Rainbow! Pride, Butter, melting! That’s what the queer community needs right now. Reinforcement of unreserved pride in our identity, as a community and as individuals. We need to celebrate our identity, to be happy about who we are and to be who we are and happy. We need to infuse good vibes and positivity into queerness .We need to illuminate the things that are beautiful about being queer and the queer community. We need to celebrate the culture and just take a moment to forget our suffering and just for a split second live a little. To celebrate our icons ,the living queens ,the golden girls ,the township twinks ,the matriarchy ,the divas in drag and the mjita-for-mjitas .The heroes of our movement ,the music we all love ,the clubs that let us live ,the allies that we cherish ,the movies that tell our stories and the drama we ever relish.
We need to reinvent ourselves as people of optimism, alive to greater possibilities and resolute in our common agenda. We need to re-align ourselves with the politics of Monate .The Queer community especially in liberal spaces has always branded itself as a community of good cheer and festivity. In the 60s the American Queer scene was one of daily marches whether it be celebration ,activism or commemoration ,the LGBTQAI+ community would always be seen playing loud music ,dancing in heels ,dressed in bright and beautiful apparel and just having a jol .That culture needs to be imported ,that culture has immeasurable benefits and can permanently transform the face of queer politics in Africa and among young people.
The warrants and their strategic importance
Celebrating our culture and infusing pride into the community politics provides a meaningful counter narrative to the mantra of queer pain and suffering. By this I don’t mean we should abandon our history of oppression, I mean it should not be us and us it, it should be part of us but never define us. Celebrating our culture broadens the conversation to include various ways in which the queer community can maximise its own happiness even in the most adverse of circumstances. It enables us to take a break from the things that make us sad and cause us despair.
When we take part in public acts of celebrating queer pride we maximise our visibility and actively curtail all and any attempts at erasing LGBTQAI+ lives in our communities. Taking to the streets in our number and flooding the internet with our cultural footprint is the best way to undermine states’ attempts to mischaracterise our communities as homogeneously heteronormative by democratic consensus .It also helps to counteract bystander apathy disguised as neutrality on the part of the state, this is a sneaky political position calculated to remove queer rights from the top of the agenda. In most parts of the world, those countries that don’t criminalise homosexual conduct but still disapprove of it simply try to erase it from the National tapestry. Practices of erasure feature mischaracterization of the amounts of Queer people in countries or communities or perceptions that paint queerness as an alien body which is exclusively occurring among Caucasian westerners. Public displays of pride are one of the only meaningful ways to assert the unapologetic and permanent presence of Queer people in our communities. Organisation helps to send the message in bold print to say that “we are here, there are gazillions of us and we are not going anywhere”. This is the best way to unmask states’ attempt to hiding a substantial part of the demographic. This is the only way in which things like development indicators can also feature the LGBTQAI+ community as a social bracket in taking stock of policy outcomes.
Closely linked to the nebulous concept of LGBTQAI+ erasure is the idea of creating a long lasting institutional memory, one that forcibly becomes part of the national memory. Erasure is an endemic cancer for the queer community because its attack is binary ,its either the state pretends you don’t exist so that it need not attend to your unique needs or demonises you so you look anti-normal and anti-the state and oppositional to the (get this),the national morals. The creation of an institutional memory here would more specifically feature to counteract the harmful state propaganda which is intended to form part of the national memory and incite hate and disgust for the queer community.
In publicly broadcasting and keeping record of their cultural pride and celebration of life, queer people are empowered with the unique opportunity to rebut the state in its insidious rhetoric. The community can successfully cancel narratives of queer bodies as the spreaders of AIDS, queer men as sexual predators and paedophiles, and LGBTAI+ people as an Anti-Christ occult calculated to create modern Sodom and Gomorrah .This is one of the few ways in which the Queer community can have a history! This is also the only way in which the queer community can have a history in which they are portrayed in positive light. Years from now, queers should ask about the history of their identity and be told stories that aren’t depressing. Celebrating the culture and documenting it is the only way to guarantee that the queer community have a memory.
The public space and the queer space should be saturated with positive images of members of the LGBTAI+ community, and that can only be achieved by celebrating our own. Under status quo very little opportunities are available for this to occur .The mainstream media never has time for queer people unless they are rich and famous .The only airtime that queers get on the public airwaves is negative portrayal or when they eventually die of anal cancer. It is because of this exclusion and erasure that the queer community is overly absorbed in the valorisation of mediocre Straight men .The practice of celebrating our own icons while they live should start now, it should be noted that this is not calculated to create an elite league of the better queers but it’s simply meant to supply positive images, examples and construct a culture of queer excellence.
