On 13 October 1990, South Africa’s first Lesbian and Gay Pride march was held in Johannesburg. It was the first Pride March on the African continent and acted as both a gay pride event and an anti-Apartheid march. The march was organised by the Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand (GLOW) and attracted a crowd of about 800 people. Speakers at the event included Beverly Ditsie, Simon Nkoli and Justice Edwin Cameron .
The purpose of the event was not only to demonstrate pride in gay or lesbian identity but also to provide a wider platform for voicing political concerns. The march was part of a broader struggle to decriminalise homosexuality in South African law and to end Apartheid. Addressing the crowd, Simon Nkoli said; “I am black and I am gay. I cannot separate the two parts of me into primary or secondary struggles. They will be all one struggle”. Marchers feared for their safety, with many wearing masks during the event.
There was a strong presence of religious groups with many onlookers describing the march as ‘disgusting’. Despite this, there was a generally celebratory atmosphere to the parade signified by the chant “out of the closet and into the streets”. Since the event in 1990, Pride marches have continued to grow in South Africa with each of the nine provinces now hosting a march. Under the democratic dispensation, some in the LGBTIAQ+ community felt that Pride should be more celebratory than political.
This has caused widespread divide within the community, with many saying that the Pride march should retain its political legacy and highlight some of the issues affecting LGBTIAQ+ people in South Africa today.
Ditsie, Beverly & Newman, Nicky. “Simon & I”, Steps for the Future, accessed 1 February 2017. https://stepsforthefuture.co.za/video/simon/.|South African History Online, “The History of LGBT Legislation”, South African History Online. 17 December 2014, https://www.sahistory.org.za/article/history-lgbt-legislation