Creating Awareness on state-sponsored homophobia

by Thobeka Bhengu

Photos by: Lerato Dumse

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The Amsterdam Rainbow Dress by: Thobeka Bhengu

The Amsterdam Rainbow Dress is rightly explained as” a living work of art”; To celebrate International Human Rights Day, the dress arrived on the African continent for the first time. The Netherlands Embassy and the Amsterdam Rainbow Dress Foundation held the International Human Rights Day celebration at Constitutional Court in Johannesburg on December 10 2018. The dress is made of national flags from countries where homosexuality is illegal. It is currently made up of 75 flags, and when a country adopts legislation that is inclusive of LGBTI+ people, the flag is then replaced by a rainbow flag. The dress measures over 16 meters in length.

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It is a clear representation of the global status quo on “government-sponsored LGBTI phobia”. The dress itself is a powerful symbol in defence of LGBTI+ rights. It enforces much-needed debate on inclusion and awareness, and it is also a painful reminder that LGBTI+ rights in 75 countries are trampled on. It is a reminder that LGBTI+ individuals in these countries do not have equal rights and protection. They still live in danger of being imprisoned or violated because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The dress is usually seen on an elevated mannequin or models in the country where it is shown.

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Designed by Arnout van Krimpen, the dress has travelled and its presence has been recorded at meaningful locations around the world. There is an ongoing series of photographic images being captured in different locations using different models and photographers. In South Africa, the dress was modelled by Yaya Mavundla, a Brave Beauties participant, a transgender activist who has recently received the Socialite of the Year award at the 2018 Feather awards.

At the unveiling of the dress, Yaya Mavundla spoke about coming from the rural Kwa-Zulu Natal as a transwoman. “I am a transgender woman from the rural KZN, where when you speak of transgender people they are like what is she talking about. And for me having to be myself and having to be here is something very brave that I have done. For me wearing this dress that has so much power and so much meaning, I look at what it speaks about and I look at spaces where I come from especially in rural areas, and wherever transgender people are coming from in rural areas. The laws that are made around Africa that are against the LGBTI rights are the exact same thing that happens in the areas where we come from”.

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Optimistically in about a decade, all those flags should be replaced by the rainbow flags, which will be a huge victory for human rights, LGBTI+ people and gender diverse people around the world. The dress continues to travel around the globe and we are honoured to have seen it on our shores as the first African country to have the dress on display.

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The garden of marriage

by: Lerato Dumse

Arriving at In2 Africa- Function/Wedding and Conference Venue, we are received by a smiling worker who requests his co-worker to accompany us to the Chalet where the wedding group is staying. It is approximately two hours before Deborah “Dee” Dlamini is to say her vows sealing her union with Laetitia Jaftha on Saturday December 8 2018.

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The sun is out and it is scotching hot with a little breeze, favourable weather for the planned garden wedding. Final preparations are underway and Inkanyiso crew including Lebogang Mashifane, Lerato Dumse, Thembela Dick and Thobeka Bhengu arrive to capture those moments. Laetitia and her maid of honour and brides maids are doing their make-up, fixing hair and getting dressed.

We split the crew, some remain with the bride others document the wedding venue. After capturing the beautiful setup, which was waiting for the couple and their wedding time, we headed back to the Chalet to capture Dee, who is a Faces and Phases participant and her best man and bridesmaids getting ready.

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With all the nitty-gritty out of the way, rings given to the allocated people, Laetitia’s surprise bouquet in hand it was all systems go. Looking handsome in their navy-blue suits, Dee and his entourage emerged to the seated crowd and made their way to the Wedding Alter to wait for Laetitia.

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The bridesmaids then followed opening the way for their friend. Dee’s eyes were fixed on Laetitia who looked stunningly beautiful in her figure hugging wedding gown. Pastor Moema was ready to officiate and read from the bible before giving the couple advice for their marriage. The couple shared wedding vows while smiling affectionately. Rings were exchanged; the pastor joined their hands before blessing their wedding bands and declaring them married ending by inviting them to “kiss the bride.”


