For years the way that LGBTQIA+ people of colour have been perceived within the community here in South Africa – and around the world – is through a lens of discrimination and exclusion, by many on the SPECTRUM. But why is that the case when in fact black and brown people are the reason that we have rights and PRIDE in the first place.
PRIDE. What is it? Wikipedia defines it as “an emotional state deriving a positive effect from the perceived value of a person…with which the subject has an intimate connection. It may be inwardly or outwardly directed.”
For someone on the SPECTRUM the way that pride is expressed can be one way for someone and something completely different to another. Many of us in the community struggle to find that pride because of the way we grew up, the influences in our lives or perhaps the media we take in. Everyone on the SPECTRUM understands this in one way or another, whether you are out or not. Making it strange and disheartening that certain people in the “community” have become the oppressors of expression and freedom.
On October 13, 1990 in Johannesburg, South Africa the first Pride in the country was held by The Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersand (GLOW) – the first largely black youth and working class based gay and lesbian organisation was founded by Simon Tseko Nkoli, Beverley Palesa Ditsie and Linda Ngcobo in South Africa in 1988, and run by students and fiercely anti-apartheid activist. This movement was one of intersectionality, putting the gay and lesbian rights struggle and anti-apartheid struggle into one collective movement. The marchs convener and GLOWs elected leader, Simon Tseko Nkoli – an anti-apartheid, gay rights and AIDS activist in South Africa born in Soweto – stood firmly in the belief that one right of a gay black person cannot exist without the other.
He is quoted saying: “I’m fighting for the abolition of apartheid, and I fight for the right of freedom of sexual orientation. These are inextricably linked with each other. I cannot be free as a black man if I am not free as a gay man”
And so the March was one of people on the spectrum protesting with bags over their faces – to protect their identities – against legal discrimination against LGBT people as well as the celebration of equality; all before the end of the apartheid era and the laws added in and cemented in after. This spearhead of a movement is one of the many many cases why we have what we have today.
The movement sadly has been forgotten by most and has now been misunderstood for what it was originally, completely ignoring the intersectional struggles that lie in and out of the LGBTQ+ liberation, as well as the people who stood at the forefront and pioneered the way forward. “It was a political protest, engaged with struggles outside of the LGBT community. It blatantly expressed the struggles of young black queer people.”
A reclaim of space. A space that has now been commandeered by a mindspace of oppression against LGBTQ People Of Colour. A space that now has a bouncer that instead of checking for ID’s checks the white cis-gendered hetronormative model and permits those who fit the model perfectly, or allows those through who match it close enough.
South Africa was the first country in the world to safeguard sexual orientation as a human right in our Constitution. Both the Interim Constitution, which came into force on 27 April 1994, and the final Constitution, which replaced it on 4 February 1997, forbiding discrimination on the basis of sex, gender or sexual orientation. As well as the the legalization of same sex marriage in South Africa since the Civil Union Act came into force on 30 November 2006.
These laws are because of LGBT People of Colour realising that for us the concept of freedom does not exist unless it is freedom on all fronts.
So why is racism and discrimination still so deeply rooted into the “community”. Why are Trans people still being oppressed, Discriminated against, and abused -verbally and in some cases physically – for living their truths by those that would claim they are part of the community. Why are Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual people still experiencing homophobia and erasure by those that would claim they are in the community. Why is it that for those in the “community” the umbrella of acceptance and inclusion only covers the groups they deem worthy and in most cases doesn’t include Intersex and Asexual people.
You can not say that you are part of the LGBTQIA+ community if you do not accept all those that are in the community. You cannot claim to be for LGBTQIA+ rights but disregard or support someone who disregards People of Colour in any capacity, as the two are Intersectional.
So the next time you exclude someone be sure it’s a person claiming to be part of the community with their words but not with their actions, instead of someone or a group that has pushed for their rights and yours.
A group divided is a group easily conquered. Stand Strong. Stand with Pride!
By Gabriel Klaasen