#PrideSoWhite – We are tired of those Pride events in your high-walled embassies!

“Oh, there you go, have a seat, Mademoiselle.” – Anonymous

 

Nairobi, July 10

Authors: Nje-ri, Nzioka

 

#PrideMonth We are tired of those Pride events in your high-walled embassies

Recently, a UK agency staff posted a picture of her, and her colleagues with a rainbow flag in their background celebrating #PrideMonth. It was captioned: ‘Celebrating love and equality British High Commission Nairobi style.”

Nothing to it, right?

The photo op was all white. “Nairobi style,” right?

The Embassy was the British High Commission in Nairobi. You, know, the same British who exported these anti gay laws to their colonies that we are now grappling with.

Fun fact! That in 1967, after leaving a legacy of anti-LGBT legal discrimination to its colonies, Britain decriminalised same sex –  finding it an area of private morality, within which the law had no business. Meanwhile us guys, English Scriptures in hand, retained the laws, terming them critical to our ‘African values’.

Apart from the clear disconnect of what this photo, at its basic, was all about – #PrideSoWhite – it highlighted how race, classism, and disconnect from issues the photo highlighted. It did not help the photo was by a (privileged) white woman. I mean, I might be wrong, but Pride, Nairobi Pride certainly is not experienced exclusively, cannot be curated, presented, curated as white, privileged, cis, albeit…. It also did not help the whole line up was majorly white.

Queer Africans are typically tired of European and American embassies ‘celebrating’ Pride with their one-off photo op with local queer activists who are invited to these high walled, highly secured buildings, forced to show up at 8am for an 12pm event since its how security works, their personal details taken, fingerprinted, IDs and phones taken away, invitation copy ready in hand, have to be forced to dress up for the black tie occasion, served measly teas and biscuits, just to serve a PR stunt by the Ambassadors and their attaches.

Yes, we celebrated Pride, they claim. We got the black, African, poor, gays and lesbians, invited them – you know an invitation from us is like manna from Heaven, they washed up,  put on deo, dressed in fine silk and linen, because we have to stand next to them for the photos.

Did someone hoist the rainbow flag next to ours? Oh, that must be the proverbial mama’s home-made stew in all occasions. The flag. The rainbow flag is important.

Oh, look at the time!

They must leave now. Tea and biscuits is over! We need to close down the embassy. Terrorist thing.

Did someone take a pic of the rainbow flag? Got the black faces with me in them, too? Oh, great!

Dear Embassies and High Commissions, how about funding LGBTI organisations in Kenya? How about involving yourselves in the work – the problematic, emotional, inclusive, defeatist work – that assures Pride? How about celebrating Pride by talking to us how we celebrate Pride. A pride flag at your high walled High Commission does not help us. It never has.

But hey, cheers good buddy! Happy #PrideMonth to you all foreign embassies, High Commissions, and companies who only remember that there is a gay community in Kenya during Pride Month and IDAHOT (May 17).

You invite us poor, black gay Africans to your beautiful residences, we sip on wines we cannot afford, take pictures, and you get to tick a box in your monthly deliverables then continue to deny us refuge, discard our asylum applications and ignore our asks regarding equal partnership and demand flawless audit reports for the past 5 years for us to get a measly 10USD for airtime each month for a whole year.

Yes, we see you. Happy #PrideMonth

*Nje-ri is a queer, feminist, Pan African activist.  The other one is a homo.

We are rioting – #PrideMonth should not be calendar month – but a living reality

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)