UCKAR Pride Week has once again rolled around for its 2017 edition – this year, focusing on inclusivity in the LGBTQIA++ community. Recently, debate around racism within the community, and the marginalisation of certain gender identities and sexualities, has stirred up a great deal of controversy. In South Africa, both Johannesburg and Cape Town Prides have been criticised for catering mainly to white queer1 people, and excluding people of colour.
Further abroad, the decision by Philadelphia Pride to add black and brown stripes to their pride flag, as a recognition of the intersectionality of race in queerness, has sparked further discussion around the ambit of the queer community. By contrast to the rising focus on race, there is nothing new in the phenomena of bi- and pan-erasure, and the stratification of the queer community in terms of gender performance. Nkoli-Fassie Society looked to address all these issues in Pride Week, hosting much more than a simple Pride celebration.
The week began on Monday 4th with the name-change ceremony of Nkoli-Fassie Society, a reflection of their commitment to accurate and radical representations of the queer commitment. Tuesday saw a panel discussion on erasure in the queer community, followed by a performance space for queer artists on Wednesday. On Thursday, the Gender Action Project showed their support for Pride Week with a screening of the Oscar-winning film Moonlight, before Friday’s Pride Walk and Drag Show extravaganza.
What is interesting about all these events, in the way they address issues of inclusion, is the complete lack of any kind of prescriptive information or lecturing. At no point did Nkoli-Fassie society seek to tell people what to do or how to think in order to benefit the community, they simply set up the space for others to engage and find their own answers. This is, I think, admirable – and it paid off.
The level of engagement throughout was incredible, with every event well attended, every discussion eagerly engaged with, and every person treated with respect. It may well be simply because, as one attendee of the Pride Walk put it, “I’m just excited because we never really get to do this.” But there is a sense that, when given the opportunity and the space to do so, the queer community is one of the few at UCKAR that can be remarkably cohesive and supportive, with another marcher calling it “the most exciting and inclusive place here.”
The rise of “masc4masc” culture, the level of racism, misogyny and prejudice in a “No fats, no femmes, no Asians” culture, Grindr, continued gay and lesbian predominance and the whitewashing of queer history are all serious issues that threaten this inclusivity. But Pride Week has shown not only a society dedicated to fghting these issues, but a community that wants to be inclusive, and aims to educate and engage with itself.
Activate will be publishing a series of articles focusing on the events of Pride Week throughout this week, looking at the ways in which some of the events have combated exclusionary tendencies, as well as giving context to the queer community’s struggle.
1 – please note that this, and the other Pride Week articles, use queer as a reclaimed umbrella term for the LGBTQIA++ community.