With the first part concluded the wedding moved to another part of the garden for picture taking with family and friends who waited patiently for their turn to be snapped with the couple. It was then time for part two of the wedding and the crowd moved to the reception. Food, music, dancing and speeches dominated the second part. One of the speakers Christina Dlamini stood up with a dance to show her excitement that her child is getting married. She spoke about knowing, supporting and understanding Dee from a young age and struggling as a parent when Dee was at school and being discriminated.

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With all speeches done the couple had their first dance, Dee searched for a gutter hidden in Laetitia then threw it to a group of excited bachelors. The cake was cut, toast made then it was time for closing. When we came out it was threatening heavy rain so we mingled a little, took final pictures and ran to our transport just as it started drizzling and made our way home. We were all tired but filled with hope for love after experiencing the beautiful people and wedding ceremony.

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2018 Nov. 1: I never thought I will become the woman I am now

by Sazi Jali

Growing up in a township, I never knew one can possibly change their gender, it was just unimaginable. I was assigned male at birth and raised as a young man, but I always knew I was different. My mom usually tells a story of how she saw the signs even before I could start talking, she claims I never wanted to play with toy cars or any of the footballs she would buy me. I wouldn’t even kick one just as other boys my age did, I would simply take it and throw it away. She says when she would take me along for shopping I would cry for dolls. My mother has played a huge role in my transitioning and has taught me about acceptance and not forcing people to accept you but take it one step at a time.

Growing up I saw myself as different even though it was hard to accept whom I was/am. At some stage in my life I mastered the art of hiding my true self behind the word of God. The first two years of high school I was acting as if this truth that I alone knew was all a stage and that God would cleanse me of my gayness – everyone was happy that the prodigal son had returned. In 2010 I learnt about this gay guy who had undergone changes to become a woman (what is known as gender reassignment and termed as transgender). When I first learned about gender reassignment I wasn’t receptive of the idea but I knew I shouldn’t be scared. At school I came out as gay and started cross dressing, though as a result of cross dressing I was bullied but being me I still did it.

Being an activist started back in high school for me. I was a visibly active leader, in set student leadership positions at school as the Head of the debate team, as well as Chairperson of the school’s church organisation despite my appearance. Outside of school, a political party acknowledged my leadership capabilities and they asked me to join the party. This was to ensure diversity in their leadership structures, so I was elected as a member of their Branch Executive Committee.


Brave and Beautiful

Brave Beauties from Durban attended Mzansi Pride on 24/11/2018. Photo by Thobeka Bhengu


In 2013 I was introduced to transgender people whilst doing a photoshoot with Prof. Zanele Muholi as part of Muholi’s project titled Brave Beauties. This is when I started to understand and imagine a possibility of gender re-assignment. However, I questioned if the word of God said anything about changing parts of oneself. I needed to speak to my God to understand how this would affect my relationship with God. Over a period of two years I was going back and forth trying to decide on transitioning and the difficulties of going through with the procedure for those who cannot afford it.

Meeting with Brave Beauties made me understand the diversity between the women and their bravery. I also got to understand better the importance of sharing information to assist the next transgender person. As transgender people we need to understand the holistic idea of transitioning, transitioning socially, transitioning with your family and community, medically transitioning, mental wellness, being misgendered, legally transitioning and the difficulty that comes with transitioning as a whole for transgender individuals.

I had acquired information on the word of God and I was ready to start the process. In 2016 I received information which helped me find assistance at a public hospital since I wasn’t getting any younger and I was anxious to begin. Eventually I started sessions with a psychologist which was hard as he was based in a different city and some of my appointments clashed with my classes. Six months later I started my hormonal therapy and I had high hopes that the treatment would work faster but it did not.

I was eager to learn more about it and it became more about me rather than how people identified me. In 2017 I started advocating for the rights of transgender people. After I had thoroughly done my research and found out what the law said about changing my gender marker, I immediately applied to change it. The process took me two months due to the knowledge I had gathered and actively assisting home affairs officials.

