Being threatened with death. Treated like an outcast by your family. Being seen as a disgrace. These are some of the challenges regularly faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons.
These and other painful truths emerged when the Thandolwethu Queer Collective organisation, spearheaded by young people, hosted an educational picnic, in Makhaza, on Saturday October 28, to discuss homophobia, inter-sexuality, transphobia, biophobia and feminism.
Members of the organisation shared their painful experiences on how they had been subjected to abuse in the community-and in their own homes.
Many said they survived each day only “through the grace of God” and that they were often accused of having a negative influence in the community. Through the dialogue they hoped to create a platform for sharing and to denounce abuse of LGBT people.
Founding member of the organisation, Ntombiyesizwe Mkonto, said, having come from a religious family, it had been difficult for her to inform her relatives about her sexuality.
Ms Mkonto said her family considered LGBT people as being possessed with demons and in need of healing and divine intervention.
But, she said, her parents eventually discovered that she was a lesbian – which did not go down well with them.
She said her relationship with her parents turned hostile and sour, with them making it clear that they would never “allow” her to be a lesbian.
Ms Mkonto explained that at some point she stopped talking to her mother.
The 25-year-old said when she completed high school in 2010, she enrolled for a course in public management at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in 2011. She moved to the student residence to avoid living with her parents. For nearly a year she did not speak to them until they finally accepted her sexuality.
However, she said, there were still LGBT people who were not accepted by their families.
“We are human beings. We need to teach the community to unlearn whatever they have learned. We are people who do not conform to gender settings and there is nothing wrong with that,” she said.
Another founding member of the organisation, Kedibone Legoale, said in very traditional families, it was not easy to talk openly about such issues. The 19-year-old said they wanted to create a platform whereby they could pour out their hearts and boost their confidence. Since its inception, she said, the organisation had worked tirelessly to build relationships with various schools in Khayelitsha.
The organisation started out as a conversation between two friends who shared their experiences -some of them negative – of being lesbians and not being accepted by their families. The organisation started with seven members but today it has more than 40 members who meet regularly. While they consider their awareness-raising visits to schools as an important part of the work they do, some people were not happy with it and accused them of trying to “persuade” children to be lesbian or gay. And she said, all they really want is to be treated fairly and not be discriminated against because they don’t conform to societal norms.
You can contact Kedibone Legoale at 0633199534 or 0622758427 for more information about the organisations