Discrimination serves as a catalyst to continue living without fear: LGBTQI+ Northern Cape community

Pride Month
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The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI+) community in the Northern Cape says 2020 been a tumultuous year.

Some were chases from their homes during the hard lockdown by family members, who did not accept their sexuality. Their plight was brought under the spotlight when a transgender woman was assaulted by police after she reported that her boyfriend had beaten her.

Siphamandla Mathabatha alleges that when she got to the police station, she was immediately shouted at and manhandled by a policeman. She opened a case but it was subsequently dropped.

“When I asked them what grounds it was dismissed on, they did not have a clue as to what was going on. The prosecutor hasn’t even met me; I am so confused. I don’t know where to turn to now. I don’t know who to ask for help anymore,” she says.

This hard blow to the rights of transgender people. However, it did not dampen their spirits and they celebrated Women’s Month with the rest of South African women. These women spoke out during the month about how their experiences of living as women are often trivialised and overlooked. As a result, they are completely left out of women’s rights discussions.

“A lot of women that are preaching feminism and womanish and all things pro female literally sideline us as trans women. So that actually kind of hurts. It hurts not being included in the struggles of women when you are a woman yourself,” one told SABC News.

“When it comes to being really part of the decision making, trans women are left out because we are still just being used for window dressing and that’s it. Otherwise we are still left out. We are still at the door; we aren’t even part of the table discussion,” added another.

COVID-19 impact on the LGBTIQ+ community: 

NGOs, Diamond Gays and Lesbians and Access Chapter Two, are calling on the government to step up its protection of the rights of LGBTI people.

“We always say that freedom is meaningless if it is not celebrated by all and in this case – of LGBTI persons. LGBTI persons might have been exposed to element of freedom by the virtue of the Constitution but if the daily life or their livelihoods is challenged, that means LGBIT persons are not free,” says the Executive Director for Access Chapter Two, Steve Letsike.

Despite the challenges, the LGBTQI community celebrated the annual pride month in June. Although Pride month commemorations usually include big parades, concerts and marches, the coronavirus pandemic moved the celebrations indoors and online. However, the message for the month was still the same.

“We don’t want them to love us. They must just accept that we are there. And we are still gong to be there. Generations to come there will still be gays and lesbians.”

They called on society to stop judging and policing their attire.

“Pride month is not enough. It should be celebrated everyday. Pride is something within you. The confidence, your dignity; going out there wearing your skirt, going out there and not being judged about what you’re wearing. Not being questioned about what you are wearing.”

The LGBTQI+ community says the discrimination it is subjected to also serves as a catalyst for them to continue living their true, authentic lives without fear.