by Pierre Le Roux
After being underwhelmed by last year’s Jo’burg Pride and being left feeling rather exploited, I decided to this year not attend Pride, rather opting to go to New York City instead. After all, do I really want to attend another Gay Pride that clearly is a blatant rip off? Well, the answer is NO and apparently I am not the only queer in South Africa that feels this way.
This week I have a quest blogger from the website The Modern L (Everything you wanted to know about being a modern lesbian! And now one of South Africa’s favorite online Lesbian Magazines), and this guest post was penned by The Miss Jones.
Profit vs People:
They say that the LGBTI Pride Parade is like Christmas for the gays. It’s the one day a year that everyone looks forward to, the day you spend weeks, if not months, planning your outfit, what you’re doing afterwards, and who you’re mincing with. You look forward to seeing all the colorful floats, what the cute stalls have on display and which eccentric outfits the qeens, bears and fairies will be wearing on the day. You make sure the batteries for your camera and phone are fully charged so you can look back at the day that was and reminisce about the fun you had.
I have attended the local Pride parade every year for exactly half my life, and the ones with the fondest memories, I have to admit, were the ones much earlier on in my life. Pride was always something I looked forward to and prepared for and I always felt inspired after attending the event.
Seeing the entire gay community standing together for a mutual cause, marching through the streets with a purpose, seeing the public wave and hoot as we pass, our straight friends and family walking alongside us in support, the qeens flinging insults and high heels at the happy clappy homophobes at the side of the road, and most importantly, being free to express yourself, your individuality and not just your sexuality is what Pride is and should be all about.
That was then…
In recent years there have been quite a lot of complaints and blogposts directed at the downward spiral pride parades all across the country are taking. And this should be cause for alarm to those who organize these get-togethers, but I don’t think this is sinking in just yet. Myself, and many others believe this is due to certain role players making the mistake of putting Profits over the pink People.
In the past I have driven and been on 4 floats, once on a motorcycle, I have walked with 5 charity organizations, walked for a cause twice and managed stalls on 2 occasions as well. In some years gone by, float and stall operators had to rock up for a meeting, pay a nominal admin fee, stick to the rules and Bob’s your auntie, you’re good to go! Ever wonder why there aren’t so many colorful floats and as many exciting stalls around? Why ten ton flatbeds decorated in the fabulous rainbow flag have been replaced by convertibles and bakkies? Why the stalls with the cheap trinkets and memorable memorabilia disappeared and have been replaced by overpriced junk you know you’ll never use again? Let’s take a look:
To have a float in the Jo’burg parade, you’re looking at up to 1500 bucks per float. The Durban parade up to and R1200 and the Mother City R50 to R250. Stalls in Jo’burg range between R450 and R1035 and Cape Town between R300 and R1000. There’s also the issue of the method of payment for these events and the so-called Pink Money they use as currency, which is non-refundable!
Then there’s the issue of refreshments on the day. We used to be able to take our own picnic baskets and refreshments, but at recent events, even bottled water has been confiscated at the gates. I distinctly remember standing in a queue for an hour and a half for Pink money at last year’s Pride, only to then stand in a two hour queue for a drink (that cost about twice as much as I would have paid at my local pub even now, a year later), and then not having enough energy to stand in another mile long queue for something to eat. The drinks vendor also did not stock what we preferred to drink so what’s the point? Look, I totally get why they would ban bringing in booze so they could sell their own, but why not let people bring in their own soft drinks, water and snacks?
So if people pay to operate stalls and floats, pay overwhelming amounts of money for food and booze and spend money to buy a currency they cannot get a refund on for essentially nothing and the organizers get cash from advertising packages and corporate sponsors, as well as sponsorship from service providers and artists, not to mention the rent-a-crowd they brought in by the busloads last year, it looks like Gay Pride has turned into another cog in the money making machine.
There are those that argue that money is needed for the organization and smooth running of the event, which is essential, but with the massive media coverage AND turnout Pride gets every year, sponsorships and advertising shouldn’t be that hard to come by and if insufficient funds are raised through advertising and sponsorship, organizers should really look into firing their PRO’s and marketing managers. The other argument is that they need to pay artists due to perform on the day. When I spoke to a very well-known female artist that performed at Pride a few years ago, she told me that she performed for free and that it was a tremendous honor to perform at the event. Other artists have told me that they’ve done the same in order to get exposure. And to be quite honest, apart from the artist I just mentioned, I don’t think I watched anyone else perform at Pride in the 15 years I’ve attended and no one I know has either. So why pay a so-called fortune for something no one really cares about?
Today I was told that apart from everything one has to pay for at Pride, the NMB Pride is charging an entrance fee to this year’s event and this has created a massive storm for the gay community in PE and no doubt it will cause many to boycott the event. For smaller cities, with their Pride parades still being in its infancy, this is definitely a step in the wrong direction. Pride is about people, not profits. About being free to be who and what you are or who you support and not about how deep organizers can dive into your pockets.
My point is this: Pride is turning into yet platform for the exploitation of the gay community. Some of my family members used to attend Pride with paper bags over their heads in fear of persecution way back when, and back in the day, some of my drag queen friends were jailed for wearing a disguise in public. They didn’t do that so someone could come along and make a quick buck off our community!
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Till next time.