The queer community came together to discuss and share their views on various topics.

A toxic res culture for members of the LGBTQIA community was one of the issues raised at an open dialogue at Wits University on Thursday, August 8.

Hosted by Activate Wits and the Thami Dish Foundatio, the theme of the dialogue was ‘busting binaries’. “We always think of things in such a binary way, we see it as men and women, the importance of busting binaries as our guiding force is we want to bring attention to the lesser known identities,’’ said Zanele Hlongwane, chairperson of Activate Wits.

“We can’t ignore toxic res culture, it comes from the understanding there is men and women and [not] only straight people, these traditions are problematic and homophobic but they also ignore and erase so many other identities”, Hlongwane said. She was specifically referring to Orientation Week activities between residences which isolates LGBTQIA people.

Anthony Brown, professor from the department of educational psychology at the University of Johannesburg said that “the notion of power enables people to be in control as House Committees are bestowed with power”.

Attendees criticized House committees (comm) who were complicit in homophobic behaviour, saying that house comms have the power to perpetuate residence traditions which are oppressive.

“First years are very vulnerable, it is very difficult to not participate,” said an attendee after a member of the audience suggested that students can choose not to participate in these traditions.

Tish Lumos, programme co-coordinator at Wits transformation office who was present at the dialogue said there are structures at Wits to handle or deal with cases by providing support to students who are being subjected to these traditions.

“Wits has many structures [but] there is no way that the system is good enough to handle 36 000 students’ issues or problems, I work with GEO (Gender Equity Office) and its takes us 6 months to deal with a case,” said Siphosihle Nkosazana Mbuli, a third-year law student.

The participants encouraged each other to take part in political spaces too have a queer political voice to make changes.

“I thought it was very useful, it is the first event I have been to like this, in three years at Wits, which is kind of worrying but also it was also inspiring to engage and see how big the queer community is,” said Fabio Pinheiro, third-year BA general student.

Miss Universe, Catriona Gray from the Phillipines, attended the dialogue. Gray said the issues faced by the queer community shouldn’t be for one day such as pride day or month, “it should be in every space, it should be aired out”.

Thami Dish told Wits Vuvuzela that the dialogue was “not to talk at students but more to listen, engage and learn of our unique experiences here, it is incredible to know there are so many young brains and queer bodies on campuses that will stop at nothing to defend themselves, change policies and to change behaviour on campuses”.

FEATURED IMAGE: Thami Dish (left) with Miss Universe Catriona Gray (right) at the queer dialogue. Photo: Lwazi Maseko.