Allies and members of the LGBTIAQ+ community show their pride outside Great Hall in preparation for Wits Pride 2017.

WITS PRIDE is a week-long annual initiative which aims to raise awareness on LGBTIAQ+ identities while celebrating the diversity within the community and beyond. Wits Pride will take place across all four campuses from August 21 to 26.

The theme for this year’s pride is #OppressionDenied. According to Tish Lumos, programme coordinator for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Advocacy, #OppressionDenied is a deliberate call to those who are in support of the LGBTIAQ+ community. It calls people to take a stand and reclaim spaces which will play a role in ending generations of homophobia and transphobia.

Lumos said that ending homophobia and transphobia starts with individuals “coming out and saying I will not be part of a space that pretends that LGBTIAQ+ people don’t exist”. It is only people who are supportive that can change spaces, according to Lumos.

Sofia Kouridi, a third year student who is part of the LGBTIAQ+ community, said that Wits Pride is important because it is a safe space where one is able to connect with like-minded people.

According to Kouridi, Pride allows members of the LGBTIAQ+ community to reflect on a challenging past where they were once marginalised and reflect on the work that still needs to be done to allow equality.

“There are still laws around which make it hard for us to adopt children and prejudice in the work space which prevent us from equal job opportunities,” she said. Apart from this, being a woman in the LGBTIAQ+ also has its own challenges, according to Kouridi.

Queer women fall victim to harassment and are questioned about personal details in relationships, which heterosexual couples aren’t subjected to, according to Kouridi.

“It would be nice to be greeted with a smile instead of how do two women have sex,” she said.

Despite the challenges, Kouridi says she is proud to be a woman because everything that women represent is strength.

“We are not weak, we’re still managing oppression every day.” All women have come a long way according to Kouridi, “but it’s not over yet until we’re equal”.