On Saturday the 6th October, at Joburg Gay Parade, about 20 black lesbians and gender non-conforming feminists from the One in Nine Campaign were assaulted and intimidated by Joburg Pride organising committee members and their marshals. The Campaign disrupted the parade to demand one minute of silence to remember those members of the LGBT community who have been murdered because of their sexual orientation and gender expression. Campaign members were distributing leaflets to explain why they were there. Instead of engaging with us, Pride organisers assaulted us, threatened to drive their cars and trucks over us, called us names and told us we had no right to be at the parade. As lesbians and gender non-conforming people, we had every right to be there and to claim the space and assert our demands as anyone else attending the parade.
Watch our video of the parade, including the assaults and our critique and analysis of Pride:
Watch a Gay Parade marshal with a motorcycle helmet on head-butting a lesbian activist, and other footage on:
Below is the text of the leaflet we attempted to hand out at the Gay Parade.
One Minute of Silence for the Dead
- Ivan Johannes
- Zoliswa Nkonyana
- Madoe Mafubedu
- Simangele Nhlapo
- Sizakele Sigasa
- Salome Masooa
- Thokozane Qwabe
- Waldo Bester
- Eudy Simelane
- Khanyiswa ‘Lhoyie’ Hani
- Desmond ‘Daisy’ Dube
- Neil Daniels
- Sibongile Mphelo
- Girly ‘S’Gelane’ Nkosi
- Noxolo Magwaza
- Nqobile Khumalo
- Nontsikelelo Tyatyeka
- Thapelo Makhutle
- Phumeza Nkolonzi
- Sasha Lee Gordon
- Andritha Thapelo Morifi
- Sanna Supa
- Ntombana Desire ‘Deezay’ Mafu
- Gugu ‘George’ Mazibuko
- And countless more, unnamed and unknown
Everyday, in every town, city, settlement, and village in the country, lesbians, bisexual women, transgender men and other female-born people are subjected to daily indignities and violations. Like sex workers, single women, HIV positive women and women with non-normative gender expression, lesbians, transgender men, and bisexual women are beaten, threatened, raped, murdered, denied employment, rejected by their families and denounced by religious and cultural leaders who use the precepts and spaces of our cultures and faiths to exclude and oppress.
As violence against lesbians, bisexual women, transgender men and other gender outlaws escalates, government continues to be ineffective and unresponsive. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development constituted a task team with much fanfare in 2010 and claimed that it was going to address criminal violence on the grounds of sexual orientation. Yet, more than two years later, attacks against lesbians appear to be on the rise, and the community has not seen any results from the task team.
Yes, we have rights – rights that were won through decades of activism, rights that grant almost complete formal equality to lesbians, gay men, and bisexual and transgender people; and rights that must be defended against assaults from regressive forces.
And yet: The numerous legal reforms and policy changes granting equal rights to members of the LGBT community – from marriage rights to official recognition of people’s preferred gender identity – have not put a dent in the vicious attacks against black lesbians, bisexual and transgender people and gay men. Increased visibility has been accompanied by increasingly gruesome acts of rape, murder and torture. In the absence of social and economic justice, rights only benefit social elites and a privileged few.
The first pride in Johannesburg took place in 1990. Bev Ditsie, a forerunner of the LGBT movement in the country, said to the pride gathering that day: “Today the world is going to know that we here in South Africa have been oppressed for too long. We can’t stand it any more. … Today we are making history.” Simon Nkoli spoke after her: “I am black and I am gay. I cannot separate the two parts of me into secondary or primary struggles. In South Africa I am oppressed because I am a black man, and I am oppressed because I am gay. So when I fight for my freedom I must fight against both oppressions.”
A quarter century later and nearly two decades into the “new” South Africa, the oppression that Bev and Simon named remains just as present in the lives of black lesbians, gay men and bisexual and transgender people. The difference is, pride has ceased to be a space for charting new futures and has, with a few exceptions, been stripped of all political content.
The de-politicisation of most prides has allowed the old, racial apartheid to be translated into a new, economic apartheid, which is clearly evident in many pride celebrations. Capitalist consumerism and individualistic rights claims now characterise many prides in South Africa, as they characterise most other spaces for the LGBT community. This is not the history that Bev, Simon and others imagined they were making in 1990. They, and we, never imagined that pride would become little more than a marketing and pinkwashing tool for corporations whose ostensible support of LGBT rights serves to mask their rampant violation of other rights. We never imagined that we would matter only if we constituted the “gay market,” had “double income, no kids” and were aflush with the “pink rand.”
It is time for everyone – queer, lesbian, femme, trans, gender resistant, straight, butch, bisexual, gender fluid, black and non-black – to bring back to pride the spirit of revolution. Not only an LGBT revolution but a sexual revolution, a workers’ revolution, an anti-capitalist revolution, a revolution of unemployed people, a revolution of people living with HIV and AIDS, a revolution of immigrants, a revolution of sex workers, a revolution of single people, a revolution of students without textbooks, a queer feminist revolution.
Contact for more information and comments:
Campaign Member: Kwezilomso Mbandazayo +27-82-817 0097
Campaign Coordinator: Carrie Shelver +27-83-628 6996
The One in Nine Campaign
20 Derby Road
Tel: +27-11-024 5165
Time to Reclaim Our Pride; Boycott Joburg Gay Parade