June is Pride Month, a time when members of the LGBTQ+ community celebrate their identities in a world that is predominantly discriminatory towards them.
Often, LGBTQ+ people — especially those more privileged than others — forget to acknowledge their privilege and fail to include all members of the queer community. It is vital that the LGBTQ+ community reflects on diversity, and the varied struggles that many have to go through.
Empowering queer people of colour
In order to empower all queer individuals, one must look at the events, media, images and spaces that the LGBTQ+ community creates. In South Africa, Pride events are predominantly attended by the white middle class, excluding queer people of colour.
This is extremely concerning, since violence against queer people of colour is exceptionally high in South Africa, with multiple murder and assault cases being reported. It is important that white queer individuals educate themselves about racism and exclusion.
It has been reported that many white queer men, for an example, are overtly racist on dating apps like Grindr, informing people of colour that they are only into whites. This behaviour is not acceptable — being queer is not an excuse to be racist.
It's important that the queer community includes orientations and identities that are not heteronormative and constantly face discrimination and dehumanisation.
Empowering queer, disabled people
The queer community can often be ableist in excluding or being derogatory about disabled individuals.
Many LGBTQ+ individuals have images of the perfect queer man, woman, trans, or non-binary individual. This can often lead to debilitating, harmful spaces for queer disabled individuals.
Queer disabled Jessica Kellgren-Fozard has said that she is either rejected completely because she is disabled, or she is treated like an object by other queer women. It is paramount that our community educates itself on ableism and calls out other queer people who display it.
End body shaming
LGBTQ+ people face so much adversity, yet this does not prevent many from body shaming others. Due to the "perfect gay" image in many queer folks' minds, the overweight and the skinny can be mocked and rejected. This can affect mental health, and lead to anorexia or other eating disorders.
Ending bisexual and pansexual erasure
While the media has slowly been recognising bisexuality and fluid sexuality, bisexual and pansexual people are still erased or treated like invisible members of the community. Patriarchy and sexism also play a role in the way bisexual people are treated — when a male comes out as bisexual or pansexual, he is considered to be "still in the closet"; i.e., secretly gay but self-hating.
When a female comes out as bisexual or pansexual, some claim she is doing this to impress men. It is said she is simply "playing around" and experimenting. Problematically, this reinforces the notion that everything, in terms of sexuality, links back to men.
It's important that the queer community includes orientations and identities that are not heteronormative and constantly face discrimination and dehumanisation. Furthermore, we should support any initiative to promote their welfare, rights and dignity.
During Pride Month and beyond, it is important that we celebrate our differences.
Including trans and nonbinary bodies
There is no doubt that our queer community is a diverse in terms of backgrounds, races, genders, sexual orientations and creeds. During Pride Month and beyond, it is important that we celebrate our differences and take the time to learn about the various experiences and struggles we have.
Once that has been achieved, a space of empowerment, acceptance and unity can make the LGBTQ+ community stronger.