, where sexual orientation - and even gender - is becoming increasingly irrelevant, then why not go the MCQP route and be proud to be wild, epic, mixed and carnal parties? And leave human rights issues to the people who can make a difference.

But that being said, anyone who's going tomorrow - happy heeling!


  1. It's far too early in the morning to say anything intelligent here so pardon the following brainfart: I was at Soweto Pride in Meadowlands the weekend before Joburg Pride (I didn't go to the latter, I was on the rag teehee!). The counsellor for Ward 2 in Meadowlands, a straight black man with an ANC cap stood up and denounced hate crime. He denounced discrimination against the LGBT community. He welcomed everyone to be who they were in Meadowlands. It was powerful. People in the houses surrounding the park where the festivities were at came to the party and brought their entire families. This one mama who lived opposite the park let us use her toilet in exchange for t-shirts when the portopotties failed to arrive. The Dept. of Home Affairs had set up a stand to let people know of their rights. As a gay black man who grew up in a township not too dissimilar to Soweto, it was bittersweet to see something like this go off without a hitch. Sweet for obvious reasons and bitter because it made me wonder if I would have been spared those years of angst if more initiatives to be visible had gone on when I was younger. Pride isn't perfect but visibility starts dialogue and debate which in turn gets the gears going which could result in changed minds. The hope for a changed mindset is worth everything.

  2. @Boy Uninterrupted - what is Soweto Pride like? Is it a party of floats and heels and drag queens? Bernard Allen makes a good point on his blog that branding always pushes the extreme and highlights the difference. Most gay men are much more ordinary than the characters in Pride parades - and THAT is the real battle of perception to be won against homophobia and stereotyping. I promise, as someone who grew up in a liberated home in a liberated suburb, visibility of gay culture didn't spare me any teenage angst!


  4. pride is whack. showing everyone that you are completely not normal just shows people that stereotypes are there for a reason. I think people do it for the attention rather than for their supposed altruistic reasons.

  5. Exactly. Who doesn't love a dress-up? But it certainly ain't political! You should hit MCQP this year poppy :)

  6. yeah i'll hit it with the boys.