From fairies to Muscle Marys there were rainbow flags sprouting from every corner of the crowd as vehicles pulled up with bold statements sprawled across their sides; ‘We are not mythical creatures’, ‘Cape Town Lesbians’, ‘Beefcakes’… not all politically charged or even mildly cryptic but catchy nonetheless. As the colossal ruins of the old stadium embraced a myriad of queer identities, so too did the sun embrace the Saturday morning sky, the perfect excuse for half-naked male torsos to glisten with sprayed water; a stock image of Pride Parades the world over. But of course there is more to Pride Parade than just skimpy outfits and over-the-top drag queens.
The amount of effort and planning that goes into orchestrating such an event is no small feat, and in this case I’m happy to report that the organisers were on point. Marshalls lined the streets. Traffic services stopped traffic. And the river of floats moved steadily along, never remaining still for too long. The setup felt just right and even with the wilting heat it was a pleasure to traipse up and down along the colourful procession of floats. The only thing missing was more elaborate dressings for the floats. Many were simply trucks draped with fabric or colourful appendages attached to vehicles. I understand that float-building is a time-consuming and financially draining procedure but I do feel a little ingenuity was missing. I mean, aren’t we the nation which brought a totalitarian regime to its knees? Surely there exists a resourceful gene in our people that can compensate for expensive decorations.
But beyond the superficial layer of the parade there was evidently a burning passion in the people who joined the march. One spectator even mentioned that Cape Town’s Pride Parade far outshone Sydney’s Pride Parade. Maybe not in scale but certainly in terms of spirit. And it’s this spirit that brought a deeper dimension to the parade. A dimension of not just pride, but freedom of speech.
There were men in grass skirts speaking out against rhino poaching and leather clad bikers fighting against child abuse. The parade was not only for gays and lesbians but became a platform for any number of marginalised identities to be celebrated and displayed. The float procession juxtaposed Transgendered people with Crew bar. It allowed for Islam to coexist with OUT magazine. Like a necklace crafted by Judith Butler herself, the parade threaded together beliefs, identities and images which describe the other side of Cape Town. A true carnival of the queer. Like the ‘moffie’ in traditional ‘Kaapse Klopse’ culture, Pride Parade spoke out against what we accept as normal. It broke through the cords that so meticulously muffle our voices and cried out ‘Speak my children, for I shall make your voices heard’. And at some point, as I breathlessly stopped along the side of Sea Point main road, just for a moment, I felt truly proud to call myself gay.