Gay and Proud in Jozi

Africa is not an easy place to be gay. Homosexuality is illegal in more than half of African countries. South Africa is the most progressive African country when it comes to gay rights, and yet ‘corrective rape’ — lesbians being brutally raped and sometimes killed by men who seek to ‘cure’ them — is a frequent occurrence here. Here’s one of many recent articles I found about corrective rape.

There are just as many gay people in Africa as there are anywhere else in the world. But gays tend to be quieter here, for obvious reasons. A gay friend of mine once visited Nairobi, the largest city in East Africa, and wanted to go to a gay bar. His friend took him to a bar and pointed to a corner. ‘Wait there,’ the friend said. ‘Some gay people will be there later.’ The only gay bar in Nairobi is actually a gay corner.

The Joburg Pride parade, which takes place every year on the first Saturday in October, is a big deal. Joburg and Cape Town are the only cities in Africa that have gay pride parades, and Jozi’s is the oldest and biggest. This was Jozi Pride’s 22nd year and it reportedly attracted about 20,000 people.

I’m pro-gay. I love gays, in fact. So I was excited to attend my first Joburg Pride event.

One of the most beautifully outfitted people in the parade.

The parade started just up the road from us at Zoo Lake, then wound through Rosebank and back to Zoo Lake.

Parading through Rosebank, snarling traffic.

Joburg Pride is certainly about making a statement, being out and proud, and all that. The theme of this year’s parade was “Born this Gay” (in other words, people are born gay) and there was quite a bit of slogan-chanting and placard-waving.

But the parade is mostly about fun. It’s an opportunity for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people to be themselves — wear crazy costumes, hold hands, and do things they aren’t able to do in their everyday lives due to the ever-present stigma surrounding homosexuality. Gays generally put on great parties (a stereotype, I know, but stereotypes are often true), and that’s what this was.

Joburg Pride was a photographer’s dream. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

Most of the couples at gay pride wear matching outfits, which makes for good photography.

A participant is painted with the tagline of this year’s Joburg Pride.

A ‘fag hag’ is an inappropriate term for a girl who hangs out with gay guys. I’m a bit of a fag hag myself.

No explanation necessary. Just awesome.

My favorite shot of the day.

I initially thought ‘Imperial Select Princess Crossing’ must be a drag queen escort service. Turns out it’s a car dealership. [Note: I am totally joking and the people on board are not escorts.]

Her T-shirt reads: ‘I can do all those things your boyfriend can’t.’

Nice advertising for I checked out the site but it’s all in Afrikaans.

The Joburg Pride marshalls, who protected us from the Jozi traffic, look like cops at first glance. But if you look closely you can see that they quite obviously are not. Click on the photo for a closer look.

Thanks for the party, gays. I’m proud of you.

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  • Reply Darren Smith (@DazMSmith) October 2, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Great set of shots. Love ’em …

  • Reply @injoburg October 2, 2011 at 10:46 am

    Great pics, it was a good party. In Belgrade, Serbia, a similar parade plus party was banned this weekend as police can’t guarantee the safety of participants, and a large right-wing element is ready to use violence if it would go through. South Africa is thankfully very different. Although… a few years ago the parade used to go through Hillbrow where there was resistance and objects were thrown at participants too.
    That church website is bilingual by the way. I had an interesting chat with a gay catholic yesterday; I have difficulty understanding why a gay person would willingly join an organisation that is so opposed to his/her true nature, but he explained it as being born a convinced catholic and having no choice but to try to change the organisation from within. Brave, I suppose.

    • Reply 2summers October 2, 2011 at 11:22 am

      I went to the site and it appeared that the headings were all bilingual, but when I went to the actual pages, the content was Afrikaans. I was tired though so maybe I wasn’t looking carefully enough. That’s interesting about Hillbrow and the parade in Belgrade. I should have mentioned in my post that being gay is hard everywhere, not just in Africa.

      • Reply @injoburg October 2, 2011 at 11:25 am

        Oh, and traffic control was done by the ‘Dykes on Bikes’ 🙂

  • Reply Caroline Hurry October 2, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Some great images here, Heather. well done!

    • Reply 2summers October 2, 2011 at 12:56 pm

      Thanks Carrie, it was so much fun to shoot.

  • Reply Sonja October 2, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Great pics and thanks for sharing, it’s important that we show our tolerance… I just would have wished to see a bit more of the rainbow nation.. i mean, where if not on such a day??

