BY LESEDI MNISI
Pride month is usually a time filled with gatherings, parades and other celebrations for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, however these types of celebrations have been made impossible due to the national, and international, Covid-19-induced lockdowns. This may seem like a major setback, however, many people have taken to celebrating Pride month online. Among those celebrating virtual Pride month is the QueerUS society of Stellenbosch University.
In order to still have a Pride month celebration, despite the lockdown regulations, the LGBTQIA+ societies of various South African universities have collaborated and taken to their social media platforms to celebrate the month. These societies include QueerUS and SpectrumTygerberg (Stellenbosch University), RainbowUCT (University of Cape Town), ActivateWits (University of the Witwatersrand) Up&Out Tuks (University of Pretoria).
The collaboration was initiated by RainbowUCT and according to Reatile “Blaise” Maphoto (preferred pronouns: he/him), the Social Media and Marketing Coordinator for RainbowUCT, the idea of such a collaboration has always been floating around, however this collaboration is, according to him, “…way bigger than what we could have ever imagined”.
“Coming together to create representation and awareness of queer issues is so important, especially in a time like this to remind members of our community that we truly are Alone Together,” Maphoto said.
Maphoto says that the virtual Pride month is a way to bring members of the Queer community together during a time where they are apart from one another, he says that the lockdown should not put an end to the outward expression and celebration of Queerness because the visibility of the Queer community should never be stopped.
Moreover, he said that the aim of the collaboration was to counter the anxiety and negativity being caused by the global Covid-19 pandemic and the current socio-political situation, by bringing “…not only light, but the entire Rainbow into the homes of our community members and allies who support us.”
Some of the online events that took place during the celebration included a variety of infographics and educational posts and the #PassthePrideFlag challenge (which is an adaptation of the Don’t Rush challenge, a challenge which originated on Tik Tok, where videos of people passing down an item to one another are edited into one video). These were all posted onto the various Instagram pages of the different LGBTQIA+ university societies involved.
Other virtual events included queer art showcases where members of the community could send in some of their artworks, ranging from various visual artworks and performance acts, and their work were posted on the social media platforms of the different societies. On Youth Day there were conversations regarding the community between the chairpersons of
each society, an interview with Power FM on youth day on the Power Lunch show and content is being featured every Friday on the Noni Radebe show on UCTRadio.
One of the largest events of the Virtual Pride month “Pride Block Party” which was later named “A Drag Extravaganza” and held on Friday, 26 June. The event was live streamed on the Rainbow UCT YouTube page and hosted by Kazi Khuzwayo and featured drag queens like Beaux Vine, Karla Beauty Marx, Lust Vegas, Ina Propriette and Robin Mansions.
Chante Arab (preferred pronouns they/them), the Chairperson of QueerUS, says that it is important for Pride month to be celebrated regardless of the state of lockdown, so the members of the Queer community and their allies can “remember how far we have come and how we have come that far.”
Arab added that this collaboration should educate all people, even those who are part of the Queer community, about the community and issues surrounding the community and that that there is still a lot to be done within the community itself regarding issues of race, gender and heteronormativity. She added that Pride month is a time to amplify the voices of queer identities that are often erased as well as the voices of black queer people especially with the current socio-political climate.
“During this time it is specifically important because a lot of people are confined to their homes that are completely unsafe and unwelcoming…so [it is important for those people] to look at other people who have struggled and look at other people who are proud and representing us and are happy and to celebrate within that time can cause a lot of hope,” Arab said.
According to Maphoto, the Virtual Pride Month collaboration “…has built a bridge between our teams and has closed distance between our universities.”
In terms of whether collaborations like this will happen again in future, Arab said that they expect and hope for more collaborations such as these and it is a strategy they will pass on to the executive team to lead after their term.