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Whiteness on the march: An open letter to Cape Town Pride

Dear Cape Town Pride,

You’re too white.

I feel like that should cover what I have to say, but I also understand that you may not know what I am talking about. When I say you are too white, Cape Town Pride, I mean I don’t see myself able to participate in your events as a person who is fully aware of the lived realities of most LGBTIAQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, asexual and queer) people living, working and studying in South Africa.

I have a series of questions I would like you to answer, or at the very least think about, because it’s 2015 and we cannot possibly still be talking about the same consumer-corporate-capital-fuelled Pride experience:

• We’re returning to the rainbow? Your slogan for this year’s Cape Town Pride Week (February?20 to 28) is “Return to the rainbow”. Whose rainbow is this? The nine events listed on your flyer do not appeal to me – except maybe the movie night, but that depends on the movie.

• Did you learn nothing from Jo’burg Pride 2012 and 2013? This is probably what upsets me most. Your older sibling went about hitting its head on these issues. People met after 2012 to consult and find a way forward that was balanced and brought back aspects of the political nature of Pride.

They did the work so that you don’t have to go through the same drama whenever Cape Town Pride erupts. Because it will erupt. There are frustrated LGBTIAQ persons who will soon have enough of being rendered invisible.

• Whiteness. Do you know what it is? You don’t? Really? Because you are doing it like a pro. Being “too white” is not limited to race – so your argument that everyone is welcome, regardless of race will not work here.

What I mean by “too white” is that you are working from a position of whiteness and that you are maintaining this position through the events you have put forward for Pride, by charging for events (whiteness and class are very good friends) and by the spaces you have selected as “Pride space”.

• Where is the broad variety of lived LGBTIAQ experience in your planned Pride events? Nothing in events such as the Pink Party, Ms Cape Town Pride, the Millionaire’s Gala Charity Dinner or Divas, Dames and Drags addresses the experience of the African queer woman, the transman, the nonbinary individual, or intersex persons who daily negotiate society, its obstacles, violence and ignorance.

• Are you consulting the community when it comes to the planning of events? If you are, who are you consulting? And are you consulting in a way that is open to multiple experiences? Honestly, I look at your events and I see business and corporate interests first. I do not see civil society, I do not see the trans, intersex, asexual or queer community represented in your planned events.

• Is there an organising committee? If yes, who sits on it and whose interests are being represented here? The events feel far too commercial for an event that should be transgressive and should advocate the rights of all LGBTIAQ persons.

• Accessibility? Who do these events target? The spaces in which the Pride events are due to be held are spaces for those with money, transport and social capital. Do you have to charge those fees for Pride? A degree of gatekeeping takes place when a price tag is attached to an event: it says that only those who can afford to be in these spaces are welcome. And what about accessibility of persons – have you catered for physical, sight and auditory disabilities?

Please think about all this. Not taking everyone into account makes this Pride noninclusive. You can’t claim to be returning to the rainbow if you’re only taking a few members of the LGBTIAQ community with you.

Please put out an open call for your first planning meeting for Cape Town Pride 2016.

With hope for change,

Nyx McLean

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