We are rioting

June 8, 2018

Pride Month should not be calendar month but a living reality

June is often celebrated as Pride Month – a time to celebrate- the diversity of sexualities and gender identities. Most importantly, it is a time to share stories and experiences of persons who identify as Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ).

In most African countries, LGBTIQ persons continue to live in hiding out of fear of being ‘unmasked’ or being targeted for who they are. Stories of evictions, threats, arrests and killings have filled our newspapers sadly pointing to a lived reality for so many of us who identify as LGBTIQ.

Pride Month was set aside to honour the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, US. Dubbed the first gay pride, the events leading to the riots are commemorated as the tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the US.

Which is why Pride Month matters to us, Africans.

You see, the first Pride event was a riot. It was a group of queer and transgender persons who were fed up by constant police raids and arrests and decided enough is enough. The tipping point had been reached!

But why should a 1960’s American event resonate here? Perhaps, it is important to point out that LGBTIQ Africans continue to face the same challenges that these 1960’s queers were facing – an unwelcoming society, stereotypical media, corrupt police force and invisibility. And shame to be who they truly are.

This forced them to venture into entertainment spaces such as clubs and bars where they could be themselves, associate, talk, learn and share their experiences as they supported one another.

But as if that was not enough they were ambushed and attacked in their safe spaces. This was not a police raid; this was an attack on them. The police represented all their oppression. And they reacted to that oppression by standing their ground. No more, they chanted!

That was the tipping point unfortunately.

Most LGBTIQ Africans have also reached their tipping points – we have seen wonderful visible campaigns, pride marches and activists coming out to challenge the system and people that put them down. We have seen them marching on streets, profiled on our newspapers, helping the less fortunate, battling  in courts and engaging in support groups such as the famous ‘Kilimani Mums’ (an online support groups for single mums in Kenya).

Our Pride Month is not about a calendar month – it’s a lived reality. Everyday we face our fears, challenge oppression and seek to be more visible and open about issues that affect us.

We are rioting. Have you noticed this yet?

About new blogger

Denis Nzioka is a human rights activist in Kenya focusing on sexual and gender minorities. He is the new Project Officer of Strong in Diversity- a new Hivos project that focuses on ensuring LGBTI communities are more resilient and experience greater social inclusion and recognition of their rights.