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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