Public Pride. Private Shame.
We walked through Hillbrow. The sun, a merciless reminder of the harsh reality of our existence. We were defiant. Some of us more tired than defiant, but relentless. Nevertheless.
It took a lot for this march to come together. The organisers of the Johannesburg People’s Pride (JPP) had their fair share of gremlins, but defiantly pushing through all the frustrations and (I imagine) tears, they brought it together. JPP took place, a few gremlins still stubbornly holding on. With none of the capitalist glitz and glamour that has encumbered the “other” Pride. A pride less concerned with selling an arguably (white) gay liberal agenda, but one that is more concerned about the Black bodies that are forced to carry the (often lethal) stigma of being queer in the township.
The JPP, veering from the commercialised gay image, has placed at the centre of its politics the real lived experiences of queers who are economically excluded from Joburg pride. It’s a little too real; a little too close to the skin; a little too close to the ground. A lot like the people who look too Black (and poor) to be accommodated by an othering glitz and glamour.
The organisers of JPP understand that there is no VIP section in the oppression. They understand that sponsorships and celebrity headlines don’t make the realities of being black and queer any less dangerous. They understand that being Black and queer in the dusty streets of Soweto is a perpetual game of Russian Roulette.
Nevertheless. We marched. Too tired, but defiant. The sun, a merciless reminder of this too Black flesh. We marched. Defiant. Tired.
And as we were marshalled into our lane; as marshals tried contain our defiant, tired bodies into one palatable lane, one of our comrades shouted to a visibly disgusted audience,
“IT TAKES ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN TO MAKE A STABANE!”
A few of them shouted back, predictably,
“YOU’RE GOING TO HELL!”
Nevertheless, we marched. Defiant. Tired. Spilling out of lane.
We’re hard to contain you, know?
The visibly disgusted audience; the defiant assembly; the sun still a merciless reminder of our easily scorched existence. We marched to the beat of silences that breed us.
We wore social disobedience, fatigue and indifference like well-worn armour. The heckling Hillbrow audience was chanting a popular soundtrack to our aberrant lives.
The disgust was familiar. The disdain, too familiar; too much water off a queer duck’s back. We know how to wear it. We know how to keep marching through life, and still stay in our lane. We know how to not spill over, even as we’re bleeding. We know that like the sun, the hatred is merciless on our flesh.
We marched. Defiant. Spilling over. Tired. Some of us more tired than others. Some of us spilling over more than others. Defiant.
When break away from the assembly line; carrying the burden of defiance back to our homes, trying to contain the spill, the stranger disdain will be mirrored on the faces of our familiars. We can’t contain ourselves anymore. We spilled over. We spill over. We are marked.
At the end of the day, without JMPD tailing our assembly to keep us safe, (or to contain our sexualities), we still go home to face the strange homophobia in the faces of our families. The disdain spills over from the strange streets of Hillbrow into the intimate spaces of the familiar.
We walked home.
Unable to contain ourselves any longer.
Unable to contain the strange defiance that leaked into our familiars.
The sun set. Twilight, a merciless reminder of the shadows we’d have to move back into…defiance tucked in. The shadows creeping reminders of who we are when the sun is not out.
Hillbrow swept clean of our defiance.
We spilled ourselves a little less.
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