I am horrified by the incident between clashing sections of the LGBTIQ community at Joburg Pride this year. It deeply saddens and angers me that divisions within a community already much-maligned by society at large turned on each other. The fact that the Pride organiser shouted out of the window of her luxury car to a group of people paying homage to the rapes and deaths of queers in the townships that “this is my route” is just abominable and speaks of the classicism, depoliticisation, commercialism and narrow-mindedness that Pride has been associated with for too long now. I don’t want to go into the issue of the horrific stand-off that happened between Joburg Pride and the 1 in 9 Campaign* this past weekend (the YouTube link http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Hnxip-T_Hnw&fb_source=message and a selected article http://www.mambaonline.com/article.asp?artid=7478 are provided here though if you haven’t seen them online), but the point I want to make is that what happened stems from the danger of homonormative* politics, from placing people under the same umbrella for the sake of making people who do not, or do not solely, identify as homosexual, more palatable to the straight community.
But engaging in political rhetoric is a futile, blood-pressure raising effort to eat an elephant in one go. (My father once shared this quirky metaphor, and it’s stuck). The only way to eat an elephant is spoonful by spoonful. My politics extends as far as my ability to change things goes. And my ability to change things only goes as far as me living my truth and sharing it with others, spoonful by spoonful, one person at a time. So that’s what I’ll do: speak from the personal, the individual, the private (as this is where all politics stems from, is it not?)
I chose not to attend Joburg Pride this year, for many reasons. I also choose to identify as queer rather than gay, lesbian or homosexual. This identification is very confusing to many people. I’ve had numerous conversations with my girlfriend, who identifies as lesbian/homosexual, as to why I choose queer over lesbian. The term ‘queer’ is misunderstood in both the straight and LGBTI communities and I will explain here why I insist on this identification and why I did not go to Pride.
Why do I want to write about this and share this? Because it’s very important to me, and because it’s very important to the LGBTIQ community: this community is as diverse as every person who is part of it, and it is the lack of recognition of this diversity that leads to the misrepresentation of ‘straight’ and LGBTIQ people. And if we’re not represented properly, how can our rights be protected properly? It might appear to be a case of splitting hairs, but the bracketing of these diverse groups into one ‘gay’ group is extremely problematic when it comes to recognising and respecting the huge differences within the ‘gay’ community.