After I had changed my gender marker, problems at school began as I was the only person to change their gender marker in between the course. However with support from my mentor the battle was won, by the time I graduated the school had changed my gender marker. This was the first of its kind in Africa where a transgender person graduated with an already updated gender marker, for most people they have only been able to change it after graduating.

As part of the work I do I have assisted other transgender people with changing their gender markers, and about 98% of those I have assisted have received their new Identity Documents.

I have done my orchidotomy and I am presently meeting with a doctor from KwaZulu-Natal to probe the approval of the surgery. The focus is also on assuring that hormones are available in the national protocol for the LGBTQ+ community in 2019. We are also advocating for an immediate change in the classification of re-assignment surgery in the same category as cosmetic surgery, resulting in re-assignment surgery being affordable only to the selected few that can afford it.

I am expecting to have done my vaginoplasty in 2019 so that I can assist other transgender people achieve it. In the possible availability of a uterus transplant we will be in the forefront, fighting for access to all services for transgender people. I never believed I would be this woman I am now and I have accepted who I am, with the hope that it will inspire others to join the fight for transgender rights.

About the author

I am Sphiwosakhe Sthandwasenkosi Sazi Jali and I am 23 years old. I was born and raised at Umlazi in Durban, South Africa. I am legally a female, I identify as female and my pronouns are “she and her”. The hardest thing I have had to do was take away a baby boy my mom thought she had, who was going to carry our clan names to the next generation. I am grateful that even if I could not give her what she wanted, she has loved and accepted me; And my name is one of the things I would not want to change.


Sphiwosakhe Sthandwasenkosi Sazi Jali





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Car Handover Ceremony to Ntethelelo Foundation

by: Thobeka Bhengu

Ntethelelo Foundation invited Inkanyiso Media to document the AIDS Foundation’s car handover ceremony. The handover was held on November 29 2018 in Alexandra, Sitjwetla informal settlement, at the crèche opposite the grave yard.

On the way we drove in a small one-way gravel road with heaps of waste on the side of the road, and unclean puddles of water all around and a stench of the all the dirt. The crèche is opposite a string of movable green toilets, most with big padlocks so others cannot access them and can only be accessible to those with the specific key of the toilet. On the way to the venue Thokozani’s window was open and she greeted and hooted at members of the community and members of the foundation who seem to know exactly who she is, as we drove past them through Sitjwetla informal settlement.

When we arrived at the venue, they were already a number of young people waiting inside and around the yard who helped with quickly setting up the chairs inside the venue.  The ceremony opened with a warm up, where the Ntethelelo foundation members, their parents and guests had to stand up and participate in the exercise. The exercise was an ice breaker to help with the focus and release of any tension that the attendees might have.

Intethelelo Foundation team

The ceremony had a number of messages of support from the Aids Health Foundation, the community leaders, parents, the owner of the venue and the friends and colleagues of Thokozani Ndaba who is the founder of Ntethelelo Foundation.

The members of the community expressed gratitude to the foundation and Thokozani for bringing such a foundation to the settlement. They expressed how their children have something that they are part of and how they see a bright future for their children who are part of the foundation.

The Aids Health Foundation guests from the United States and Durban expressed how they are thrilled with this project and how they are committed to supporting and contributing to empowering young girls and children because they are the future.

A group of articulate and energetic young people from Ntethelelo Foundation expressed their gratitude to the foundation and to Thokozani for all that the foundation has done for them and expressed how through this foundation they have gained confidence and how they now know that they can change their circumstances and how this project has encouraged them to dream and understand that they can be anything they want to be regardless of where they come from.

The entire group of the foundation also delivered a performance that opened with Not Yet Uhuru and went into the theatre of the oppressed performance of multiple scenes, where they performed the work twice. The first performance was a complete run-through of the performance and the second performance allowed the audience to stop the performance and change the negative messages and scenes into positive circumstances.

