June is often celebrated as Pride Month – a time to celebrate the diversity of sexualities, and gender identities. Most importantly, it is a time to bring visible the lives, stories, and experiences, of persons who identify as LGBTIQ.
In most African countries, LGBTIQ persons continue to live in hiding, out of fear of being ‘outed’, or being targeted for who they are. Stories of evictions, threats, arrests, and killings, have filled our newspapers, pointing, sadly, to a lived reality for so many of us who identify as LGBTIQ.
Pride Month was set aside to honour the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, US. Dubbed the first gay pride, the events leading to the riots are commemorated as the tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the US.
Which is why Pride Month matters to us, Africans.
You see, that first Pride was a riot. It was a group of queer, and trans persons, fed up by constant police raids, and arrests, who decided enough is enough. The tipping point had been reached.
But why should a 1960’s American event resonate here? Perhaps, it is important to point out that LGBTIQ Africans continue to face the same challenges that these 1960’s queers were facing – an unwelcoming society, a stereotypical media, a corrupt police force, and invisibility. And shame to be themselves.
Hence, they decided to venture into spaces such as clubs, and bars, where they could be themselves, associate, talk, learn, and share their experiences as they supported one another.
But, as if that was not enough, they came to be attacked in their safe spaces – their sanctums. This was not a police raid; this was an attack on themselves. The police represented all their oppression. And they reacted to that oppression by standing their ground. No more, they chanted!
This was the tipping point.
Most LGBTIA Africans have also reached their tipping points – we have seen wonderful visible campaigns, Pride marches, and more, and more activists coming out to challenge the system – and people – that put them down. We have seen them marching on streets, we have seen them in our newspapers, we have seen them sharing with the less fortunate, we have seen them in courts, we have seen them in Kilimani Mums.
Our Pride Month is not about a calendar month – it’s a lived reality. Everyday we face our fears, challenge oppression, and seek to be more visible, and open.
We are rioting. Not noticed that yet?
Image: Revellers are seen at Uganda’s second annual gay pride parade in Entebbe, August 3, 2013. (Hilary Heuler/for VOA)