BY GIUSEPPE RAJKUMAR GUERANDI
It’s the most queer time of the year: Pride Month is upon us.
On the surface, this would typically mean a month filled with glitter, celebrations and the commercialisation of rainbows slapped on bottles of Absolut vodka (yes, that’s really a thing).
As anyone with an entry-level education in queer history will know, scratch that shiny, spectral veneer and an important cultural tradition will pour out. A history so important to you and me that the tragedy of its niche status is never lost on me.
Yes, even for you Frikkie with the unshakeable heterosexuality.
Pride matters to all of us because oppression is not a one-way street. If we know what it feels like to be marginalised on the basis of our queer identity, then non-queer people know full well what it feels like to benefit on the basis of theirs.
To this end, the moral obligation of non-queer people to have a vested interest in Pride is tantamount to white people unpacking their internalised racism. Pride Month is not for you, but it is certainly about you too.
Pride is protest. The queer activists who came before us understood that better than most. The black and brown transgender and gender non-conforming people who were the backbone of the Gay Liberation Front knew that best.
Queer identity, when visible and unabashed, is the most potent weapon against an unforgivingly queerphobic world. I know this because I live it everyday. Every unflinching stare shot from a stranger is both induced and deflected by my leopard-print miniskirt. Every dehumanising word thrown is muted by hard-earned self-love.
Make no mistake, however, visibility is both a weapon and a target on our backs. The Human Rights Campaign reported that at least 44 transgender and gender non-conforming people were violently killed in the United States in 2020. On our own soil, we are in the midst of what many activists and organisations are calling a ‘war on queerness’.
In April, we lost Lonwabo Jack to one of many hate crimes that have taken queer lives in the last two months. His body was found on a pavement in Nyanga East, like a discarded piece of litter. The stab wounds on his body drained the life out of him, but only after his attackers had first defiled his body.
Say his name. Say all of their names. For this is our reality, and this is our history.
If we are going to enter this month, let us do so with brutal honesty and hold up that daunting mirror to our community’s face. If the reflection staring back at us is monstrous and violent, as it so often is, then we must stew in that frightful sight knowing it is our own visage.
Residences ought to be adorned with pride flags, this month and every month. Gender minorities should walk this campus knowing that there will be a gender-neutral bathroom for them to use at any given moment. Queer people should rest knowing that they will open their eyes again and again because the community around them cares for their safety.
Perhaps it seems we want too much, but I’ll be damned if asking for a fraction of the bare minimum is too much. After all, ‘tis the season.
Happy Pride everyone.