“The Joburg Pride theme sucks big time,” said an officer of Transgender and Intersex Africa, an organisation working for the advancement of transgender and intersex people across Africa.
The theme for this year’s Pride, set for October 1, was launched with great fanfare on May 31. Jo’burg Pride organisers said then that the theme “Born This Gay” was decided upon as a way of stressing, “It’s not an easy life being gay, you get put into a box, labelled and discriminated against, just for living as you were born to be.”
However, members of the group Transgender and Intersex Africa have rejected the 2011 Joburg pride theme “Born This Gay” saying that the theme is not inclusive and only appears to accommodate gay people.
A Trans man in Johannesburg, who chose to remain anonymous wrote an email to Behind the Mask in which he expressed his frustrations with the theme. His email, sent via BlackBerry read in part, “I would like to find out if the theme for this year’s pride is mistakenly exclusive of Transgender/Transsexual people or [are the organisers saying] they would rather it just be a Gay pride?
“As a heterosexual transsexual person I would like this clarified and would like to know if our affiliation to the ‘LGBTI’ Joburg Pride is an error on our part.”
He said, “We would hate to perpetuate the mistaken idea that being transgender/transsexual can be classed as homosexual and endorsing this year’s pride under that theme would do just that.”
Leigh Ann van der Merwe, a Trans woman in the Eastern Cape asked, “How can they advocate to being inclusive about LGBTI but do this?”
She said that if it was up to her the theme would say something about “Celebrating Diversity” saying, “Within the LGBTI community, we all bring different elements to the community and we must celebrate those differences.”
Leigh Ann said that even if she was in Johannesburg she would never enter a space that is created exclusively for gay people. “This points to the marginalisation of the Trans community. We are being side-lined because Trans and Intersex people are about gender identity and not about being straight or gay,” she said.
Robert Hamblin, Advocacy Manager & Deputy Director at Gender DynamiX, an organisation that works for the advancement of transgender and intersex people said, “This theme is unacceptable. People believe that gay people know the latest trends, but they definitely got it wrong this time.”
“International trends are inclusive of LGBTI people, they can’t swallow us with the word gay.”
Making a reference to pop diva Lady Gaga’s song ‘Born this Way,’ Hamblin said “Lady Gaga can be inclusive why can’t Joburg Pride be? When Gaga said ‘Born This Way’, she meant all LGBTI people. While, historically people believed that transgender was another form of gay, we know today that this is not true. Transgendered people have their own identity which cannot be subsumed by gays and lesbians.”
Jo’burg pride dates back to the early 1990s, with the first ever Pride parade taking place in Johannesburg in 1990.
The organisers of Joburg Pride could not be reached for comment by the time we published this story. However, on the event’s website the organisers state that the theme for 2011 is, “To creatively, without fail and without shame, encourage society to speak out and take action against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender hate crime. The entire community needs to consistently drive the message that being gay or lesbian is NOT a fashion statement, a sickness, a crime, a curse or a choice.”
The statement goes on to say, “Jo’burg Pride 2011, in celebration of 22 years of existence, will march under the human rights theme of “Born This Gay” on Saturday, 1 October 2011, calling for the protection of all human rights protected in South Africa’s constitution, but especially those of sexual minorities who are victimised on a daily basis.”