June is known internationally as Pride Month, a month where members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies can celebrate the diversity of sexual orientations and gender identities in our society. It is an important time for queer individuals to be empowered and unified in a society that often excludes and discriminates them on the basis of sexual orientation or discrimination. Despite this being a positive, uplifting time for the LGBTQ+ community, there have been a number of issues facing queer (homosexual, bisexual, transgender, pansexual etc.) individuals around the world and in our country even during this period of pride.
In the West, the so-called "Free World" (the USA) currently has a government and leader that does not truly support or advocate for the rights of LGBTQ+ people. Instead, its Education Department is allowing schools, private ones, in particular, to determine who can attend their schools depending on their sexual orientation. Religious freedom bills are being proposed and supported by political leaders in the States which would allow people to persecute and discriminate people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender if that is what their religion supposedly instructs them to do.
Not only are these terrible political decisions being made, but overall, there is still overt homophobia, queerphobia and transphobia taking place in Western countries despite the laws that protect people from discrimination. In Russia, in particular, Chechnya, the political leadership has orchestrated an all out attack on LGBTQ+ people. In the last few months, gay and bisexual men have been rounded up and placed in concentration camps where they have been tortured. Countries such as Germany, France and the Ukraine have only recently opened its borders to allow these victims of evil, abhorrent hate crimes to seek asylum and safety.
In addition to this, the government in Chechnya has created awful propaganda to convince parents of queer children to kill them or "convert them". These horrific events are still taking place right now as you read this. In many African and Asian countries, same-sex relations are still considered immoral and illegal. The punishment for such a "crime" varies from state to state but in some states, LGBTQ+ people are thrown off of buildings, beheaded or can be imprisoned for over 20 years. We are lucky, here, in South Africa, to be one of the very few countries that have legalised same-sex marriage in terms of the Civil Union Act and furthermore, has included in our Constitution that you cannot discriminate against someone on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender.
Facebook has been widely criticised for allowing extremely homophobic pages, profiles and posts to exist on its platform whilst also hypocritically trying to promote a platform where everyone is accepted regardless of their race, sex, gender and sexual orientation.
However, homophobia, queerphobia and transphobia continue today as a result of parents and teachers ingraining the idea in their children's minds that anything other than the "norm" of being heterosexual or cisgendered, is wrong. Another problematic area has been Facebook itself. The social media platform has been promoting Pride Month but has ensured that its Pride Month advertisements, messages and posts are restricted to queer individuals and allies only. In fact, people initially had to like a page in order to receive the rainbow pride react button unlike on Mother's Day when we all received a flower react button without having to "consent" to getting the button.
Facebook has been widely criticised for allowing extremely homophobic pages, profiles and posts to exist on its platform whilst also hypocritically trying to promote a platform where everyone is accepted regardless of their race, sex, gender and sexual orientation. Although Pride Month has gotten off to a rough, unhappy start with events around the world which seek to instil hate and exclusion, there is still hope for the LGBTQ+ community and the future. Pride Parades and discussions to do with LGBTQ+ issues are growing around the world intersectionally and more people than ever before are becoming more comfortable in expressing themselves and being who they are.
A major criticism for all of us is that we need to become vigilant and aware of what political leaders and influential people say about issues such as racism, sexism, homophobia, queerphobia and transphobia. Why? Because we, especially those of us living in South Africa, a democratic country, have the power to determine who we want to lead and who we want to represent us in making decisions. However, the onus is also on us, as active citizens, to create platforms and spaces where all individuals are accepted for who they are and in doing so, we will be able to achieve a more accepting, fair, free and equal society for all.