Some 150 people marched through the streets of Langa on Saturday, May 21, as part of the annual Khumbulani gay pride festival, where they denounced the senseless killings of gay, lesbian and transgender people.
The event was organised by the Alternative Inclusive Pride Network (AIPN), and was aimed at honouring those who had been killed and raped because of their sexual orientation.
The festival hoped to encourage people to embrace who they were, irrespective of how society perceived them.
As a precursor to the event, on Friday, May 20, gay and lesbian traditional healers launched a traditional healers’ forum aimed at addressing issues of persecution. It also hopes to lure other traditional healers to be part of the forum.
Philippi resident Elizabeth Maweza, 74, said she had decided to be part of this event because she had been unable to declare her sexual oreintation earlier in life for fear of victimisation.
“I was 20 when I noticed that I was more attracted to females than males and that was when I realised that I was a lesbian.
“However, in the old days there were no organisations such as this one that talked about these issues openly and educated the society about homosexuality.
“It became impossible for me to come out and tell my family that I was a lesbian,” she said.
Ms Maweza called for similar events to be staged. She said they played a crucial role in society and in dismantling the stigma about gays and lesbians.
“Black people, in particular, need to stop uttering derogatory words such as ‘izitabane’ when referring to them.
“Gays and lesbians are human beings who have the right to live their lives as they want. I have never been married before, but I had two children who unfortunately are no longer alive,” she said.
Zethu Matebane, AIPN coordinator, said most gays, lesbians and transgender people continued to live in fear even though their rights were protected by the constitution.
She appealed to the community to refrain from killing gays or lesbians as they were neither criminals nor rapists. Ms Matebane said they would never stop voicing their frustrations and anger towards those who were still victimising them. She vowed to host events until the day arrived when there were no more hate crimes committed against them.
“Recently a lesbian police officer was killed just because she was a lesbian. How long will the killing of our people continue? What do these people who are killing us want from us? Being homosexual is neither a shame nor a sin and why should we live our lives according to the expectations of other people?” she asked.
That being said, the gay community was both proud and excited that the gay pride event was getting much-needed support and each year attendance figures were growing.
Ms Matebane added the event was even attracting the support of senior citizens and those who were not gay.
Tradional healer Vuyani Mabandla said the forum was the first of its kind in South Africa.
He said members deemed it appropriate to create a platform which would enable them to tackle their daily challenges.
“A calling is calling and it does not ask you what your sexuality is, nor does it ask you what are your views on homosexuality.
“No one can defy the calling. The forum seeks to dismiss the fallacy that gays or lesbians can never be traditional healers,” he said. Mr Mabandla said it was crucial to initiate this forum because they had been victimised and as a result, others had become reluctant to embrace who they were. Funeka Soldaat, a member of the activist group Free Gender, said they initially wanted to host the event in Manenberg, but due to the scourge of gangsterism currently taking place in the area, they chose Langa instead. Ms Soldaat said they hoped to encourage lesbians and gays to live their lives without fear and celebrate who they were. “We want to be unified so we can fight for the right to live in a free society,” she said.