This is extremely important especially because Queer history for most Black Africans has either been whitewashed and monopolised by the niche experiences of American white men or distorted by the government and its narratives of queerness as un-African or anti-Black. Morden Queer history often seeks to valorise American Activists, the people in whose honour holidays were dedicated and people who funded queer rights projects. There is a need to guard against revolution chasers, these are people who want to be remembered as champions of social justice and so they spend all their lives constructing that legacy through high profile P.R campaigns that posture them as martyrs of a cause. Black experiences are always the support content or international and or comparative analysis in literature or media that profiles queer history. In most African countries the draconian legislation, the monopoly of the state media and the censorship of private media actively eradicates access to black queer culture and history. This is said without prejudice to many heroes that fell at the hands of the homophobic state apparatus, however the study here focuses on the positive content of black queer experience, culture and history in Africa. This also is said without prejudice to South Africa which is the obvious exception.
An extension to this insidious concept of the pernicious impacts of race on the black queer positive history is in relation to contemporary queer culture right now and its black parts. The participation and portrayal of Black people in queer culture is still incredibly tokenistic. It’s very common to find a black queer character in a popular TV show. The only exception is work done by people of colour who are the majority of the only people telling the black queer story. Beyond that, the mainstream media is filled with the stereotypical white couple who are highly educated and live in a suburban neighbourhood and are trying out for adoption .Queer traditions are largely the activities with unmistakable proximity to whiteness .Popular social media portrays all queers as Britney spears fans, addicts of Will and Grace who wear jeans and waistcoats and everyone is attracted to the Hot jock who plays in the football team. Programs like Ru Paul’s drag race that fetishize a beauty standard that is modelled around the Caucasian countenance are sold as Queer favourites. Black stories of contemporary queer culture still only suffice as the “counterculture”. Some Black stories have even “evolved” to predominantly celebrating those black lifestyles that have assimilated into whiteness. All of these cultural practices lock out black voices from the creation of a village aesthetic .Black Queers often grow up to celebrate white queer culture which often requires them to materially change who they are in a bid to fit the part .In the alternative they grow up to feel inadequate, as members of an identity group with no positive culture or history, they literally have no sense of identity.
We also need to actively celebrate queer identity and create the culture every chance we get and especially in queer-friendly countries because for foreigners this is the only chance where they get to experience their queerness under positive circumstances. The queer experience for many in countries such as Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania and Egypt is one of persecution, imminent arrest and living in fear. For some in more unfortunate circumstances It means being splashed all over newspapers ,being kept in unlawful detention ,abduction ,assault and even murder .So when these people are in environments where being queer doesn’t warrant a life of hiding and looking over your shoulder ,they wish to experience the positive queer experience. Bringing them to spaces where they get to relive the horrors they so wish to flee is massively damaging and encourages their withdrawal from these queer spaces for them. When we continuously enjoy positive commemorations of the culture where we just ‘eat our youth” ,make art ,document our views for better and safer communities ,profile the social and identity story of queerness we effectively provide a safe haven that is massively therapeutic but also initiates a healing process through providing illuminating relief from their traumatic lived experiences.
Finally then when we maximise our visibility and share with the world our story we create culture of community where all queers can organise for the multi-faceted common goal. We effectively galvanise a communal voice and mobilise to fight the good fight. We successfully create a sense of community that everyone envies because we sire a need to belong, but secondary to that we create a sense of belonging for those already deeply rooted in the community. This is especially important for two distinct reasons.
Firstly it garners the desired social capital and political currency for activism and for political participation. In the Democratic Party this year, the vote in South Carolina is determined by Black women who according to exit polling from the 2016 elections formed 37% of the vote. Creating a sense of commonality amongst the queer community can help weaponize our community in the vote, on the streets and in public dialogue for political reform.
The second is that exponential growth in visibility, voice and push of the Queer community has the capacity to force impetus for major political and legal reforms. This is because it attracts immediate international attention, it attracts public interest donor funding .Serious gaps still remain in the law, ,the United Nations has a treaty for all other minority group’s protection but has no explicit International law that creates solid legal obligations for states to not violate the human rights of queer people. The only international law protections are UN General Assembly resolutions, reports and Special Repertoire reports that at best are soft law and are of persuasive value. The international justice system has literally no meaningful way of policing states’ compliance to these standards.
Steve Biko is a large inspiration of my political philosophy and I think has many a discourse to impart into our understanding of queer culture especially as black people. To Biko , Black people have been struck at the heart of their identity and the white oppressor thrives to rubbish their blackness as a moral claim to their domination .The blacks are relegated into nothingness were in addition to the fear of the white man they feel inadequate as a human. The immaculate conception of “Black consciousness” then Is to cause a black renaissance per se where black pride is re-imprinted into the DNA of all black people .I believe the same is true and can be said for the LGBTQAI+ Community. And so the struggle continues
Not Yet Uhuru!
Lufuno Zwe Eugene is a final year law student and a legal intern at fancy law firm. He writes on the leftist revolution and exploring counter-culture and effective organisation. During his spare time, Lufuno fancies himself a budding supermodel and argues with people who claim that veganism is white culture.