THE IMPORTANCE OF SOWETO PRIDE
Wed, 19 September 2012
Every year at Joburg Pride I see thousands of black gay guys arrive after the march to join in the festivities at Zoo Lake. However, the point of Pride IS the march, not a big party on the field.
The aim is to show defiance to the homophobes of this world, including our President Zuma, and his beloved Ray McCauley, and Advocate Patekile Holomisa, ANC MP and president of Contralesa, who'd all happily remove gay rights from our Constitution.
The point of the Pride march is to affirm to the world, or at least Rosebank, and the few people who watch the Pride coverage on the TV news that evening, that we are just like them; in every way except our sexual orientation.
We need to fill the streets of Rosebank with gay black men and women to show Africa that being gay is not unAfrican.
Now, one week before Joburg Pride, there is a Pride parade in Soweto. I attend every year, for the same reasons I have mentioned above. In my opinion, Soweto Pride is the more important of the events because it takes our pride directly into Soweto.
It's a place where homophobia regularly turns into acts of violence against gay people, in particular gay women, and where children are turned away from their homes by parents who do not understand. It’s at the forefront of our struggle for equality.
Sadly, compared to Joburg Pride, Soweto Pride is not well attended. The crowd does eventually swell, but once again, usually hours after the march is over. In fact, hordes of straight people from all over come to the park because there is music and drink flowing. Many of the people there don't even know why the event is taking place.
I ask my many black gay friends why they don't attend. The answers I get always upset me. The most common: "It's too ghetto". Another excuse is "it's a lesbian march". It is not. While Soweto Pride is organised by FEW (Forum for the Empowerment of Women), a black lesbian organisation, it is not a lesbian rights march, it is an LGBT rights march.
We have a struggle on our hands people. You can turn around to me and say, 'it's easy for me, my family accept my sexuality, I work for a gay friendly employer', but that's not good enough.
It may also have been easier for me, but I am fighting for the people who have it tough. I am on the streets making a noise. I use my career as a stand up comedian to drive these points home to my audiences. I ‘out’ myself regularly on stage in Polokwane, Mabopane, Soweto and Vosloorus to drive the point home.
I am getting my hands dirty because it is my struggle too. Coming out was still hard; I didn't know if my family would accept me and I was almost fired because my boss didn't like the fact that I was dating a guy.
The march in Soweto every year is there to educate people like him, to educate people like Advocate Holomisa and members of Contralesa (have they noted how many traditional healers are also gay? I suspect not).
The Soweto Pride event is in many ways so much more important than Joburg Pride. And the actual march through the streets of the township is the most powerful part of it all. It's an opportunity make a statement to the communities that most need to hear our message.
We have an incredible heritage as South Africans, but as gay South Africans and as gay Africans we still have a struggle on our hands. It’s time we all start playing our part.
This year’s Soweto Pride march will take place at Credo Mutwa park on Saturday 29 September, starting at 10am. Another event to diarise is Ekurhuleni Gay Pride on 22 September, at Bahamas in Kgaswane Street, Kwa-Thema, Springs, also starting at 10:00.