by Lesego Tlhwale
On the 17th May 2013 after attending a day long International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) event organised by Iranti-org downtown, Johannesburg. We went uptown to Braamfontein to attend an event by Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA).
GALA launched a new youth website called: Hear Us Out! which is aimed at African Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) youngsters and it is said to be a creative, safe space for individuals between the ages of 16 to 30.
According to Anthony Manion, Director at GALA, “hear us out is a space where young people can be heard.”
The planned occasion was totally different from the one we attended earlier in the day. It was a reserved, more like your cheese and wine type of setup, a very relaxed event.
The selected individuals who attended were (mostly invited guests), and a majority of them were older people, not really the targeted age group of the just launched website. Unfortunately the age factor didn’t go down well as some of the individuals present were concerned about the limitation the website had about it target(ed) age group.
The few young people who were there, were those who participated in GALA’s Citizen Journalism Workshop which was hosted months before the launch of the website and they were there to share with the attendees some of the articles they wrote during the workshop.
The articles shared by participants were quite good considering the fact that it seemed as if only the eloquent individuals were chosen. Judging from the tone and accent from the three black youth (2 black lesbians and one gay man who is currently studying towards his law degree). It is a pity that most of the township queer youth were not present to witness the successful project done by their counterparts.
Manion showed the guest how the website look like and different links it offers. He further mentioned that, “hear us out is going to be an interactive website where young people will be able to upload their own content onto the website.”
Furthermore, Manion explained that, “in order for the website to be functional and up to date, will be entirely up to the people who are going to be using it and up loading content. We will update the website with resources such as reports, articles and other academic materials, the rest is total up to you.”
The website will be a host to different spaces which will be used by the youth.
The Youth Voices, one of these spaces will be used to upload writings, pictures and voice recordings. The Art Space will mainly be used for designs and arts. It will also be a host to discussion forums where youth will get an opportunity tackle issues they are dealing with on a daily basis.
The basic language used for the website is English and users are also expected to use the selected language while interacting with others on the website. This however, raised a bit of a concerns from the attendees at the launch, said that, “expecting everyone to use English will not be fair as it is not everyone’s first language and not everyone is comfortable in expressing themselves in that medium of language.”
Overall the website promises to be a unique platform, and might see young people connecting in a creative space. Currently, South Africa has no interactive/ edutainment initiatives for LGBTI youth where individuals could express their sexuality freely without fear. Behind the Mask (http://www.mask.org.za) shutdown in 2012 and it was the only online magazine that focused on LGBTI affairs in Africa since 2000.
“We hoping the website will reach a lot of young people in years to come”, concluded Manion.
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