Happy Pride Month!

4 min read

June has arrived and this month we want to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community! June is known as Pride Month around the world, where we celebrate queer people and their stories, while also fighting for equality and equal rights for all.

Pride Month originated after the Stonewall Riots that took place in Lower Manhattan, in New York City. Riots for gay liberation began after police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar, on 28 June 1969. At the forefront of the fight were transgender people, especially trans women of colour, drag queens, and other queer rights activists. The names most often connected with inciting the riots are Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Stormé DeLarverie, among others. The year after pride marches took place across multiple cities in the US, with queer people and activists demanding equal rights for all.

Today, pride marches take place in June across a lot of cities all over the world. This is as a celebration of the queer experience, chosen families, and diversity, but also as a reminder that for many, acceptance and equality are still not possible, nor accessible. Pride is a loud and proud exclamation and demand for positive policy change, diversity in all areas of life, and acceptance and celebration of those who don’t fit the stereotypical mould in society.

South Africa has a long and dark relationship with LGBTQ+ rights. A lot of indigenous groups recognised and accepted relationships and actions that we would today term as gay, lesbian, transgender, or other queer identities. With the influence of European colonisers, however, laws were introduced that prohibited these acts and identities. This was especially prevalent under apartheid, where between 1948 and 1994, homosexuality was punishable by up to 7 years in prison.

This does not mean that South Africa didn’t have strong activists and queer rights organisations. Simon Nkoli, a gay rights activist and anti-apartheid activist, founded The Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand (GLOW) in 1988. GLOW organised the first South African Pride Parade, which took place in Johannesburg on 13 October 1990, and was the first event of its kind that took place in Africa. Nkoli addressed the crowd, saying

“I'm fighting for the abolition of apartheid. And I fight for the right of freedom of sexual orientation. These are inextricably linked with each other. I cannot be free as a black man if I am not free as a gay man.”

In 1996, the new Constitution prohibited any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, making South Africa the first country in the world to have explicitly barred this type of discrimination on a constitutional level. In 2006, South Africa legalised same-sex marriage. South African Pride Month is officially celebrated in October each year and Cape Town holds its annual pride events in February.

Although these actions are definitely a step in the right direction, queer people still face a lot of discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Accessing healthcare as a transgender person is still difficult and legal documents cannot reflect one’s gender unless the person has undergone some form of gender affirming healthcare. Social stigma is still abundant towards queer people, with many feeling like they have to hide who they are.

With the recent upturn in homophobia, transphobia, and queerphobia, as well as racism, sexism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia, among others, we would like this time to say that we at De Bakke Santos work hard to ensure that our spaces are inclusive and accessible. We celebrate diversity and strive for equality.

This Pride Month, we want to say thank you to all our LGBTQIA+ colleagues for their hard work and dedication to being their authentic selves. You make us so proud. To our queer patrons and guests, we thank you for your support. We hope we have always made you feel welcome and accepted in our spaces, because you are. And to the wider LGBTQ+ community, keep on fighting. Remember, you are valid, and you are loved.

Love is love.

PHOTO CREDIT: Cape Town Tourism

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