Tuesday, March 4, 2014

South Africa - Gay Pride 2014

This midterm, I hauled myself 1,700 kilometers across the continent from Swaziland to Cape Town Pride. And while, over the course of five days, I spent a grand total of 60 hours on a bus, and a mere 8 hours asleep in a proper bed, it was totally worth it. No doubts, no questions - it was absolutely, positively fabulous.
Gay Pride is something that happens all around the world, in various countries, albeit at different times of the year. It's a celebration of diversity, and an acceptance for being one's self, and essentially a big party to promote free love in such a world full of hate. While South Africa has a liberal constitution that allows gay marriage, hate crimes still run rampant, and neighboring nations such as Zimbabwe and Swaziland still have extremely anti-gay laws in place.

And yet, thousands upon thousands of people turned up in the street for the parade and festival. I don't know exactly when I realized it, but I found myself very nearly crying at the sheet sight of so many different people all together. I don't even know how to express the feeling of seeing it, especially after having been living in Swaziland for the last year, which is not the nicest place to be queer (I'm technically breaking the law every time I enter the country). And so, after quite a long time in Swaziland now, being a part of Cape Town's Pride literally made my heart swell.
I guess this is the moment that sums it up for me: at one point, this particular drag queen was on stage. Her name is Mary Scary, she's wonderful, and yeah. Anyways, she was up on stage, and she says, "Let me hear you if you've ever been called a dyke! Let me hear you if you've ever been called a faggot!" Hearing the noise that people made after that made my legs practically drop out from under me. Sometimes (that's a lie - most of the time), it's difficult to be proud, faced with so many of the attitudes and discrimination against being queer in Africa. Many times, especially in Swaziland, where essentially nobody else at school is openly gay, it's isolating. Yet, there at Pride, the feeling of being one of a thousand people standing there, all sharing the same struggle, and all making it, despite every attempt made against us - it's more than powerful.
Then, led by the queens, the entire crowd lurched into a roaring rendition of (this one's for you, Ugandan legislators), "F*** YOU! F*** YOU VERY MU-U-UCH!"
I feel like I can't really articulate what this Pride meant. More than the wonderful-ness of seeing drag shows, more than the freedom of gay bars and clubs, more than the happiness of dancing on a parade float, throwing glitter at angry people watching us from their windows, it was a few days to be really, truly proud. Not necessarily rainbow socks and tiaras "proud" (although that was definitely a thing), but simply PROUD-proud. Proud as in not caring what people thought. Proud as in not worrying about people thinking the whole thing was "too gay." Proud as in showing love.
And while love is not the easiest thing, especially in a place with attitudes that are so filled with hate, love is still love, and that is a beautiful thing.

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