During this time of the year with spring and summer approaching, the question is asked in the Northern Hemisphere in countries where there are LGBT freedoms many, many times: “Are you going to Pride this year?”

I purposefully ask it myself when I have the opportunity, directly or on chat forums on the Internet or e-mail – to see what the reaction is. Most of my friends here and in Europe, just simply say “Yes!”, but there are also the inevitable negative replies, followed by a reason, and if no reason is offered, I poke until I get one. Here are some of the usual reasons given for not attending Pride, and my response to it.

“We have all the rights we need, why march?”: This response shows, with respect, a degree of ignorance, which is in some cases understandable, but still very alarming. We DO NOT have all the rights we need – certainly not in all the countries in Europe – Lithuania, Bulgaria, Poland are a few to mention. Even in Italy and Germany there is no marriage equality.

There are of course even more problems in other countries of the world, and especially on my continent of Africa, where my country South Africa is the only one out of 52 that recognises full equality for LGBT people and where our constitution in 1996 was the first one worldwide to ban discrimination against LGBT people.

As part of a global village – awareness of the plight of others who are not as fortunate as you are, is very important. You are one of many who can through events like Pride, highlight the plight of people who do not have equal rights or making people aware of other more not so obvious problems in your own country like teen suicide, substance abuse, inadequate HIV-treatment and many others to pressure your government into action and also to apply pressure on other countries through international treaties, the United Nations and other means like withholding developmental aid to prod these countries to accept LGBT equality.

“We are not all like that”: This a phrase taken from Antjie Krog, a South African poet, and used by a well-known gay South African radio and TV presenter to distance himself from “the gay scene”, and by implication, Pride. It is normally said by people ignorant of Pride altogether. All they have seen are the media images, mostly in some mainstream media, of flamboyant drag queens and strange outfits, or near-naked people parading around. They have mostly not attended a Pride in their lives, and if they have, did not participate fully or stood on the sidelines – and then still see fit to criticise Pride. They never mention or actually understand that the ‘over the top’ costumes are donned by a very small, if not miniscule, percentage of participants, who are mostly on floats that are competing for a prize as the most colourful, or parading representing an organisation or place of leisure like a club or a sponsor. The thousands of the so-called “normal” gay people in the parade with “normal” attire, do not make it to the papers and TV screens, because they are well, “too normal” and not newsworthy. The chances of someone seeing you, with someone like “them” in the mainstream media, is virtually nil if you are so afraid of being associated with “them”.

But – Pride is our day – what is wrong with dressing up? What do people do in the very straight St. Patrick Parades all over the world, or the Rio Carnaval? Or the Berlin Love Parade? I have visited Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras many times – and tickets to the After Party are sold out weeks in advance. You may be able to get a ticket on the black market for three or four times the face value. The rule there? You are not even allowed in if you are not dressed according to the theme. The attendance figure? 25 000. So stop being a sourpuss, it really is a day of celebration. Show it. And dress up if you want to, or don’t if that is your choice.

“We are not part of “the scene””: This reason is given by many who are in relationships and not frequenting gay clubs or socials anymore, or those who have grown tired of the so-called “gay scene”, or never have been part of it, whatever “the gay scene” may be.

What these people do not consider, is that Pride as such, is not just a parade day, or a big drunken and/or chemically enhanced free-for-all. It is definitely not “the gay scene”. There are many other activities associated with Prides, like cultural events and sport competitions or activism workshops and many more.

Further, the crowds during Pride parades are normally well-behaved, and the many families attending with straight parents and/or kids or straight allies are very evident. Nobody compels you to attend any of the Pride after-parties if that is not for you. I have to say that I saw far less people “out of it” for whatever reason, at a Pride parade than some of the other mainstream festivals I have attended, some of which I mentioned above.

The reasons for not attending Pride are more than these that I have given, but whatever it may be – they all seem to miss the point of Pride. It is something that one can only experience when you do attend: it’s the sense of community, the sense of “I belong”, the sense of total acceptance. It’s a feeling that can not be recreated anywhere else, and those denying Pride, are themselves in fact, in denial.

See you at Stockholm Pride.
Coenie Kukkuk

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