by Leigh-Ann Naidoo
The following is the keynote address given by South African beach volleyball Olympian Leigh-Ann Naidoo at Closing Ceremony, July 22, 2006 at Wrigley Field.
I want to ask us all to get up on our feet and give the city of Chicago and the organizers of the Chicago Gay Games a sense of our huge appreciation for an amazing week!
This is my first Gay Games and I can tell you it is much more fun than the Olympics!
Where else would a streaker at opening ceremony be commended by a speaker on the size of his balls?!
Where else would men be so celebrated for their finesse as cheerleaders?
Where else could butch women slug at a ball without having to worry about their absolute right to be so powerful?
Where else would same-sex couples feel free enough to lie in a spoon position in the halls of a school gymnasium while catching a nap between soccer games?
It is a testimony to the spirit of the Gay Games, a movement that has at its heart the commitment to human rights and the freedom of expression and does it all with the flamboyance, creativity and irreverence—for which our community is famous.
We should not forget that our sense of celebration as well as our love of the high drama and beauty of life must always be accompanied by the remembrance that we are, by the very nature of our homophobic societies, a community of activists.
We live in a world in which access to sexual rights and freedoms is uneven. While some of us have the pleasure of celebrating hard-won battles for the right to love—and make love—to whomever we desire, others struggle for the smallest space of political maneuvering.
Our activism for equality and freedom should not rest until we have formed the international ties of solidarity that allow us to assist our sisters and brothers from all parts of our world in their right to be full and free members of society.
In February this year the first gay pride march was organized in Gugulethu, a township outside of my home town, Cape Town, South Africa. It was organized to try and address the often violent homophobia that exists in poor communities in South Africa as in many parts of the world.
A week before the march, a young woman named Xoliswa Nkonyana was openly holding her girlfriend's hand in her neighbourhood. For this act of courage, she was attacked by a group of men [ who ] stabbed and stoned her to death.
She was 18 years old.
And she is not alone. Let us also remember 14-year-old Ahmed Khalil, shot at pointblank range in May, in Baghdad; 24-year-old Jody Dobrowski, beaten to death in June, in London; and the unknown others whose stories do not make it to mainstream media.
Let us take a moment of silence to remember those who have fallen victim to recent cases of homophobia.
MOMENT OF SILENCE.
We are not alone in our struggle.
We have debts to other social movements that have mobilized on our behalf, calling within the context of their own struggles for the rights of the LGBT community.
It is our responsibility as activists in our own cause for sexual freedom to not forget those debts and to never allow ourselves to imagine that our own horizon of rights is not fundamentally linked to the struggles of other social movements.
For we should not only be fighting for the rights for people all over the world to love whomever they choose. We should be fighting for freedom from all forms of oppression.
If we cannot support the victims of sexism, the exploitations of an unfair global economic system, racism, war and the ravages of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. If we cannot support them, then we weaken ourselves, both as a movement and as human beings.
Our politics should be broad and generous. We should be aware of our connectedness to all those with whom we share this world.
To celebrate our own victories without feeling the sting of the oppressions—homophobic and other—that remain in the world is to turn our backs on justice.
In Africa we call this principle UBUNTU. A person is not a person without others; the well-being of ourselves rests upon the well-being of those with whom we share this world.
May the people of Cologne carry this spirit into your planning of the Games in 2010. And may all of you carry this spirit to your homes, your families and your communities.