    I have gay friendz in SA as well and I know how they struggle. But I also see positive changes. And even in Germany, where I come from, we still can’t say it is accepted as normal. Even though the rights from the law are improving and the society is getting used to it (which is just a matter of time)..

    Thanks a lot and keep it up!
    the Sowetan gal.. haha

    • Reply 2summers October 2, 2011 at 1:19 pm

      Thanks so much for the comment, Sonja. You’re very right — I realized when I looked at my photos that there wasn’t much diversity in them. Which also says something about the stigma that still exists, especially in black communities. By the way, you may already know this but Soweto has its own pride parade every year, the week before Joburg Pride. I didn’t make it to the Soweto event but here are some photos taken by my friend Lauren:

  • Reply Sonja October 2, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Thanks a lot and you’re right about the stigma. It’s changing amongst the young people but it’s still a big big issue.
    I didn’t know about the Sowetan parade, nice pics from your friend! Thanks for sharing! I will make sure I am there next year (keep ma fingers crossed!)

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough October 2, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Gosh, Heather, thank you for this amazing post. Sara and I have thought that if we were to end up in SA, we would get married there. It’s amazing to think it’s legal to marry there, but not here in Kentucky. But I’m so sad to hear about the struggle to be out in SA. I wasn’t aware of this.

    Thank you for this truly fabulous post, Heather. This one should be FP!


    • Reply 2summers October 2, 2011 at 4:28 pm

      Thanks so much, Kathy. That’s really nice of you to say. It is pretty cool that gay marriage is legal here — I didn’t even get into that in my post but it actually deserves a post of its own. The gay marriage laws are good for me as well, because they allow me to apply for a domestic partner visa through Joe. Horray for domestic partnership! Sadly, though, in many parts of the country social attitudes haven’t caught up with the laws.

      You should come here on holiday and get married!

      • Reply Slowvelder October 2, 2011 at 8:41 pm

        Yeah – come to SA and get married – that would be great! Then you can honeymoon here in the bush 🙂

  • Reply agualinjonathan October 2, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    agualinjonathan reblogged this on agualinjonathan.

  • Reply greenfizzpops October 2, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Thanks for all the lovely pics 🙂

    Actually, Durban had a Pride march on 30 July this year.
    It was nowhere as large as the Joburg one, but it happened 🙂 And when we got home, I found I somehow had glitter on me 😉

    • Reply 2summers October 2, 2011 at 6:06 pm

      Ah, cool! I didn’t know about the Durban parade — Wiki misinformed me on that. Thanks for commenting. Also, thanks for linking to my blog. I see you on my referrals page all the time!

      • Reply greenfizzpops October 4, 2011 at 12:50 pm

        You’re welcome 🙂

  • Reply Slowvelder October 2, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    The colours are so vibrant. Lovely pictures – my favorite is the first one.

    • Reply 2summers October 2, 2011 at 9:04 pm

      Thanks Jackie, I like that one too. It was supposed to rain yesterday — so glad it held off until last night.

  • Reply Joburg Expat October 2, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    great topic, and great shots!

  • Reply ingridckoch October 3, 2011 at 11:39 am

    This post bought back memories of going to Gay Pride in Joburg a few years ago with one of my best friends who is gay. Walking along surrounded by people just happy to be able to express themselves and have fun, not to mention many very good looking men, was a great day. Last year I went along to a similar parade here in Santiago and it was nothing like in SA. A few brightly dressed people, but otherwise, sadly normal. It just proves the influence of the Catholic church in the seriously conservative country. But the Chilean president just signed a law giving same-sex couples the right to civil unions so they have a right to inheritance etc. A step in the right direction, but the mentality here is unfortunately still like in many places in Africa.

    • Reply 2summers October 3, 2011 at 11:43 am

      Thanks for the comment, Ingrid. It’s interesting to hear your comparison of Joburg and Santiago. In general, it seems that Jozi incredibly progressive compared to other areas of South Africa and Africa. Another great thing about living here!

  • Reply Hayley October 3, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Oh wow…awesome photos!

  • Reply laurenbarkume October 7, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Great photos! Funny that you recognized someone from Soweto Pride, I’ve shot prides 3 years now, and sometimes I forget that the people I know from my photos don’t know me.

    • Reply 2summers October 7, 2011 at 4:46 pm

      In the same way that people know us from our blogs but we don’t know them.

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