June was named Pride Month in remembrance of the Stonewall Riots of June 1969 and it promptly became a month for LGBT+ people to exist loudly and visibly in all shades of the rainbow, across the whole world. President Bill Clinton was the first President to recognize the month of June as the ‘Gay and Lesbian Pride Month’ in 1999. Then, President Barack Obama declared the month of June as Pride Month each year he was in office, from 2009 to 2016. Pride became a widely celebrated and revered month across the world, from America to Africa.
Yet, the world doesn’t start and end in America. While Americans can celebrate a month of freedom and love with (mostly state-backed) protection, the average LGBT+ African child can’t dare to live freely and this begs the question(s): What is the point of Pride if it doesn’t apply to all? What happens when Pride isn’t really pride for you. As much as Africans celebrate Pride month, it is almost shocking to realize that majority of the countries in Africa do not acknowledge queer rights and violently tramples over the basic human rights of LGBT+ people meanwhile, it is not the same in western countries. I reached out to a few of my friends to share their thoughts on Pride because I know I’m not the only person who feels like this.
“I think the West being a “global powerhouse” has always meant that the experiences and perspectives of that section of the world assumes a place of dominance in the global fight for particular groups of marginalized people. Their way of doing things is often adopted by groups in other parts of the world. It, therefore, doesn’t surprise me that American Pride Month is the generally known Pride Month.” – Jo, Zimbabwe
The history of colonialism has always influenced the way African countries are governed which includes the inhumane policies African LGBTQ people have to suffer through. Queerness was normal pre-colonial Africa but owing to western imports, it was criminalized by the state, thereby sentencing young queer African people to a life of fear, erasure of identity and lack of human rights.
“Colonization has done its thing and it is what it is. I want to say however that pride month as it is known should move from being a month for concerts and parades to one for protests and massive activism. Hell, they can do all four together really. The reason we’re not free is because of the Western Laws that were forced on us. They brought those laws to our land, imposed them on us and made existing unbearable for us. Now they’re moving on from them and we’re still in chains. Let them demand our freedom with their own freedom. Donate to Nigerian LGBTQ+ NGOs. Mount pressure on their government and everyone who can do something.” – Eze, Nigeria
It is worth noting that Pride month is of impersonal relevance to LGBTQ+ people in Africa, owing to the fact that the Stonewall Riots that set the month in motion are events that happened in America and despite its historical relevance in queer history, it is (in my opinion) mainly for American LGBT+ people. For Queer Africans in countries that actively marginalise them, there is a disconnect amidst the celebrations in June because it is not a month that they feel a very personal attachment to asides the meaning it brings for the queer community.
“I do see Nigeria having a different pride month. Because we would love to celebrate that month (in which we actually fought for our rights and respect; and were victorious) Nigerian style. I am looking forward to celebrating Pride outside of the Western view. I’m sure we would add more colors to Pride with how we would celebrate ours. I can’t wait, honestly” – Bunny, Nigeria
While the Western world celebrates Pride month with actual pride and visibility, Queer people in Africa who are still living under the shadows of residue homophobic laws imported from the West have to lay low and celebrate quietly. It is not farfetched that queer people in Africa desire a more personal Pride Month that reflects adequately our own queer history and heroes who keep working to ensure the rights of LGBT+ people in African countries. Queer and trans Africans deserve to celebrate their queerness, outside from the Western gaze and the first step in achieving this is by African countries decriminalizing homosexuality and making LGBTQ+ friendly policies.
Queer people in Africa are clearly still going to celebrate and recognize the month of June as Pride Month but underneath this celebration, there is a bubbling question and curiosity as to when the continent will recognize the existence of LGBTQ identites and make friendly policies and laws against discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation and expression. When this happens, queer Africans are will be able to celebrate our Pride in their own way. We have to remember that Pride started as a protest and freedom for some is not freedom for all.