South Africa: Johannesburg's Gay Pride Parade – Not Much to Be Proud of

Published: October 8, 2012

This weekend at the Joburg Gay Pride parade, the One in Nine Campaign disrupted the parade to make a call for one minute of silence on behalf of the many black lesbians and transsexual individuals who have been murdered over the past few years because of their sexual orientation and gender expression. It was an act of defiance and civil disobedience.

The thing about civil disobedience is that it confronts and holds accountable the norms that exist in society today. So when Joburg Pride organiser and Chair, Tanya Harford told Mamba Online that the ‘incident’ at the Joburg Gay Pride parade on Saturday, October 6 could have been avoided if the Lesbian Feminist group One in Nine Campaign had just asked them for permission to attend the march, you can be sure she missed the point completely.

Although Joburg Pride adopted the slogan ‘protecting our rights’, the One in Nine Campaign engaged in this act of civil disobedience because the gay rights organisation clearly did not have the rights of the entire LGBT community in mind. Asking permission to intercept an event that has become more of a sponsor-driven party than a movement with a social justice or gay rights political agenda would defeat the point. If the One in Nine Campaign had asked permission it would have been slipped into the programme as an afterthought and given political legitimacy to a movement that does not deserve this legitimacy since it did not even consider the issue of a minute of silence to commemorate those murdered black lesbians of its own volition.

It was entirely necessary that the One in Nine Campaign ambushed the depoliticised Joburg Gay Pride Parade and forced a point. What transpired also served to reveal the deep malady of racism in South Africa.

Let me describe what happened when the Joburg Pride Parade encountered a group of about twenty black lesbians and gender non-conforming feminists who had blocked the road with banners and bodies. The banner carried by One in Nine said "No cause to celebrate". They handed out pamphlets to explain why they were there. They laid their bodies on the ground to prevent the parade from continuing. And mostly they called out clearly for one minute of silence.

A social media video recorded the entire protest so those who were not there got to witness the scene. What unfolded, though horrifying, was perhaps not that surprising, given that this is South Africa.

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