Car Handover

The handover of the car took place just outside the venue, where all the attendees gathered around the car to see the artworks created by the Ntethelelo Foundation members and the work got painted on the car. The car will be used for the purposes of the foundation, to take the foundation members to counselling sessions, school when necessary, yoga and all activities of the foundation. The car looks colourful and all the children were certainly excited to see their work on the bakkie. The artwork on the bakkie are stories of the young people about not having enough food, water and sanitation and the struggles they are facing in this in particular community. The young people are also working with the Market Photo Workshop where they are learning how to tell their stories through photography and they have taken images of their lives. The images will be exhibited in different spaces.

Thokozani gets flowers from Ntethelelo

To close off the ceremony, the attendees took a walk around the informal settlement to see some of the girl’s homes and the circumstances they are living under. The walk revealed a lot about the circumstances these young people are leaving under. Issues like safety, water and sanitation, cleanliness and the clear stench of poverty. However, these young people possess so much power and hope that the walk became a chance to get to know the guests from AHF and articulate their struggles.


Ntethelelo foundation is doing important work with these young people in this area and we hope that individual funders and major funders can donate towards a brighter future for these incredible young people.


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by: Thobeka Bhengu

My familiarity with gay pride spaces has been rather systematic since my active involvement in queer activism for the past seven years. My first pride was in 2012 in Cape Town, which was before my involvement in queer arts within the civil society, specifically LGBTI+ organisations and the LGBTI+ movement in South Africa.

Pride celebrations across the country have had their fair share of political squabbles and clashes around the politicization of pride. November 24 2018 saw my first attendance of Mzansi Pride, another space I was about to experience with Inkanyiso team as we came to support our very own Yaya Mavundla and other Brave Beauties that were participating in the pageant.

Trans flag

We woke up just in time after a long night. We got up with a mandate to document the 4th Mzansi Pride. Getting ready and getting into the spirit of pride was the only option after a very long night of an amazing dinner and discussions with brilliant creatives and friends of Sir Zanele Muholi. However, no matter how many hours of sleep we managed to get, the decree was a clear one and we were up bright and early to prepare for Mzansi Pride.

After a briefing session with Sir Muholi and Inkanyiso team, we made our way to the venue. Mzansi Pride brought to us by Moja Love  was held in Newtown Precinct Park and the march was scheduled to start at 12 noon but people were encouraged to start arriving at 9 am. When we arrived, the setup at the venue had already been done and my attention was immediately directed to the largest LGBTI+ flag and trans flag draped on the sides of the stage. The barricaded open venue had stalls around the open field and a large stage at the front.

Brave and Beautiful

When we were scheduled to leave the venue and take it to the streets at 12:00 there were less than fifty people who came, however the march continued as planned. The attendance of the march was not even a third of the overall attendance of the pride festival and pageant. I have previously articulated my personal frustrations and concerns over the attendance of pride marches around the country compared to the attendance of the social event or picnic which is customarily after the march. This is a matter we need to discuss and revisit as the LGBTI+ movement, so as to redefine the role of the march and consider whether it is time to do away with marches or continue marching regardless of the lack of support from the majority of LGBTI+ people.

Mzansi Pride Festival

The overall attendance of the event was beyond what I had imagined; people began to arrive in their numbers in the afternoon. The event saw hundreds of people in attendance and the line-up of great performances from the likes of Amstel, who as usual delivered another delightful performance. King B from the recent Idols SA saw hundreds of voices scream his name as he belted out some of the songs he sang on Idols SA 2018 recently and in my opinion that was the performance of the day. King B gave a stunning performance and managed to attract hundreds of people who were scattered around the venue to come to the front of the stage.

Also as part of the programme for the day was the Miss & Mr Mzansi Pride pageant which was spread in-between performances whilst the beautiful contestants changed into different outfits. The pageant had three different categories. It opened with traditional wear, followed by swimwear and finally evening wear. The competition was tough as all participants went all out with their outfits, but as usual, there had to be winners as it was a competition. Two of the Brave Beauties participants managed to take two spots under Miss Mzansi Pride, Kim Monoto as the 2nd Princess and Vilender Twala was crowned Miss Mzansi Pride 2018.

