Monday, October 3, 2011

Born this Gay

Gay Pride is one of the few events in life that will get my lazy ass out of bed for at 6:30am on a Saturday morning; quite a feat as most of you know I am not much of a morning person. This year hubby and I decided to attend Johburg Pride with the Queen and the theme was quite appropriately “Born this Gay”. Johburg Pride is the longest running and biggest Gay Pride event that’s hosted on the African continent, and this year marked my 4th attendance. It was a long and fun filled day, and with Pride now done-and-dusted and the streets of Johannesburg strewn with pink feathers and glitter, I thought it appropriate to reflect here on some of the highlights and low lights of this year’s Pride.
Pride morning started with a phone call at 6:10am from the Queen “Are you bitches up yet? You are still picking me up, right? We have to leave the mansion at 9am sharp!” Being royal subjects by default of age, we obliged, fluffed our feathers and shot through to Johannesburg. We picked up the Queen and made our way to the park where Pride was being hosted. With a slight breeze with and a bit of a chill in the air we casually strolled through Zoo Lake on route to the main event area.

During our relaxed stroll the Queen whimsically pointed out all the spots the guys use to cruise each other back in the day when it was still save to do so. With a rather naughty and bashful tone he told us of all the beautiful guys he used to hook-up with while in his prime; he told us of the one time on Christmas eve back in the early 80’s when the police busted him and another guy but eventually let them go in the spirit of the holidays “Those were the days, the good old days” he satisfyingly said with a twinkle in his eye. The Queen also recalled that he used to see his now life partner of well over 20 years also cruising at the same spots, and never in his wildest dreams did he ever thought they would hook-up and stay together for so many years.

A short while later we arrive at the Pride venue. We were about an hour early and there were already loads of people streaming in. We made our way to the queue where we had to exchange our cash for “pink money”, the only currency that would be accepted at the venue that day, or so they said. Coincidentally, “pink money” also ended up being the only currency that day that we would not be able to convert back into cash later, something they conveniently forgot to tell us.

After getting our purple tokens we eagerly stalked the venue before the parade would start on the lookout to buy some gay stuff. You know, some pride memorabilia, T-shirts, key chains, stickers, that kinda gay stuff. We search the approximate 20 stalls high-and-low and could not find anything worth buying. The closest thing I could find and bought was a rather dishevelled looking pink feather boa. Another queer observation was that not only did the stalls utterly underwhelm and was a downright waste of space the “pink money” was not accepted there – they only took cash. The stalls and exhibitions gave the distinct impression of being an afterthought and as such were highly forgettable and regrettable.
Closer to the starting time of the parade people arrived in droves and there were an estimated 20 000 people that pitched up at the end. The venue was fast filling up and there were loads to gawk at, laugh at and be amazed by. From the overly flamboyant drag queens, leather daddies, guys on stilts, dykes on bikes and dogs in tutus the queers came out in full dress and came clad to impress.

As the parade started hubby, I and the Queen decided to choose a good vantage point from which to check out the floats. After all, what is a Gay Parade without floats? But, I am sad to say that this year’s floats were rather disappointing and noticeably some nightclubs that normally have floats at Pride were visibly absent. Were there some gay politics to blame? Who knows? Not a single float this year stood out as being exceptional and the bad ones were aplenty.

After the Parade we decided to get some food, which leads me to another low light of this year’s Pride. There was only one food stall, the selection was pitiful and the service was atrocious. We were famished and had to wait for an hour to get our food and once we got our order it was disappointing and the antithesis of tasty. These Queens were neither impressed nor happy. But mediocre and overpriced food and drinks didn’t dampen our mood and we basked in the gayness of Pride for a few hours longer.
The nice thing about Pride is that it’s not only a time to celebrate our community but also brings us together, and if you get 20 000 queers in one place you are bound to bump into people you know, and as such we did. Hubby and I saw friends we have not seen in years, I finally got to meet my blogging chum GeeGee Curtailed and even bumped into an estranged friend who were so tweaked out on something I think he barely remember seeing us, again reminding me why we’re no longer friends. But having forgotten to put on my sun block and having slow roasted to a medium rare in the sun the whole day, by late afternoon we decided to go back to the mansion and have a quick rest before getting ready for the Fireman’s Ball. A ball that had been hyped up to be the Gay Pride After Party of the year for which we just happened to have VIP tickets.

By early evening we had a quick supper and we started getting ready for the much anticipated Fireman’s ball. The Queen had a little freak out after he discovered that the temporary tattoo he got at Pride which was plastered on the back of his shaved head wasn’t that temporary after all. Horrified that he would have to live with a big black dragon at the back of his head for the next four weeks, he finally calmed down once we reached the ball. Like the parade, again we were early – I blame the Queen!
A roughly 9:00pm the doors were to open, and there was a queue that formed well before then. It was raining and it was cold and we were standing shivering our little gay fannies off with our VIP tickets in hand. We stood in the cold well past 9pm hoping that in the end the party would be worth it. But it wasn’t. As it turned out the 200 bucks a piece we paid for our VIP tickets was as wasteful and productive as pissing into the wind. Having a guy with a perverted expression on his face stick his hand in front of my face asking me to smell it is not my idea of fun and neither is waiting 20 minutes to get served a drink.

The fact that they also didn’t have my particular drink in stock further compounded my displeasure with the ball. Then there were the VVIP’s who had cordoned off seating next to the main dance floor, the section “guarded” by a very unfriendly looking bouncer. The VVIP’s looked as bumptious as to be expected but also looked as if they were having as much fun a rotisserie chickens under a grill. The Queens at some point retreated to their mansion without saying goodbye and hubby and I left just after 12:30am and arrived home very tired and very sober. Not quite the usual ending to a Pride celebration we are accustomed to.

All things considered Pride was not as it was before. I got the distinct impression that Gay Pride has gone from an actual celebration to an event that is run like a badly organized machine, chasing profits and instead of celebrating our community we are actually being exploited for our cash. When and how this had happened I am not quite sure.

This year’s Pride was supposed to bring corrective rape of lesbians to the attention of the world and I did not see that happening. One lonely cross in the parade with homemade A4 printed pages stuck to it hardly brought the issue to the fore front or home to the South African public. I think we need to seriously re-evaluate Gay Pride and its values, as this year I think we have lost the plot and it saddens me. After all I was born this gay and not born just to pay the way.

Till next time.


Jason Shaw said...

Oh gosh what a absolute pain in the arse it all sounds like it turned out to be. As soon as quick money and profits seem to become important so too do quality, control and ideals go out the window, is the way it seems to me. The same applies to Pride events here in Brighton, London, Toronto and even Paris.

It's such a shame that most people seem to have the bitter taste of disappointment in their mouths as they leave, all expect those few that are rubbing their hands with all the money they've made or those so utterly flying high off their gay tits on designer pharmaceutics of non prescriptive nature.

Pierre said...

@Jason Shaw "As soon as quick money and profits seem to become important so too do quality, control and ideals go out the window" I couldn't agree more!

Gee Gee Curtained said...

How on earth did I miss this post?? Anyway daaahlink! I couldn't agree with you more about what a disappointment it was. That's why the Merry Misfits and I left early... The 'pink money', the bad floats, the terrible stalls, the porta-potties, waiting over an hour to get a drink, the bad music (kwaito and boeremusiek? were they kidding??) the endless shouting coming from the stage that made us feel like we were lost and ended up at an ANC rally by accident... I could go on and on and on... We collectively decided it was our worst Pride ever, so sad! One of my highlights was definitely meeting you though! Great post! Love G xoxo

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