Anyone who has watched the 1983 hit Broadway musical, La Cage aux Folles, or the screen adaption, The Birdcage, knows that the best kind of party involves a nightclub, a pageant of drag queens and at least one foreigner. There should be feather boas and sparkling heels that make the most seasoned supermodel develop vertigo. There must be music, chiselled abs, choreographed dancing and plenty of little pink drinks. Much like a pride parade.
Held the world over, gay pride parades are aimed at raising awareness for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities and usually involve a vast amount of merriment and glitter. They’re also a great excuse for hotties to take the majority of their clothing off and for people to wear wigs that would make Nicki Minaj green with envy.
Africa’s first gay pride parade was held in Johannesburg in 1989, and the following year, Joburg Pride was born. The inaugural parade reportedly had fewer than 1 000 attendees, some of whom wore paper bags over their heads to hide their identities. Joburg Pride eventually grew to approximately 20 000 attendees.
However, on 3 April this year, Joburg Pride announced that they would stop the annual parade. The committee cited a number of reasons, including the demonstration by the members of the One in Nine Campaign, a feminist collective (non anti-gay) and activist group aimed at highlighting violence against women.But rising from the ashes of the sequined phoenix comes the capital city’s very own parade and the first Pretoria Pride promises to be about inclusion. “Even Piet Pompies with his organisation can come and participate,” says Bruce Walker, organiser of Pretoria Pride.
Walker was on the board of Joburg Pride for several years and firmly believes that a pride parade in Pretoria is necessary for people from all communities and affiliations to come together. Pride parades, for Walker, are an important opportunity for the LGBT community to form a support base and Pretoria Pride is an attempt to create a solid foundation for an annual event in Pretoria. While some people look at the Joburg Pride debacle and may have begun to wonder if Pride is a demonstration rather than a celebration, Walker believes that it should be a combination of both. Walker says that Pretoria Pride should be about education and the formation of traditions that Pretoria’s LGBT community, and those of neighbouring provinces, can continue well into the future.
“The up-and-coming generation don’t know what went before and they need to understand their rights and what they could lose. The older generation must pass it on because in a few years time, we won’t be here,” says Walker.
Pride parades allow for the creation of a support base to protect everyone and their rights. “If the constitution is ever threatened, the next generation will have a mechanism in place to fight against any discrimination. We need to recognise our rights and be respectful and grateful for them, but work to never lose those rights,” Walker says. “We don’t have to be confrontational. We need to show that this is what our community can do, and we just need someone with the balls to start it.”
Shaun Connelly, a Tuks alumnus, also believes that Pretoria Pride is an important identity-forming event for the LGBT community. “It shows solidarity. For years, gay people have been shunned to the corner. This is a day created for them, by them, to show strength and, literally, pride for who we are.” Connelly says that Pride gives people an opportunity to show others that they aren’t ashamed of being gay and that it isn’t something that should be frowned upon in this day and age. “At the same time, it gives a sense of hope to the younger generations who might be struggling with their sexualities,” says Connelly.
Pretoria Pride will be following the fabulous footsteps of marches all around South Africa, from both remote communities and big cities alike. Ekurhuleni held two Pride Parades in 2011 and 2012 but have not yet announced one for 2013. Limpopo Pride’s first event was held in 2012 and reportedly attracted about 200 participants, but organisers believe that this year’s march in May will be bigger. Nelson Mandela Bay Pride will be holding its third Pride on 9 November this year and Durban Pride is also having its third march on 29 June this year. Cape Town Pride has been held annually since 2001 and theirs is one of the largest LGBT events in South Africa – a festival of parades and parties that span over a week at the end of February each year.
As for Pretoria Pride, Walker and his team are in the process of registering a non-profit organisation and are drawing up a constitution which will be made available online. Pretoria Pride will issue an open letter to anybody who wants to get involved.
The preliminary date for Pretoria Pride is set for 7 September this year and plans are to hold the celebrations in the parking lot outside Babylon The Club in Centurion. Tickets will be made available in the coming weeks and your R10 gets you entrance to the parade and a bottle of water to sustain you while you strut your stuff.
So, no matter which city you find yourself in, there will be a place to let your gay flag fly. Speaking of gay flags, in July 2012, South Africa became the first country to officially recognise a gay flag. Yay for us.
Image: Brad Donald