It appears that anti-homophobia organisation Activate’s goal of ending prejudice around sexual and gender identity among Witsies is going to be a challenging one.
On Friday, Activate members staffing information stands on campus were the target of insults: “These guys were passing by and they said ‘Eish these lesbians. Do not worry we will fuck you anyway’,” said Felicia Thobejane, 2nd year Architecture.
Activate Wits told Wits Vuvuzela that, while most Wits students do not discriminate against other students with regard to their gender or sexual identities, there are still challenges in residences. Some people report hostility from other students.
“Some students say they get to the bathrooms, and are looked at as taboo,” said Activate spokesperson Lesedi Sithole.
Activate launched its first ‘Monthly Pride’ event last week, with tables offering information on differently gendered identities. It is a week-long event, dedicated to educating the Wits community about LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transexual) students as well as those who identify as intersex, asexual, queer and other sexual and gender identities as part of Activate’s mission to make the Wits campus a safe and welcoming place for all, regardless of their identity.
Outside the Umthombo building, students supporting the campaign carried placards written in bold letters with slogans such as: “I speak out against homophobia and transphobia”, “Some people are queer. Get over it!” and “I am straight but not narrow”.
Many students passed by the information tables, but few stopped to talk.
“The response has been great from the majority of students but some guys just said, ‘Oh ezi zitabane [these mofies]’,” recounted Muneiwa Phodzo, 3rd year Biomedical Engineering.
“Our aim is to inform students on campus. People are still scared and uncomfortable to engage in conversations concerning LGBT,” said Sithole.
At an event last year, Activate found some of their informational posters in bins. “Even during the Pride Week, you could see that people come to us because they want our t-shirts instead of engaging with the topics,” Sithole said.
Activate Wits is a diverse student society with about 50 members, dedicated to raising awareness around LGBT issues, and protecting the rights of the differently gendered community at Wits. It works in partnership with the Transformation and Employment Equity Office, Wits Pride, Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA) and WHAM, a mixed-gender, queer-friendly rugby club.