Think pink

Gays, lesbians and other members of the public may wonder why Jo’burg’s Pride parade, now in its 18th year, is still marched in the rather politically incorrect northern suburbs. But it is now accepted that the route to Rosebank from Zoo Lake is safe and that the park where marchers will finally offload has enough public facilities to accommodate thousands of men in tights.

Organisers say that next year the issue of showing Pride to the inner city will again be on the table but this year, the northern suburbs it is.

Jo’burg Pride celebrations kick off on September 28 with Ster Kinekor’s first Pride Film Festival and will run until the annual Pride parade that takes place on October 6.

For distributor Ster Kinekor the new festival replaces the old Out in Africa festival that has migrated to NuMetro. Although the Pride Film Festival is much smaller than its competition and lacks the other’s development aspect, at least three of the nine films on show deal with youth.

The young people in question are Australian and American so their experiences of growing up gay may seem removed from those of their African counterparts.

But urban youth culture worldwide has its similarities. Nowadays young men of all hues, regardless of sexual orientation, wear baggy trousers around their knees and spend their days surfing, skateboarding, taking drugs and causing shit. Australian director Ed Aldrige’s 2006 romantic drama Tan Lines, like American Zak Tucker’s 2004 Poster Boy, shows the self-loathing and self-destructive behaviour of gay youngsters. Here one is pressed to ask whether their developmental experience is “normal” or whether peer group and parental pressure on gay kids to conform presents a lethal mix.

The festival opens with Todd Stephen’s charming yet flippant Another Gay Movie (2006) in which four high school buddies make a pact to lose their virginity before they go to college. This is in contrast to the rather sobering series of local panel discussions taking place at Constitution Hill and focusing on violence against gays and lesbians with subjects such as “Pride in a Time of Prejudice”.

In order to facilitate the smooth running of Pride, a new Section 21 company with 11 board members has been set up, with former Cape Town Pride board member Tracey Sandilands as chair and lesbian student activist Zakhele Mbhele overseeing a youth programme. The media is being dealt with by filmmaker and Mambaonline.com editor Luis de Barros. He says that the new company “is trying to make this a real community event. None of us is making money out of this. We all have full-time jobs and we are all professionals in the fields in which we are focusing on in the Pride organisation.

“It is quite different from previous years where it was one or two people trying to manage Pride on their own and not concerned about broadly representing the community. “

De Barros says the Pride celebration is “not just a party. The key hot topic that we’re focusing on is the hate crimes issue. We’re acknowledging that we may have a Constitution that is progressive, that protects sexual diversity, but the reality on the ground is that people are being killed because they are gay or lesbian.

“There are a number of events being hosted by Pride, together with Constitution Hill, focusing on lesbian issues and hate crimes. And we are also having a minute of silence before the parade. Our programme, which we have made available at venues, includes an article about hate crimes and why Pride is important.”

Running simultaneously at the Liberty Theatre on the Square is Capetonian Juliet Jenkins’s funny look at gay cross-cultural relations in The Boy who Fell from the Roof. There is something unsettling in the play’s humour though and, without being heavy-handed, the work hints at problems the society continues to encounter on the way to true reconciliation.

Then there are the Pride week parties, and this year sees mainstream radio station 5fm coming out as sponsor of a party event called the Fireman’s Ball. This will lend some truth to the Pride committee’s assertion that the gay and lesbian community in Gauteng is a force to be reckoned with. Apparently there is some spare pink cash floating around.

Check out the full Pride programme and the march route on www.joburgpride.org or call 011 715 6829 for more info

Matthew Krouse

Matthew Krouse

Matthew Krouse is the arts editor of the Mail & Guardian, a position he has held since 1999. He has edited two anthologies: Positions (Steidl, Jacana Media 2010) about artists engaging with politics in South Africa today, and The Invisible Ghetto (GMP, 1994) a compilation of creative writing about gender. His essays have appeared in collected works about arts and culture here and abroad. He has worked in the theatre for over a decade as an actor, writer and senior publicist at the Market Theatre. Read more from Matthew Krouse

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