Mr Mzansi Pride 2018Miss Mzansi Pride 2018

As the pride festival was at its peak and people were still arriving in their numbers an unfortunate event took place. The stage was not barricaded and audience members were able to come right in front of the stage. In an attempt to get the best shots of the performances, I squeezed myself in-between a large speaker and an erected microphone stand at the right corner of the stage, the space had little room for movement with equipment, hence I had to place my bag by my legs and continue shooting and in the blink of an eye, the bag was snatched in the presence of hundreds of people. The Mzansi pride team immediately announced that a media person’s bag had been stolen and denounced any criminal activity, as the space was meant to be safe and a space to celebrate. The security team was immediately alerted, and they were very helpful in trying to recover the bag, but unfortunately it could not be found among the hundreds of people gathered at the event.

Irrespective of this minor setback, in my opinion, the event was still a huge success and congratulations are well deserved to the Mzansi Pride’s organizing team for being able to put together such an event. With many pride events around the country struggling with the issue of safety, it is important to also acknowledge that pride events have not prioritized safety, and these spaces that are meant to be safe are never safe. As the queer community, we have found a way to change such progressive events into toxic and violent spaces.

As Mzansi Pride grows each year into one of the biggest pride events in the country, we are hoping that the organizing team will find ways to mobilize for the march and also that we as the LGBTI+ community support and acknowledge the importance of marches in South Africa. We ought to understand that our fight for LGBTI+ rights did not end when the Civil Union Act, 2006 was passed. The LGBTI+ community continues to face challenges of homophobic violence, ‘corrective’ rape, unemployment, homelessness, access to health care services, high rates of dropouts due to discrimination in educational institutions, bullying in schools, discrimination in the workplace and discrimination at government facilities. The fight for LGBTI+ rights is not over, and events like Mzansi Pride are a platform to echo the cries of LGBTI+ people. We must never forget that we are stronger and louder in numbers.


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Visual activist launches new book in Cape Town

by: Simangele Mzizi

Photos by: Lerato Dumse

On 1 December 2018, visual activist and photographer Zanele Muholi, launched the long-awaited book Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness at the Zeitz Mocaa Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town.

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A departure from her renowned black and white portraits, Faces and Phases amongst various LGBTI photo projects including Brave Beauties, Being Series, Beulah, which sees Muholi commemorating and celebrating black lesbians, gay men, transgender individuals and gender-nonconforming individuals. In Somnyama Ngonyama, which translates to Hail the Dark Lioness, Muholi turns the lens on herself. She is boldly reclaiming blackness and offers a radical statement of identity and resistance.

In a conversation (also contained in the book) with curator, Renée Mussai, Muholi explains that Somnyama Ngonyama is not only about beautiful photographs; it’s also about bringing forward political statements.

“The series touches on beauty and relates to historical incidents, giving affirmation to those who doubt whenever they speak to themselves, whenever they look in the mirror, to say, ‘you are worthy, you count. Nobody has the right to undermine you because of your being, because of your race, because of your gender expression, because of your sexuality and because of all that you are.”

ee 0404 Kwanele _ Parktown _ 2016 1                                       Kwanele _ Parktown _ 2016 © Zanele Muholi

For example, one of the portraits contained in the book is called Kwanele – meaning “it is enough” in isiZulu. The image responds to Muholi’s experience of travelling through immigration at different airports where she is often racially profiled. In the image, she is draped in plastic. The activist explains during the conversation with Mussai that the plastic around her face is the same material that covers her suitcase during her travels: “The image speaks about the need for protection, as well as the sense of feeling exposed, stripped of dignity, and being continually scrutinised when passing through border control. It speaks to the painful inconvenience of being delayed by these experiences, humiliated, and unnecessarily exposed, as though you have committed a crime.”

The book is filled with other striking images in which Muholi confronts the politics of race and offers commentary on specific events in South Africa’s political history. In addition to the series of Muholi’s self-portraits, the book includes written contributions by 24 curators, poets, and authors who draw out the many layers of meaning and possible readings for the collection of images.

