Positive. Unapologetic. Equality. Loud. Resilience. Love. Celebration. Visibility.
All these words encompass what June means to many humans who identify as LGBTQ+. June is ‘Pride Month’, and it’s time we all recognise why this month exists and why it’s important we keep pushing forward.
Pride is about LGBTQ+ human beings taking a stand for who they are and to celebrate diversity and how far we have come, but also a time to remember the ones we have lost due to hate-crimes and the ones who fought til their death for equality and for us to have equal rights today. June is the chosen month to celebrate International Pride because of the Stonewall Riots in the late 60’s, where those that identified as LGBTQ+ fought against the discrimination and crime they faced on a daily basis.
The Stonewall riot was just the beginning, with many praising Marsha P. Johnson, a black transgender women, for bravely being the first to retaliate to the police’s discrimination in June 1969. This and the protest that occurred afterwards lead to regular protests nation wide and soon spread around the world, and thus began the world wide fight for equality.
Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to a political party in the 70’s, and he got the artist, Gilbert Baker, to design the bright and colourful flag that is now the international symbol for pride. That flag, and all pride parades around the world, whether held in June or not, remind us of the battles that have been conquered and the ones that are still ahead.
One of the battles that needs to be conquered is this “community” – and I use the term lightly. There should be no more internal phobias and ‘preferences’, and no more forgetting the people of colour, and their importance. No more labels and shaming for differences, but rather celebrations for the beauty in an already beautiful group of people. The world is continuously telling us we don’t belong and that we are wrong because we are different, and then we proceed to come together and divide ourselves even more based on looks and ‘tribes’. What they say makes us different is what makes us, LGBTQ+ humans, all the same – we must use that to keep improving and bettering lives.
Here in South Africa, Pride is celebrated in most of the provinces, with the first one happening in 1990 in Johannesburg. It was organised by GLOW (The Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witswatersrand), which was founded by gay anti-apartheid activist Simon Nkoli in 1988. The bravery of Simon and other activists, who continuously campaigned and marched for equality, lead to the constitutional protection of LGBTQ+ people being implemented in May of 1996. Even though the rights and laws are in place to protect LGBTQ+ people in South Africa, there is still discrimination and hate-crimes, especially ‘corrective rape’ occurring through out the country.
Along with that, many other countries still see LGBTQ+ human beings as criminals, with many facing the death penalty if found. Homophobia and Transphobia is still a real issue worldwide, many murders happening, even where laws are in place. Bullying, leading to heightened mental illness and suicide are also prevalent in schools and work places. Another example of how far we still have to go, is the Pulse shooting that happened in Orlando in June two years ago.
If you are struggling or looking for help:
Lifeline – 0861 322 322
HIV/Aids Helpline – 0800 012 322
South African Depression and Anxiety 24 hour Helpline – 0800 12 13 14
If you are looking for help or a place to learn more:
OUT – which provides direct health services to the LGBTQ+ community, including HIV testing, counselling, treatment and general lifestyle advice and support. Visit www.out.org.za or call them on 066 190 5812.
GALA – a centre for LGBTQ+ culture and education. This year is their 20th year of existence in remembering and making sure LGBTQ+ stories are heard and remembered. Contact them on 011 717 4239 during the week, or visit www.gala.co.za for more.
Gender Dynamix – the first African based organisation solely focused on the transgender community. They aim to increase the visibility of those who identify as transgender, as well as offer help and advice for anyone seeking more information. Contact them on 021 447 4797 or visit www.genderdynamix.org.za.
We The Brave – addresses prevention, safety and treatment, in a positive and non-judgemental way. Lead by the Anova Health Institute and funded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation, We The Brave is a platform that educates and gives gay and bisexual men access to healthcare and professional help. Visit www.wethebrave.co.za to contact them.
We have come a long way, but just like the strong and bold heroes that fought for our rights all those years ago – we need to continue fighting and showing that we deserve to exist, and that love and humanity, no matter the kind, is universal and beautiful, and should be celebrated!
Keep loving, and #KeepSmiling
(Side note: There is so much more information about Pride, the people involved and everything that has lead us to where we are today, not just what I have written here. So I think it’s important to read up about it all and learn just how important #PrideMonth is.)