By Caitlin Bantom
Celebrated on May 17, International day against homophobia and transphobia (IDAHOT) aims to create awareness of the LGBTQI+ community and their rights as individuals.
In a Q & A session with NTU News, Bonani Wenzile Khumalo (a transgender male), Boitumelo (a homosexual male) and Michalè (a bisexual male) shared their opinions and experiences with homophobia, transphobia and discrimination as members of the LGBTQI+ community. Due to security protection reasons we have not published their photographs.
- How do you define international day against homophobia and transphobia?
- “IDAHOT to me is a good day to celebrate all the victories/progress we have made in SOGIESC (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression and Sex Characteristics), the lives of the queer population and it is a good platform to evaluate good practises which we need to keep and forge a way forward on inclusivity in all aspects.” – Bonani, 30.
- “International day against homophobia and transphobia is a day of awareness; it is where we celebrate the lives of those individuals who died because of being true to themselves. On this day we create awareness to educate people about who we are and what we stand for as the LGBTIQ+ community, we stand united with a goal to make a better future for the generation that will come after us.” – Boitumelo, 23.
- What does the word “discrimination” mean to you?
- “Discrimination to me basically means being treated unfairly because you choose to live openly and differently to other straight, macho men and being treated differently to other men because you don’t look or act like them.” – Michalè, 22.
- “Discrimination to me is the unjust/unprejudiced treatment of people based on their skin colour, disability, gender or their sexual orientation.”
- “Discrimination to me means being segregated because of elements that one possesses that is different from what is considered the norm in their societies.”
- Have you ever been personally discriminated against for your sexual orientation or gender identity?
- “I have suffered discrimination at the hands of teachers and learners. Back when I was young I use to be feminine for a boy child and that came as strange for many individuals, this led to them calling me names and also making fun of me. It was hard when even the teachers would make nasty comments because I believe that teachers should protect learners. One thing that a teacher once said that stuck out was her saying that LGBTIQ+ individuals are practicing witchcraft, this led to learners discriminating against me more, shaming me more and isolating themselves from me.”
- “My family disowned me for wanting to transition from female to male. They did not even give me the platform to explain anything. To them, the queer population consists of only gays and lesbians- they classify me as the latter. Before disowning me, they subjected me to a lot trying to ‘cast away the spell of same-sex relationships’. We move at the end of the day and locate peace.”
- What are some of the struggles you personally face as a member of the LGBTQI+ community?
- “There aren’t really as much struggles, a lot of things have changed. I mean, I can literally go and buy makeup without being judged now and go to a salon and get the same treatment any other woman with my hair length would get.”
- “A simple thing as using the public toilets is a challenge for me. The stares…one can never get used to them. Gender neutral bathrooms should be introduced everywhere.”
- “Its people always thinking I’m incapable of holding leadership positions because I’m a feminine boy, mostly it’s the males thinking that I cannot represent them well because to them being a male goes in line with masculinity not femininity. I’ve quite faced a lot of these struggles growing up where you’d find people not wanting me to represent them.”
- What perceptions of the LGBTQI+ community do you wish people could change their opinions on?
- “Queer people are born queer. We do not wake up in the morning and decide to be queer. It is not a choice like how cis-het (cisgender and heterosexual) people always think it to be.”
- “That gays are always loud, bisexuals are players, transmen are women and transwomen are men. Most importantly, that it’s wrong for people to be themselves. I mean, people will always judge but let others be themselves. Sometimes it’s better to keep your opinions to yourself.”
- Why is it important that our community and our laws treat people equally?
- “It is important because treating people equally is the fairest treatment of them all. It’s unjust to single the other group and treat them unfairly because in your opinion they are strange or they are different from what you’ve been taught your whole life.”
- “Cis-het people have a tendency of thinking that they are more superior that queer people. Our laws have to be uniform so that they illustrate that no one gender is more superior than the other.”
- “It is very important to fight to be treated equally. In most cases our community gets pushed in a corner because of being ourselves and we don’t get opportunities like others in the workplace, we don’t get accepted at home, we end up unemployed and homeless and it is all because we are not being treated equally to straight people.”