/ 6 June 2022

OPINION | Pride month: Social attitudes still have a way to go

Safrica Pride
(RODGER BOSCH/AFP via Getty Images)

Most people who identify as part of LGBTQIA+ community have grown up in a world that promotes equality and protection of human rights, yet bias towards them persists. Recent figures from the multinational market research and consulting firm Ipsos show that those who identify as transgender, non-binary, non-conforming, gender-fluid or in a way other than male or female, account for 4% of Gen Z in each of the 27 countries examined, compared with 2% of millennials, 1% of Gen X and less than 1% of Boomers. 

In general, 7% claim that they are solely or largely attracted to the same sex, 4% say they are equally attracted to both sexes, 83% only to the opposite sex and 6% do not know or did not want to say. 

The LGBTQIA+ community has its own flag which represents solidarity with others who share their way of life. There is more to this community’s rainbow flag than what meets the eye, however. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community are committed to upholding all of the values and meanings associated with the various colours. The colour red stands for life, orange symbolises healing, yellow represents sunlight, green the embodiment of nature, blue is associated with peace, and purple represents spirit.

The idea of LGBTQIA+ stems from research theories of feminism and masculinity. In many parts of the world, feminism has traditionally been associated with gender equality and the pursuit of equal rights. Because difference implies oppression and obedience, women should be free from difference. It is based on the belief that all people are inherently androgynous and therefore women and men should be judged as individuals and not according to their gender. 

Feminism in the broadest sense has changed our understanding of gender and the experiences of homosexual men and women play a vital role in the study of masculinity. The way we think and experience, and everything we represent, has a decisive gender basis.

It is important to determine the origin and evolution of the LBGTQIA+ culture through various waves of feminism over the past two centuries. The first wave, which began in the 19th century, was an asexual universal suffrage movement that allowed men and women to bridge differences and culminated in women getting the vote in the democratic world. 

This continued for many years until the second wave of feminism in the 1960s, when feminism was generally seen as a form of identity politics supported by patriarchy in which sexual revolution emerged. Since the 1990s, we have seen a third wave of feminism shaped by intersectionality. There has also been an emergence of a transgender movement that does not view people as male or female. Gender is, therefore, closer to self-determination.

But understanding the emergence of the LBGTQIA+ community also requires developing an understanding of masculinity studies. The long and complex history of feminist studies shows that although women have repeatedly realigned their understanding of gender, today both men and women must participate in changing gender relations

Many men in South Africa are struggling to find their place in the contemporary democratic era with a Constitution that enshrines equality and many freedoms. In the face of slow change towards gender equality, male society is forced to support gender change. Political and social scientists believe that although men can individually promote gender change, they can do so much more collectively. 

The issue on the African continent is a lack of tolerance for diversity. The wide range of masculine experiences and acts should be acknowledged and celebrated.

Pride Month is now observed every June in many countries of the world. The month has its origins in the commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York. The purpose is to recognise the effect of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people on local, national and international history. Let us all celebrate this event together and move towards a fully inclusive world.

Amukelani Maluleke is affiliated to the University of Johannesburg’s department of politics and international relations.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.