So I decided to participate in Pride this year, after missing last year’s event. When all is said and done the actual parade is the only time of the year this city comes to together as a LGBTI community. It is a liberating experience to STAND UP AND BE COUNTED (this year’s Pride theme) and take to the city streets with thousands. Sadly the cause begins and end there. While women and children are the victims of sexual violence, slain daily and we are all potential victims of police brutality there is work to be done. Gay rights are not human rights for all who live in this land.
As we grow in our young democracy, we also grow apart, branching off in search of our own queer identities and groups. This I believe essentially disconnects us from each other and the weight of a common cause can be lost in a non-applicable box. With every year I see the Pride event moving further away from cause and closer to just being a party.
This is evident in how Pride is organised. There is little / no participation of NGOs and activists’ forums -the people who do the real work for change. Communities who make up the larger LGBTI sector are excluded from event planning. These are the very same communities who are still fighting for their basic human rights as citizens of this country. What started with our Bill of Rights still desperately needs to be realised and brought to life. What started out as a march in 1990 is following global trends in becoming a parade. Can we really afford to turn a blind eye? In previous years, the NGO that is Pride would have its own account for sponsorship and donation. This year money is being transferred into a new account that’s been referred to as the Village Team account. And why was the Pride shelter only represented by people asking for donation with collection tins on the street? Was the shelter not a Pride NGO initiative not too long ago? And where is the inclusion of the queer family with kids in tow?
Then there’s the after party. An area is cornered off around the handful of clubs that make up the ‘gay village’ by far not big enough to accommodate all attending the parade. The same clubs who vetoed The Annual Red Party – a big fundraiser event – being on a Friday, a prime trading night. An event that can raise up R40 000 and entails all clubs and bars in the ‘gay village’ to donate their door takings for 1 night to the cause. Apparently this has become ‘inconvenient’ to club owners who take our money for the other 364 days of the year. The entry free ensures not all can attend, as masses of township youth gathered outside the after party area for the duration of the after party. What does Cape Town Pride mean to them? And why are we being charged to enter a space where the artists allegedly perform for free, the clubs make their money at the bar and stall owners make their money from selling their goods?
Not even 2km from the after party area there are 3 bars that were excluded from the festivities, their events not included on the Pride calendar… Bubbles Bar -the first and only drag bar, Cafe Manhattan the 1st and longest running gay restaurant and 021 -the only black bar in the village.
So why was I there? My freedom was not given to me and it will never rest in the hands of a minority who cannot relate to me. I participated in my first Pride march in early 1994. It was my second last year at high school and very early in my journey as a lesbian. Joined by my first butch friend we marched through the streets of the city centre, filled with so much fear and hope all at once, knowing I was part of a changing society.
I never thought I could live my life the way I do now. My journey, not without scars, has brought me to this beautiful space of love and freedom to explore opportunities. For the first time in my life I am building a life with another and it is amazing! That is what I want to work towards. Ensuring that these liberties I have every day are not a privilege but a right across the lines that divide. This is the LGBTI community I want to be part of.