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Pride Month: What is the colour of my #PRIDE?
25 June 2021 | Opinion Marc Hendricks. Read time 6 min.
As Pride Month draws to a close, paediatric oncologist Associate Professor Marc Hendricks reflects on the meaning of pride, strides made and the work that remains. Associate Professor Hendricks is based at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Faculty of Health Sciences, and at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.
Usually, when people (like me) think of gay #PRIDE, the images evoked are of scantily clad gay men (often white with perfect bodies), some in drag, draped over colourful floats in an elaborate parade, dancing to the latest club ‘trax’. These images display unbridled joy, fierce, unapologetic confidence and delicious hedonism all rolled into one.
It has taken the LGBTQIA+ community a long time to own up to its own inherent biases and to allow womxn, black and other queer bodies an equal place at the rainbow table. Believe me when I say that the gay community is just as prejudiced as any other. That is not comfortable for me to admit, but it is my truth. And, if you were brave enough to ask any other gay, genderqueer, transgender or black person that question, I venture a guess that they would say the same. Pride cannot be collectively owned without owning everyone in our community, even those who make us feel uncomfortable because they are too out there, too ‘fem’, not physically perfect (whatever that means) or from a different racial and/or cultural background.
“Pride cannot be collectively owned without owning everyone in our community.”
As gay people, we live this dichotomy of being at the forefront of civil rights activism and also being guilty of the kinds of discrimination — both subtle and overt — that we claim to abhor. This has been my personal experience as a coloured, South African, gay man growing up and living in Cape Town. Hopefully, if you are part of the LGBTQIA+ community now, it is not yours. So, when you ask me what the colour of my #PRIDE is, I may immediately think of the flag and the liberation it represents. My implicit bias makes me forget that the actual colour of that pride is black: the black fist of Marsha P Johnson, a drag queen and gay activist, who raised that sign of defiance and stood up to police brutality outside the Stonewall Inn in 1969. It took me a trip to Christopher Street and the Stonewall Inn for the gravity of that to hit me. And if I am honest, I still have to pull myself back into that conscious awareness when I feel myself so easily slipping back into complacency.
Don’t get me wrong: As a gay man I am very proud of my community, for the historical and massive current effort locally, nationally, continentally and globally that continues to protect vulnerable queer people, particularly the young, womxn, black and trans bodies who still live in fear of physical violence and even death. South Africa, you are guilty of that kind of violence! So, we can never rest, despite the gains we may have made here, when we continue to see discrimination and violence levelled against queer people here at home, on the continent, in eastern Europe, Indonesia and even in more developed-world spaces, by dominant, conservative individuals, communities, and power structures.
I am proud of the new generation of gay and queer womxn and mxn, or however they choose to identify and define themselves, who have brought the debate of gender identity and relationship politics into the light, to teach us that there are still new avenues of acceptance and (self) love to navigate.
“Our rights are human rights and … there is pride in the struggle for justice and equality.”
I am proud of my generation who hold the historical memory of the struggle for our human rights (which is ongoing), and who are the torchbearers and custodians of our history and the deep, generational impact of HIV/AIDS. I remember as a training paediatrician signing a tome of death certificates for my patients; children, who died at the hands of a government who would not mainstream antiretrovirals until 2004 because of denialism.
You can only know who you are and where you are going if you know where you have come from.
I am proud and privileged to be married to the man that I love (my husband), to choose to have a family (biological or other) and to live in safety. [This is] a safety that we leverage against our privilege; by virtue of our education, our social standing, and the community of love (both straight and gay) that enfolds us in its strong, protective embrace.
I am blessed and grateful to have the love, acceptance and support of my beautiful, strong and courageous parents and sisters who are forever my anchors in love. But for as long as others without that privilege cannot enjoy the same, our work as the LGBTQIA+ community (and those who promote civil rights) is not done, and our pride cannot be completely whole.
So, what is the colour of my #PRIDE? It is the colour of a job unfinished and of the unwavering and steadfast hope that together (LGBTQIA+ or not), anything is possible. It is the colour that our rights are human rights and that there is pride in the struggle for justice and equality.
Just look back and see how far we have come. We’re queer, we’re here. Get used to it!
Marc Hendricks is the co-chair of the Transformation and Equity Committee in the Faculty of Health Sciences. He lives with his husband in Cape Town.
(This is the personal perspective of the author and does not necessarily represent the view of the University of Cape Town, UCT News or the Faculty of Health Sciences.)