We are fortunate to live in a country where the constitution stipulates equality above all else. But there are still those who believe that gay individuals are “less than” — and that discourse is still around. Our rights as human beings are in the balance because of who we love, said Stella Rose, a South African drag racer Daily Maverick.
During Pride Month, Rose made an important statement by walking through a rainbow-painted zebra crossing – a symbol of solidarity for the LGBTQI+ community – in Greenpoint, Cape Town.
Zebra crossing became a point of contention after that Jabal Muhammad Fifa, leader of the shadowy Truth and Solidarity movement, took to Twitter to demand the removal of “LGBT colors from the Cape’s roads”. He claimed that Rainbow Crossing was pushing the audience with a “disgraceful agenda”.
Realizing Dag’s hateful threats to tarnish such a public symbol of gay solidarity, Rose makes the decision to walk through the crossing at top speed.
“For the LGBTQI+ community in Cape Town, the crossing is a major symbol of acceptance and equality,” said Rose.
She explained what walking across the rainbow meant to her: “The goal was more to show the act of being than a challenge. I wasn’t crossing the road because I was gay. I was crossing the road because I was human.
“It saddens me that something as simple as crossing the street is seen as a statement. Unfortunately that is exactly the way it has to be. Our community has been under threat, and during International Pride Month.”
It’s absurd to think that rainbows, something that occurs naturally and appears in children’s books and stories, has somehow become a threat.
International Pride Month is celebrated annually in the month of June every year and was established to honor Stone wall riots in 1969, spurring the queer liberation movement. While Pride is usually associated with celebrations and happy parties, Rose reminded us not to forget his roots.
“Pride is a celebration of love, yes. But we must never forget that the first Pride was a protest – it was born out of rioting, out of defying bigotry and oppression. That’s still our reality. 64 countries still have laws criminalizing homosexuality, suing the people they love “.
Read more at The Daily Maverick: Uganda’s anti-gay bill has sparked a rise in homophobia, media censorship and mob attacks
When Rose walked, she wasn’t alone. “I had a few friends and members of my community with me, and I really felt like we embodied what Pride meant in that moment. I felt proud that despite the threats against us, we weren’t ready to make ourselves small. As a community, we stood together.”
The mayor of Umgeni in KwaZulu-Natal, Christopher Pappas, has also sought to use the rainbow to spread the message of inclusivity during Pride Month. Pappas proceeded to paint rainbows of different shades in his municipality to celebrate the month.
Tell Daily Maverick On how this campaign went: “The effort went very well. The majority of people who suffered or [commented] On the stairs show gratitude and understand the need. The activity sparked a discussion that many feel uncomfortable having. activity too [gave] A little hope for those who feel they must live in the shadows or feel ashamed of their identity, in whatever context.”
Opposition to pride
For Baba, this law represents the protection of human rights in this country. This campaign, he explained, was mostly well received, except for “some pushback on the part of a very small minority”.
“It’s absurd to think that rainbows, something that occurs naturally and appears in children’s books and stories, has somehow become a threat. I think it’s inner insecurity or misunderstanding that makes people fear rainbows.”
Concern is growing for those pushing against Pride celebrations and public expressions of LGBT solidarity, such as rainbow images, amid rising anti-hate sentiment globally. On our continent, Uganda passed its infamous anti-homosexuality bill this year, in which the mere presence of homosexuality leads to life imprisonment. Anti-sexual sentiment in Kenya and Ghana is a major concern for humanitarians.
In the US, more than 400 anti-LGBTQI+ bills have been introduced since the beginning of this year alone — a number that has more than doubled since 2022. Many of these bills push to ban gender confirmation sponsorship for minors and seek to censor content in school curricula.
Read more at The Daily Maverick: Pride and Prejudice – Similarities between the History of LGBTQ Struggle in the United States and SA
It’s a worrying trend that some use “minor protection” as a cover for their heterophobia. This was an argument that arose afterwards Woolworths launched its WPride product This year’s campaign is for International Pride Month, which aims to “show the level of support for a marginalized group of people within our society.”
This was another local expression of pride that was met with some controversy on social media, with some even calling for people to boycott the brand. Notably, these calls for a boycott were not successful.
Opponents of the Pride campaign also used the argument that the campaign targeted their children, a fact which Woolworths refuted in a statement issued, clarifying that “the campaign’s merchandise is exclusively adult apparel, and children do not appear in any of the displays or campaign materials.”
Woolworths explained that such campaigns are part of the Inclusive Justice Initiative, through which it has also campaigned for Women’s Month and 16 Days of Activism.
Responses to the WPride campaign are particularly troubling, said Tish White, project coordinator for Wits on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Defense in the same year Ugandan lawmakers passed a bill that would impose the death penalty on “worsening homosexuality” on a continent where it passes many countries. Others are regressive legislation, such as Kenya and Nigeria.
“…the growing obsession with ‘protecting’ LGBT children has nothing to do with the actual care and concern for young people. It’s an atypical reaction and a tired excuse to separate people.” [whom] Adult gatekeepers refuse respect, empathy, or engagement in appropriate ways.”
As Pride Month drew to a close, it was clear that the queer community in South Africa was still resilient in the face of growing tensions and threats towards the community. Rose reminded us that it is a crucial time to show solidarity with LGBT people: “Show up at Pride parades and Pride campaigns, and learn what it is like to be an ally to a community on the fringes. Teach people that it is okay to love, to be loved, without judgment.” DM
This story first appeared in Our Weekly 168 newspaper, which is available nationwide for R29.