What is PRIDE?
It is a movement that celebrates sexual diversity. For lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex and transgender people it is a way of protesting about discrimination and violence. It promotes their dignity, equal rights, self-affirmation and is a way of increasing society’s awareness of the issues they face.
Why do we celebrate PRIDE?
From time immemorial, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex communities have faced stigma, discrimination and invalidation because of their perceived or real Sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE). In June 1969 after the raid of a gay bar in New York, an uprising ensued. This became the birth of what is now commonly known as the Gay/LGBTI Pride.
Pride Month is so important because it marks the start of huge change within the LGBT+ community, as well as wider societal implications. Although attitudes and injustice still remain, we have come a long way since the riots of 1969 and by continuing in this long standing tradition we continue to raise awareness, improve the attitudes of society and encourage inclusiveness.
What were the Stonewall Riots?
The riots were prompted by a raid that took place during the early morning, at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. The LGBT community held a series of spontaneous, often violent demonstrations to protest against the raid and calling for the establishment of places that gays and lesbians could go and be open about their sexual orientation. In such places there should be no fears of being arrested. The riots served as a catalyst for the rights of LGBT people, and within 6 months, 2 gay activist groups had formed in New York. Over the years since the event, many gay rights organisations have been formed. Not just in the US but around the world.
Who were the people at the forefront?
Many men and women bravely risked their lives during the uprising, indeed some were thrown in jail and some were lost. There is special reverence however, given to 3 individuals whose lives are well worth a Google:
Marsha P. Johnson, gay and trans liberation activist and self-identified drag queen; Brenda Howard an American bisexual rights activist, sex-positive feminist, and polyamorist and Stormé DeLarverie – a butch lesbian whose scuffle with police was, according to Stormé and many eyewitnesses, the spark that ignited and spurred the crowd to action.
What happens during Pride?
Every year, during the month of June, the LGBT community across the globe celebrates in a number of different ways. Events are held during this special month as a way of recognising the influence LGBT people have had around the world.
Pride month is an opportunity to peacefully protest and raise political awareness of current issues facing the community. Parades are a prominent feature of Pride month, and there are many street parties, community events, poetry readings, public speaking, street festivals and educational sessions.
Pride presents an opportunity to encourage the Zimbabwean LGBTI community to Exist, Persist and Resist in the face of all the hurdles they have to navigate in their daily lives. It is also an opportunity for solidarity from allies and partners. In 2020, Pride has been firmly cemented in the digital space with plenty of online webinars, panel discussions, Twitter chats and LIVE events that made the month more interactive.
When do we celebrate PRIDE?
The Stonewall raid of 1969, has not remained unique to the United States of America, GALZ (as the then only organized grouping representing the Zimbabwean LGBTI community) has been subjected to its own fair share of state sponsored brutality since the famous Book Fair incident of 1995 where the then president of Zimbabwe the late R.G Mugabe orchestrated the expulsion of GALZ from the exhibition although the Zimbabwe Supreme court had ruled that GALZ should exhibit. The late President made his now notorious pronouncement: “If dogs and pigs do not do it,why must human beings? Can human beings be human beings if they do worse than pigs?”. This cemented various kinds of homophobia including internalized homophobia amongst LGBTI individuals and state sanctioned homophobia. This built the resolve among the LGBTI activists to continue to promote and protect the interests of the community, with Pride being an act by the LGBTI community to champion the promotion of self-affirmation, dignity, equality, and increased visibility.
Different parts of the world observe Pride at different times depending on their seasons. Zimbabwe like the rest of Southern Africa observes Pride in Summer (October).