Wits launches new support group on campus for LGBTQ+ community to provide a support system to establish meaningful connections.
A non-profit organisation has launched a new support group at Wits University to assist the Wits LGBTQ+ community on Wednesday, February 12. Known as Be True 2 Me, the support group aims to help LGBTQ+ community members in finding safe spaces on campus where they can interact with other members of the community, as well as establish meaningful connections and support systems.
Be True 2 Me spokesperson, Siya Hlongwa, told the Wits Vuvuzela the organisation is preparing for an exciting year ahead, as they aim to create volunteer, job and bursary opportunities for members of the community.
A BA honours student, who wished to remain anonymous, told Wits Vuvuzela, he “believes that these support groups are useful and important for students who lack support at home.”
“As a homosexual male at Wits, my experience has been relatively ‘nice’ compared to what I’ve understood the LGBTQ+ student experience to be at other institutions,” added the 22 year-old student who identifies as a gay and as a cisgender male. He added that due to his sexuality, he has “been denied work opportunities, been fired from tutoring students with homophobic parents, and feels as though he risks his life everyday by showing affection to same sex partners in public”.
Hlongwa said that students face a variety of challenges in a world of gender-based discrimination where they may “feel villainised in society”. This includes the lack of gender neutral toilets, gender markers and name changes, access to hormone replacements, struggles with family and friends, as well as various economic challenges.
Hlongwa says that the group aims to help students foster networks at Wits, provide safe zones and facilitation training, educate people on how to use appropriate and respectful terminology, as well as provide advice and act as a channel for students who want to voice their concerns.
“It is really important for institutions to support groups like this so students are able to access opportunities”, said Hlongwa.
Tish Lumos, senior admin assistant at the Wits Transformation and Employment Equity Office, told Wits Vuvuzela that coming out can be very difficult. “Whether you’re still finding your feet, or if you’ve identified as a specific gender identity since you were a toddler, you are very much welcome in the group”, Lumos said.
Be True 2 Me is a unique support group that offers a safe space for transgender people. We offer access to informative materials, co-facilitators who are transgender themselves and social time for members to form friendships,” said Lumos.
Hlongwa advises that students should, “Take their time and only come out when it is safe, comfortable and beneficial for them to do so… once they do come out, there is a really beautiful world awaiting them full of love and acceptance from a family that they get to create”.
Be True 2 Me meets every second Wednesday, from 3:30-15:00 at the Wits Disability Rights Unit Boardroom on the first floor of Solomon Mahlangu House.
FEATURED IMAGE: Be True 2 Me’s support group at Wits aims to help the LGBTQ+ community on campus. Photo: Niall Higgins.
*The identity of the BA Honours student is known to Wits Vuvuzela.