Pride & Shame by Osazeme O


Its post pride weekend, and I’m in a deeply pensive mood! I spent most of my weekend with Africans feeling extremely proud of who I am. My social media spaces were lovingly littered with images and sentiments about pride from NYC to Nairobi to Cape Town and beyond. I wished most of my rainbow friends here and at home a happy & safe pride, and yet something doesn’t quite feel right.

Pride in all its glory is about glitter, and bare skin, and instant gratification and throwing caution to the wind, and saying ‘fuck you society (family, church, community, lover even) for making me feel shameful about who we are and how we love. Right? Well very little about the way pride manifests conjures up feelings of pride for me, aside from maybe the indignant use of the word PRIDE.

As I consider what the main Pride festivities consist of, I feel a greater sense of shame than I do pride. I find it hard to appreciate or understand how excessive displays of nudity and random profligate public displays of sex and sexuality can be beneficial to anyone. I recall two separate conversations I had with friends on the issue, from one conversation with a long time lesbian, her conclusion was that she couldn’t partake in the parade because to her the gaudy masquerading and gratuitous nature of it all simply translate into ‘a freak show’ or ‘a comedy of errors’. Another friend expressed that to her pride is a privileged display of white sexuality that isn’t really accessible to ‘the other’. That there is a fundamental gendered class struggle inherent in pride festivities. I find myself agreeing with both of these trains of thought.

Growing up as a bini, naija, southern african bred, afropolitan lover of women something about the mystique surrounding sex and sexuality that was instilled from my home is very alluring to me. Although I must admit that the mystique can be used as a tool of oppression as well, but that a conversation for another day. So for instance, I find a woman dressed in a sari or a booboo so much more intriguing and arousing than a pornographic spread or a woman in a bikini. Less is more is just that the women in my inner circle and myself. The intellectual and physical play invoked through the power of suggestion is simply exhilarating. But more to the point there is a subtle power in discretion that I’m not convinced festivities like Pride are aware of capitalise upon.

I guess this stream of consciousness was provoked mainly because I’m noticing a lot of rainbow folks on the continent trying to piggyback on and replicate western displays of Pride…to this I say DON’T touch that dial. Empowerment and progress should look and feel different for us. Because in the midst of these adopted audacious statements, our community is still unsafe, we are still targeted and yet we continue to love. Just this morning I heard news of yet another young lesbian who was murdered in Cape Town. So my questions become:

1)   How do we combat shame from culturally relevant places?

2)   How do we sensitise our people to our existence?

3)   How do we combat the ignorance that spurs violence?

4)   How do we build and sustain ally ships?

5)   Who will fight for us?

6)   What makes you feel most proud?


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