by Langa Mohlala
DISCLAIMER: The word “queer” is used throughout this article as an umbrella term and not as derogatory or offensive language. There is also brief mention of homophobia.
Internationally (and mainly in the US) Pride Month takes place in June, but in South Africa we celebrate Pride Month in October. This is because the first pride parade in South Africa (and Africa as a whole) was held in October over 30 years ago. Usually, the queer community will take this time to celebrate in the street with pride parades, marches and other festivities & activities. However, lockdown has put a damper in those plans… or has it?
Although we can’t celebrate pride together in the physical sense – or in the environment that makes us feel safe and allows us to shamelessly express our true selves – we are still able to unite in spirit. Perhaps it is time, more so for closeted individuals, to do some introspection and find out what pride means to them and how they can celebrate it, especially during this time.
Unless you live with a supportive family or on your own, celebrating pride can seem like a distant pipe dream. Luckily, there are many opportunities available for you to make this experience more pleasant. For starters, USKAR’s SRC and Nkoli-Fassie are hosting a virtual Pride week which starts from Monday, 12 October runs to Saturday, 17 October. The week’s programme consists of an ongoing online art exhibition, a poetry night, talks on Queer Rights in Africa and Issues in Queer Healthcare, an online drag show and a virtual pride march.
If you are unable to join pride, you can still celebrate it in other ways – many of which do not require anything other than your creativity and imagination.
1. Get in touch with your artistic side.
Not only is creating art beneficial to one’s mental health, but it is also an excellent way to express oneself. Art is open to interpretation, so this is a perfect way to be able to be expressive without having to disclose any information. Abstract art is an especially good way to be creative with the details and images you decide to highlight and conceal. This way, you can tell a story about your sexuality/gender identity/etc. without actually having to out yourself.
Once you are done with your artwork, hang it in your room or your safe space. More often than not people will see it as just a pretty picture and will not look into it, but you will know what it means to you and it will certainly be a comforting reminder of who you are. This artwork can also help you on your journey to self-acceptance and realisation, and you will have something incredible to look back on, should you decide to come out one day.
Whether you educate yourself on your identity/sexuality or someone else’s, it is always important to remain knowledgeable. There are many sexualities and gender identities that are out there – some of which are unknown to people who have been out for years. The world is constantly changing and evolving, and new terms, concepts and ideas are discovered every day.
In addition to learning about sexuality and gender identity in today’s era, it is also important to get clued up on what happened in the past. This will help you grasp how things have changed for the community, and acknowledging the people who paved the road for us will honour them and keep their memory alive. Learning about queer history will also help LGBT+ individuals do some introspection. It will also provide an understanding of iconic queer icons, their struggles and the impact they had on the world.
3. Create a Personal Pride Playlist
Spotify and Pinterest may have compilation playlists and suggestions of what tunes you should listen to while dancing around your room and waving your rainbow flag, but every person is different. Everyone’s journey in regard to how they interpret and experience sexuality and/or gender is different. Thus, many people will relate to and find solace in different songs.
Lady Gaga’s Born This Way is an obvious choice when celebrating one’s sexuality/gender identity. However, it may not be the song that ignites a feeling of realisation and belonging for certain people. Rather think about the songs that hold special memories and realisations for you than go with a generalised playlist filled with mainstream hits that are misinterpreted by the general population and ruined as a result.
Creating a personal playlist and listening to it with your headphones on will enhance the intimacy of pride for you. You will be able to hear your journey thus far through the songs that are getting you through having to hide who you are inside and/or dealing with internalised (or external) homophobia, and you will be reminded and encouraged to hold on and keep fighting.
● Make rainbow-themed treats (e.g. cakes, cupcakes and pancakes – pun intended)
● Listen to LGBT+ podcasts and watch LGBT+ YouTubers
● Join an online support group
● Get in touch with other queer people you know and celebrate with them online
● Support local LGBT+ businesses. For example, buy merch from local companies as opposed to buying products that have been made/shipped from overseas.
● Read LGBT+ novels and watch LGBT+ films (as captivating as they are, Below Her Mouth and Call Me By Your Name are not good examples of what amazing queer films are. I recommend Moonlight and Elisa and Marcela).
The essence of Pride comes from neither the protests and parades that garner attention nor the praise and criticism from supporters and homophobes alike. Instead, it comes from the people who are holding those flags and wearing those “flamboyant” outfits. It comes from the people who are in and out of the closet, and from the individuals who have yet to discover who they are.
When you do decide to come out of the closet, though, expect a celebration like no other. For now, continue to stay strong and remember that whether you are out, in or lost, you are seen, loved and valid.