A recent study by the South African Institute for Race Relations has revealed that discrimination and violence against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTIQ) community remains rampant in the country, despite a constitution that promotes freedom of choice.

In response to this, LGBTIQ people celebrated their third annual picnic in Kimberley, which seeks to raise awareness and fight stigmatisation. However, the group believes while strides have been made, churches are still not open-minded.

Taking a stand and celebrating their sexuality, the LGBTIQ community, displayed that they too matter. The group celebrated with their partners at a Kimberley Park which was decorated with their red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple flag.

Organiser Helen Dondolo says the picnic aims to create a safer space for the LGTBIQ community.

“What we are doing here is to also assist the gays and lesbians to be themselves. This event gives you a platform to be who you are and to be free. In Kimberley we don’t really have a lot of violence against gays and lesbians. They are starting to understand us because most of us in Kimberley we are out,” says Chairperson of passionate voices for women, Helen Dondolo.

Paul Kars, who is now named Paulina, says the journey of living as a transgender has not been an easy one. The 20-year-old Peer Outreach Worker at Lifeline says he is saved by his thick skin and accepting himself. Kars urges other transgender people not to be fazed by hate and slander.

“Personally the struggle that I am going through is the names that they are calling us. I am making myself brave, you will say whatever you want to say but that will never break me down. So I am trying to make other transgender people to feel like that, to feel confident about themselves. We are humans at the end of the day.”

Families, friends and activists supported the picnic and reminded people that the LGTBIQ community also deserves respect.

“Growing up in that family, I have learnt to support people across all spheres, to accept different people across all barriers. My part is to support my mother because her worth is much more than being a lesbian, before she is a lesbian, she is my mom,” says Zanele Rume.

With a report by the South African Institute of Race Relations calling out the Eastern Cape as the most homophobic province in the country, the group says the fight and awareness cannot stop.