Man graduates in heels to activate against LGBTI discrimination
With South Africa being the first country in the post-apartheid Constitution to outlaw any discrimination based on sexual-orientation, it ranks fifth in the world in legalising same sex marriages, making it the first and only in Africa to legalise same sex marriages. However, even with that profound constitutional background, the stigmatisation on a homosexual lifestyle still persists in the country.
We have seen many activists fighting for homosexuality rights and Letlhogonolo Masinga, a young male student from the Northern Cape Tvet College did not fall short of this advocacy as he boldly walked to the stage to grab his National Diploma achievement in heels at his graduation ceremony. This was in an effort to be a backer and show his support for the gender based violence that has been on the rise in the country as well as for the rights of the LGBTI community in South Africa.
Masinga, who identifies himself as a gay man articulates that finding himself as a homosexual man in the small town of Barkley West and having learned from an early age of the stigma and harsh realities gay men face, not wanting to embarrass his family, the young man isolated himself from society in an attempt to escape, “I become an introverted child and didn’t speak much,” he says.
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community still live under fear of discrimination and homophobic violence which includes corrective rape. In a country where society is influenced by cultural values, tribalism, and the lingering effects of apartheid and colonisation how can we bridge the gap in rectifying this phenomenon?
According to Letlhogonolo he feels that many people are on the same boat of hiding behind shadows of shame, and living a lie, “People do not want to reveal their homosexuality because they fear being judged and ridiculed by society. I believe that this is one of the major causes of depression in our communities. I still experience negativity from society regarding my homosexuality, but I believe that LGBTI people need to stand up, embrace who they are regardless of the societal standing on the lifestyle,” he firmly expresses.
Masinga says that his family was surprisingly accepting and understanding when he finally decided to be honest to himself and to them. Upon finishing matric, he realised that he had to stop living in a cocoon if he was going to make an honest and fulfilling life for himself, “In order to do that I had to be honest with myself and see if I can make it as a gay man in the world,” he added.
Masinga’s movement is also aimed at challenging government to beef up policies when it comes to LGBTI, he says that the system itself, especially the workplace does not cater for homosexuals, “The forms that we complete in the workplace, or elsewhere, do not cater for LGBTI groups. It is time that government acknowledges that we contribute to the economy, as much as people who are not homosexuals, it is not fair that we get excluded and discriminated against”.
“Letlhogonolo’s motion is one of assertion because it clearly identifies him as a person. He is showing the world his defiance and courage, thus disrupting the normative,” says Patsy P. Alley, an activist for the LGBTI community,
Patsy expresses that she first met ‘Tlhogi’ when he availed himself as a board member in the Gayle Diamonds Organisation, an organisation that aims to educate and advocate for LGBTI’s. “As a collective we are bringing the hidden agenda to the fore. We have been suffering at the hands of our own communities for far too long with no concrete access to support from government. Our organisation aims to bring awareness and tackle the structural impediments that prevent us from fully taking part in the economy as equal citizens,” adds Patsy. The activist affirms that Masinga has been ensuring their administrative success as an organisation and that he has shown passion for the work that they do, “I am grateful that he chose this platform to do so,” concludes Patsy P. Alley.