Are the Feather Awards and Pride still relevant to queer culture?
by: Moroetsana Serame - 11 October 2018
Queers of a feather, Pride together
The past few weeks have been interesting for Queer-hannesburg. They marked the announcement of the nominees of the 10th annual Feather Awards and Soweto Pride which hosted a three-day celebration for the first time this year. Amidst all these festivities important conversations should be had about the impact of these events on the LGBTQIA++ community.
The Feathers were created to recognize and celebrate members of the industry who contribute positively to the community and to create a platform for the representation of queer and trans people. However there was very little representation amongst the nominees, many of whom have no affiliation with the LGBTQIA++ community, not even as allies. The nominees of the Feather Awards were extremely disappointing. After 10 years of hosting these awards one would expect them to reflect the lived experiences of those whom they’re meant for.
Two of the nominees (Thabang Molaba and Tumi Seeco) were withdrawn due to homophobic commentary made from their twitter accounts. This is an unimpressively reckless mistake to make which begs the question what is the nomination criteria and is there a screening process for nominees?
The award categories themselves also need refining. Awards such as “fag-hag of the year” lack relevance in 2018. The term fag-hag means a heterosexual woman who associates herself mostly with gay or bisexual men. It is problematic because it perpetuates the toxic relationships of heterosexual women using their gay friends as tokens and encourages use of the word f*gg*t in an offensive way. The award is not progressive at all and awards hetero-sexual people for simply tolerating queer and trans people.There has also been talk of renaming the Feather of the year award to the Simon Nkoli Award but this doesn’t reflect on the 2018 award list.
Joburg Pride will be held in Melrose Arch, from the 25th to the 28th of October. The itinerary will include a Beyond the Closet conference, Fit and Fabulous Sweat 1000, Mister Pride of Africa gala dinner, The Official Pride Parade and Festival, a Pride of Africa music concert and Stand up for passion family breakfast.
The event being held in Melrose Arch is already an accessibility impediment for those who can’t afford to travel there which is a contradiction of this year’s theme ‘Color the street in our diversity’. A lot of the content that will be discussed like Civil Unions and Adoption, would be very valuable to poor and working class queer and trans people but to have barriers to such information is neither progressive nor is it promoting diversity at all.
Soweto Pride was more accessible than Joburg Pride however it lacked these informative elements in their three-day camping experience. There was only one ramp which was placed on the exit side and the main entrance had no ramp and had a (turning wheel) which would have made it impossible for anyone with a wheelchair or mobility aid to enter. There were also barely any shade provisions for people who are living with albinism. Soweto Pride should have went an extra-mile to ensure that people with disabilities are able to attend and enjoy pride.
Pride and the Feather Awards are very important in a society that chastises people for simply being who they are. Representation of queer and trans narratives, if done well, through these events can go a long way in making this world an easier place to not only exist but to thrive in, not just to be tolerated but genuinely accepted and seen as human and not othered. This can only be done if we brutally interrogate how these events are conducted and how we can make them better and more inclusive. No sexism, racism, classism, ableism, ageism, homophobia, fatphobia and transphobia. No hatefulness.