I have never attended a pride march. Whilst I suppose have (almost) always on some level known I was a crossdresser, transvestite, transgendered, I had never before self identified as part of the LGBTIQ (is that enough letters) community. I always felt ‘othered’. I certainly realised that due to my dressing, I was definitely ‘other’ to the straight, vanilla, ordinary world, but due to my sexuality I never considered myself part of the LGBTIQ community either. Growing up in South Africa under apartheid meant that my political development was driven more by issues of race than by sexuality. The battles fought for racial equality, fortunately meant that many battles the gay communities in the west had to fight had been de facto won by the anti-apartheid movement. Additionally transgender, intersex and queer, were relatively late comers, at least as far as I am aware, to South African society. I was certainly not homophobic and have always supported equal rights for all people regardless of race, gender, sex, sexuality etc but I just did not felt comfortable identifying as part of the LGBTIQ community.
This all changed shortly after ‘coming out’ to my wife regarding my dressing. She suggested ‘going out en femme’. At first this was a terrifying thought, but I soon began to like the idea. We started looking for a safe, relatively anonymous and comfortable venue for our outing. Almost by accident I fell into the amazing group of people that make up the Trouble community (https://www.facebook.com/Troublegaybar). Trouble is the gay bar/club that we now frequent. The management and patrons are very trans friendly and welcome all members of the LGBTIQ community. We are all accepted and welcomed in this little haven of tolerance. This acceptance and welcoming attitude has changed the way I think about myself in relation to the LGBTIQ community. I realised how wonderfully, warm, welcoming, accepting and loving the people I had met were. I felt at home and at peace with these amazing people. We are a small group of very diverse people. We have transgendered people on various points of the spectrum, we have drag queens, transvestites, crossdressers, gays, lesbians, full timers, part timers, straight and bisexual people. There are admirers, ‘tranny chasers’, wives, girlfriends, boy friends etc. Pretty much the works. There are white people, Indian people, coloured people and black people (in the South African context this is significant).
We all broadly fall under the LGBTIQ banner. But primarily we are people. I now feel the need to declare, publicly, my support for the LGBTIQ community in South Africa and do what little I can to help advance the rights of our community. It should be noted that whilst South Africa has a very supportive legal framework for the LGBTIQ community (we have many protections and freedoms in law), South African society can be far less tolerant. Some parts of South African society think that homosexuality should be illegal. Lesbians in some areas are subjected to ‘corrective rape’ and murder. Transgendered people are certainly not understood and subject to abuse and discrimination. So we still have a long way to go. The legal battles have been won, changing hearts and minds of ordinary people may be harder.
The least I can do is to participate in the Gay Pride march. So I am thinking I may just do this this year. But this presents a small problem for me. The province I live in consists of 3 major metropolitan areas: Pretoria, Johannesburg and Vereeniging. These metropoles are separated by about 120 kilometers. we live in a geographically small (for South Africa) province but we are densely (by South African standards) populated. Sadly we have (by my last count) the following Pride marches: Pretoria Pride, Sandton Pride, Johannesburg Pride, Soweto Pride and People’s Pride all marching in broadly the same area over a two month period. As always with such things the community is divided rather than united by the different marches. Each march is organised by different groups of people each pushing a slightly different agenda.
The potential political minefield is quite scary, especially for a relative novice such as myself who is really only wanting to express support and solidarity for the broad LGBTIQ community. If you support the one pride then you are going to be seen as ‘anti’ the other, if you march this week can you march the next? I really do not know what to think. A part of me thinks it would be a fine show of solidarity to join every march, but I honestly do not have time for that. Another side of me thinks that unless the community can put its differences aside it may not deserve supporting, but I am part of the community and that attitude reinforces the problems. I really do question why we allow our communities to become so fractured and allow issues that are not integral to our cause to splinter us into factions. Perhaps we lack leadership, perhaps we have become complacent?
In the meantime, what am I do to do? Yes, it really is all about me when you get right down to the crux! Fortunately I have a long time to decide what to do. The Pride marches are only at the end of the year, but best I don my thinking cap soon.
I don’t care about the politics of such things. In the grand scheme of things it is such a shame that such pettiness exists. If you have the time and the inclination, go to to as many (or few) as you want to and know you participated for the right reasons.
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Your description of the various factions within the LBG community in relation to pride events brings to mind the various groups / splinter groups and sub groups within the Trans* community within The North Of Ireland, a small area of less than 2 million people. None of these groups appear to agree and each are largely dominated by an individual who cannot get along with others simply because they have a very narrow view of matters. This is a very sad reality and until all these small groups can set aside their differences and accept that we are all individuals, the Trans* cause here will never be advanced. In fact the gay communitiy have monopolised on this lack of cohesion and have tagged the T onto their cause, but the result is any funding or assistance rarely now gets to the Trans* cause directly.
I do not think we lack leadership as such, we have lost sight of where we should be going through the selfish desires of many individuals who rather that uniting us are dividing us.
United we stand. Divided we fall.
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Absolutely Michelle, spot on, My point about leadership is that we need leaders to unite us. To do this they need to put their petty and/or personal interests aside and work together with the whole community for a shared vision. Idealist much? Probably. 🙂
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