Pride season upon is in South Africa and with four Prides to choose from this year one would say that we are spoiled for choice. But are we really? Last weekend there was Soweto Pride. Pretoria Pride and The People’s Pride are taking place this weekend and Joburg Pride the end of the month. This year we have four Pride events that are supposed to bring the LGBT community together, events that should show our community’s solidarity and events that are supposed to bring awareness to LGBT issues. But instead of doing this, this year’s Pride season has done more to divide our LGBT community than ever before. There has been infighting, scandals, alleged death threats, social media campaigns that have done more harm than good, all of which caused many queer folk to wonder whether Pride is still relevant and causing many others to consider boycotting Pride altogether. I am one of those queers who decided that I will not attend any of the Pride events this year, and this is why.
The last couple of years I have seen Joburg Pride on a gradual downward slide. The event became more of a money making scheme exploiting gay folk rather than the Pride event it should have been. All of this led to some serious questions being asked in the gay community as to how the Pride event’s finances were being managed, whether the event still had any importance in our community and why the event seemed to have been getting more poorly organized each year. Many people, including myself, became unhappy and started not attending the event. Then earlier this year Joburg Pride’s board resigned and all hell broke loose.
A group of well meaning LGBT people decided to organize a new Joburg Pride and with their first public meeting it was clear that they faced a rocky road ahead. Since that disastrous initial meeting many of the initial organizers have dropped out and the activist group 1 in 9 decided to form The People’s Pride and distance themselves from Joburg Pride. There was also the incident regarding a certain sponsor, of which we dare not speak, which caused a huge uproar in the gay community leading to certain gay websites publishing contradictory articles about the debacle, threats of lawsuits ensued and some not so friendly mudslinging occurred on social media.
In the end Joburg Pride, that was supposed to take place last weekend, was postponed/ cancelled at the eleventh hour. One of the senior organizers claimed that, amongst other things, she received death threats, was the victim of intimidation and safety concerns of the Pride participants on the marching route and location as the reasons why the event was “postponed”. Whether Joburg Pride was indeed just “postponed” and not actually cancelled we will have to wait and see. I am not holding my breath and due to the obvious unprofessionalism and lack of proper organization I will not be attending it, even if it does indeed take place. Besides who cancels an event, only two days before it was suppose to take place, without even informing the talent they had hired to preform at the event anyway? Some of these people only learned about this through Facebook and NOT from the organizers. So instead of spending my money on shitty overpriced food and booze to fatten the new Joburg Pride's coffers, I will spend my hard earned gay money somewhere else.
As for The People’s Pride, it is more of a political demonstration than a Pride event. It was organized by a group of activists who caused a major incident at last year’s Joburg Pride in which people were injured. Their tactics last year seemed militant and disruptive and even though I do believe their intention was to create awareness and was not malicious, the manner in which they went about it was questionable. Personally, I do believe there is place for the politicization of LGBT issues that we believe are not being addressed by government but there is a huge difference between a Gay Pride March and a Political Demonstration. Sure they are not mutually exclusive but their intentions are quite different. Also not being clear on exactly what The People’s Pride short term and long term objectives are, I don’t feel comfortable attending their Pride either.
As for Pretoria Pride I believe that it was incorrectly named. It should have been called Babylon Pride, because that is exactly what it is. It is a “Pride” event that was organized by the owners of Babylon nightclub and much of the event centers more around the nightclub than the city the Pride event is suppose to represent. Even the location of the Pride march is conveniently located within a stone’s throw from Babylon nightclub. They also do not even have an original theme for the event. The closest they came was “Gay by birth. Proud by choice”. Honestly guys, did you steal that off a gay bumper sticker. Really?
Seeing as “Pretoria Pride” does not appear to me to be a legitimate Pride event but is, in my opinion, nothing more than a cleverly architected Public Relations and Marketing ploy by Babylon I do not plan to participate in it either. I mean honestly, doesn't Babylon make enough money off the gay community already? Do they really need a bogus Gay Pride to line their pockets any further? Besides, I don’t even consider Centurion to be part of Pretoria anyway. If I wanted to participate in a marketing event I would go to one of VW family days. But this is just my opinion.
So this year we have four Pride events none of which I attended or plan to attend. I know I did not say anything about Soweto Pride and the reason is simple - I don’t live in Soweto! Besides my husband and I were hosting my father-in-law’s 60th birthday party, so we wouldn’t have been able to attend it even if we wanted to. Whether I will attend any Pride events in future, I just don’t know. If things keep on going the way it is now, I don’t think I will and that will be a crying shame. At the moment I don’t have gay pride, and it is a pity because I am proud of who we are, how far we have come and I know how far we still need to go. Let’s hope that one of these days Gay Pride will be restored to an event we can all be proud of – an event we will be proud to be a part of.
Till next time.