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Attendees at the event were treated to various performances including from one of the contributors of the book, Christie van Zyl. Commenting on the launch, van Zyl, who has worked with Muholi for several years said: “Muholi’s work is an affirmation to never allow circumstances to deter you from doing whatever you say you are here to do in the world. Even though all she was exposed to was being hated for her dark skin, today she is here to tell us that she is everything and we are everything along with her.”

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Speaking at the end of the book launch, Muholi reiterated that her practice as a visual activist looks at black resistance, existence as well as insistence. She used the opportunity to encourage LGBTQIA youths to reclaim spaces that they have been previously denied, to re-think what history is all about, to reclaim it for themselves and to strive to empower themselves. And most importantly, to use artistic tools such as cameras and writing as weapons to fight back. A strong advocate for education, Muholi also revealed that in 2019 there is an educational programme launch for LGBTQIA youths through proceeds from her work.

In another exciting development, Muholi mentioned that her long-time friend, supporter and activist, founder of Free Gender Funeka Soldaat, will be launching her book at Zeitz Mocaa: “Funeka has been an activist for decades through her organisation which fights gender violence in townships in Cape Town and her upcoming book is a wonderful and necessary contribution towards the country’s LGBTQIA community and I urge everyone to support this all-important work.”

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Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness has won Aperture Book Publisher of the Year at the 2018 Lucie Awards. The book can be purchased online here:

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by: Thobeka Bhengu

For the past three years, I have been annoyingly passing remarks and suggestions to my close friends about them tying the knot and inviting me. I had never attended a queer wedding before Deborah “Dee” and Laetitia Dlamini’s exquisite wedding.

Dee                                                                  In the picture (From left): Dee Dlamini & Laetitia Dlamini saying their vows. 08 Dec.2018. Kempton Park.

On Saturday December 8 2018 we witnessed a celebration of queer love at In2 Africa- Function/Wedding and Conference Venue in Kempton Park, Ekurhuleni, where Dee and Laetitia held a wedding celebration of love and a beautiful union. During the wedding we watched, chuckled and shared a tear as Dee and Laetitia demonstrated their love with family and friends.


I had no particular expectations when I became aware that we were to shoot a lesbian wedding. I actually looked forward to it. I have always been a sucker for love and commitment. Some things start to change as you get older, you start to think of the future, you think of commitment, family and the works. But for some this might not be the case, they might want to travel, see the world, meet new people and chase their dreams.

There’s an intrinsic shift in perspective, knowing yourself and your insecurities as you get older and you search for that one person you can return home to, so they can rub your back, massage your feet and make you feel at home after a long hectic day. We are all not so lucky to find love instantly but we continue meeting new people, it works out for a while until it no longer works and you’re caught in petty drama or sometimes you find that one person who makes you feel safe, does all the right things and you would not mind choosing them every day.


When we arrived at the wedding venue in the morning both brides were still getting ready for their special day. Laetitia was in a slight panic about delays when her wife to be was running a little bit late and she was also still to get ready, get into her perfect fitting gorgeous dress, do her simple yet elegant makeup and finally get a hairstylist in to finish off the look with a short, elegant and slightly curled bob cut. When she got into her dress, her relative walked in which saw a beautiful emotional moment for Laetitia. These moments were constant throughout the ceremony. Moments that made you see the true beauty of love. The kindness and unity that true love brings. The speakers of the day also shared love, wisdom and witty jokes.


There is something magical about seeing people who love each other, from the long gazes, goofy smiles and the words that suggest they are in it for the long haul.  I have hardly celebrated queer unions, so for me nothing felt and seemed more natural than Dee and Laetitia’s union. It was the natural order of things, the way it should be; and the kind of wedding I would have liked to see when I was younger.


It puzzles me that people frown upon queer love, making it seem taboo and unnatural to those who are anti-homosexuals and anti-queerness+. Saturday was a magical day and we were pleased to support, witness and document one of our own Faces and Phases participant Dee Dlamini getting married to her beautiful wife. We congratulate you Dee and Laetitia Dlamini, may you keep choosing each other every day, even when some days may not be so peachy. May you find partners for life in each other and be patient with one another. We wish you all the best!


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