Pride is associated with visibility, and visibility has a twofold advantage. Harvey Milk’s principle behind Pride’s policy: “Gay brothers and sisters, you must come out!” — has been proven over and over again to be the best way to dispel rumors that homosexuals are dangerous, demon-possessed, or foreign agents. But what if going outside is forbidden or just too dangerous? For example, there are very few Pride events in Africa outside of my home country, South Africa. In much the same way that Eastern European nationalists use the American culture wars scenario to assert their cultural sovereignty against the West, some African nationalists use homosexual laws inherited from former colonial Britain to insist that homosexuality is not African.
Yet another Pride celebration took place last Sunday, organized by LGBT asylum seekers awaiting confirmation of their refugee status in Kenya’s massive Kakuma refugee camp. Many celebrants have fled their countries for fear of persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but the UN High Commissioner for Refugees processes them in a country where homosexuality remains illegal and keeps them in camps filled with other refugees. who hold the same homophobic or transphobic attitudes that prevail in the environment from which they fled.
Augustine Kayemba, an asylum seeker who leads the LGBTQ community in Kakuma, told me that more than 600 people from seven countries attended the pride, but many simply moved quickly past his gathering for fear of being delayed for fear of reprisals. “Not a day goes by without news of hate-motivated violence,” he said. Kayemba told me that last Sunday evening, after a Pride celebration, one of his housemates, Oscar Katamba, was severely beaten with pipes by attackers who called him a Swahili insult for being “homosexual”; he received a head wound that required 10 stitches.
Kaemba offered two reasons for holding Pride in such a hostile environment: to create a community within the camp, and to use the event to “tell the whole world about our predicament”. In a letter he wrote to supporters with photos of the event, Kayemba said, “Despite all the suffering, we are trying to find time to de-stress while celebrating official LGBTQ days and festivals.”
For Kaemba, Pride is not only the “official” day of the movement, but of a set of values representing the freedom he can only dream of while waiting in Kakuma. I wrote about the disappointment of LGBTQ refugees when they arrive in “liberated” rainbow Vancouver, Amsterdam, or Cape Town: their poverty, dark skin, or Muslim faith prevents them from integrating into LGBTQ-friendly Western society in the way they envisioned. . Thus, even in these places, Pride must reconnect with its political roots.
The party, of course, is also important: it’s a way to claim the street. Even at Stonewall in 1969 there was a performance element to the protest. Corporate participation in Pride is also important. In countries such as India and Mexico, the diversity and inclusion policies of multinational corporations have created space not only for their employees, but in society as a whole, as they or their products become symbols of a cosmopolitan modernity that includes pluralism and diversity.