by Lerato Dumse
The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) was hosted by Iranti-Org and commemorated in Johannesburg with a flashmob dance in the middle of Carlton Centre’s food court. It is the same vicinity where a black lesbian, Bonisiwe Mtshali was assaulted in 2012 by security guards for kissing her girlfriend, Khanyisa Ndoda.
The flashmob was then followed by an awareness bus tour around Johannesburg CBD, where participants at the event flew the rainbow flag high throughout the tour.
The event was organized by Iranti-Org an LGBTI visual media organisation, according to Iranti-Org, the event was supported by various organizations in Southern Africa including, Inkanyiso, Coalition of African lesbians (CAL), FEW, Sexual Rights Zimbabwe,
1 in 9, Transgender and Intersex Africa (TIA), Gender Dynamix, Limpopo Proudly Out LGBTI, EPOC and Amp Studio.
The idea to host this annual event was adopted 10 years ago in Canada, and continues to spread to more countries including South Africa. The event was dominated by black lesbians a group seen as synonymous to homophobia and hate crime. The poor attendance by other races makes one wonder if homophobia only exists in the townships, if this battle should only be fought by those thought to be most at risk in South Africa.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) individuals gathered at Iranti offices situated at the House of Movements in the Joburg CBD. Before walking to Carlton Centre for the first activity there, members of the LGBTI community commanded attention. People stopped their shopping and stared stuck by the queer presence in a public space.
The LGBTI group also sang songs declaring their existence and intention of going nowhere, and two lesbians shared a kiss. Carlton Centre is where Bonisiwe Mtshali was assaulted by security guards she knew and who often asked her to organize girlfriends for them.
Her crime was kissing her girlfriend goodbye. She could not contain her excitement “I am happy that we came here today because I feel that LGBTI people will be free to walk in Carlton centre holding hands or even share a kiss. I know how fortunate I am to still be alive and able to witness this event myself, sadly many never survive hate crimes” said Mtshali with an appreciative smile.
Tsepo Kgatlhane traveled from Kuruman in Northern Cape and says it’s the first lgbti event he’s ever attended. He is the best friend of the late Thapelo Makhutlhe, who was murdered, castrated and his private parts put in his mouth in Kuruman. “To keep Thapelo’s memory alive I do things and attend events that he would attend, like this one”.
IDAHOT is about raising awareness against discrimination the next activity was a drive around Johannesburg on a open top bus. The drive ended at house of movement where Iranti-Org have offices and it was the venue for the last part of the programme.
Organizations were given an opportunity to speak, Nthabiseng Mokoena from the Transgender and Intersex Africa (TIA) said each group within the lgbti community is working on their own issues in isolation and that delays progress. She also asked if lgbti people are accepting of people in this community who are different from us.
Before his highly energetic performance, which left the crowed asking for more, drag queen Nathi Dlamini made a plea to organizations to visit and be visible in poor areas. Dlamini says she has been attacked and stabbed many times where she lives because of her appearance.
“I have sent many requests for support but they fall on deaf ears. Please come to the informal settlements so the homophobes can see there’s many of us” begged Dlamini.
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