Members of the LGBTQIA+ community are tired of being assumed as change makers in binary spaces that exclude their queerness. 

While queerness is now visible in old and new media in society, members of the Activate Wits (LGBTQIA+ student society) argued that there is still much more work that can be done to cater to their needs. This was the central theme in the very first Queer Lekgotla, on Monday, August 7. 

The discussion was held at Solomon Mahlangu House (SH6). According to the student society’s advertisement, Queer Lekgotla was held in order “to engage in meaningful discussions concerning the needs and concerns of the queer community [at Wits].”  

Sihle Mazibu, former chairperson of Activate explained how queerness and activism should not be treated as synonyms. “Activism is tiring, activism is draining, and you will find yourself [pouring from an empty cup].   

Our job as queer people is to simply take up space,” she said.  

However, she recognised that it’s unfortunate that queer people must carry the burden of being “changemakers” in circles they normally frequent at.  

The rainbow flag detail on the Activate Wits blazer from behind the refreshments counter. Photo: Otsile Swaratlhe

Meanwhile, panelist and Activate deputy chairperson Zandile Ndlovu said that during her high school years, she saw varsity as a space that would accommodate how she identifies. “I remember seeing somebody with pink hair kissing another person with pink hair” she said, adding that she remembers saying to herself, “I want to be you.” Yet her first experience from first year reflected the opposite of that.  

Ndlovu was surprised by how queerness was politicised in university. Referring to how straight identifying student leaders used it in a way that would help them appear as progressive, yet still excluding the people they claim to represent. 

Ndlovu said that when she would attend events that facilitate spaces for queer people, there would be straight women speaking there.” I was like… I am not sure if this is [how it is supposed to be],” she said. This is until she found Activate, a society she calls, “home”. 

Wits alumnus and fellow panellist, Moeketsi Koahela shared his experience of being an employee while being queer. For him, the workplace made him realise “activism is not for everyone, the struggle is not for everyone. I think it is a calling. 

“Not all of us have to go to the streets and picket, there is much more that can be done in terms of policy making,” he said. 

Koahela encouraged the attendees to start asking themselves, “What is my role?” because not all of them have to burn tyres. “Some of us are good in the boardroom and that is where we will be trying to find solutions from”.  

In closing, students were encouraged to find a type of activism that spoke to them as individuals —   and that they should wear queerness as an identity that speaks to who they are, and not as tools meant to fix the world. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Friends and members of Activate Wits that were in attendance at Queer Lekgotla (From left to right: Noma Sibanda, Sipho Mcani, Ayanda Ntuli, Lesego Makinita, Siyanda Madlokazi, Onkokame Seepamore) . Photo: Otsile Swaratlhe