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Queer Virtual Tour
Transcript of Queer Virtual Tour
a brief history of LGBTIAQ Activism
Johannesburg also known as Jozi, Jo’burg and Egoli began as a mining town. With the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand, the city was laid out in 1886 on a windy and waterless triangle of state land, randjeslaagte. It has always been a city of migrants, and this is important in understanding the homosexual experience in Joburg. From the beginning, gay and lesbian people flocked to Joburg from small towns and farms across South Africa. They came to Jo’burg because the anonymity of big city life made it easier to lead a homosexual life. This is still the case today, although on a bigger scale. Today, gay and lesbian people from around Africa make their way to Johannesburg, lured by the promise of greater sexual freedom.
Forest Town 1966
We’re now headed to Forest Town, where a gay party was raided in the mid 1966 , the relevance of this is that at that time, homosexuality and cross-dressing was unlawful. So here we have a party of 400 people causing a moral panic!
While parked outside the Forest Town house
When the police raided the house the party was already in full swing. The police report described it as a party "the like of which has never been seen in this country. Males were dancing with males to the strains of music, kissing and cuddling each other in the most vulgar fashion imaginable.” A number of men were arrested on charges of 'masquerading as a woman' – as the crime of cross dressing was known – and their faces and the story of the raid was splashed across the front pages of the newspapers the next morning.
The government had previously thought that homosexuality was something isolated, and so they were alarmed to see how much more extensive it was than they had thought. It believed that homosexuality - like sex across the colour bar - would lead to the degeneration of the white race if not stamped out. So in 1967 the Minister of Justice announced the intention to introduce drastic anti-homosexual legislation in the form of the proposed Immorality Amendment Bill. The bill would outlaw all sexual activity between men, and include women for the first time. There was great deal of fear amongst gays and lesbians at the harshness of the proposed legislation, and this led them to organise and defend themselves for the first time in South Africa.
Shay McLaren, one of the lesbians at the party, said: “We were under threat from the government and we were going to stand as one body and tell them to get lost.”
The law made illegal “any act which is calculated to stimulate sexual passion or to give sexual gratification” at a party. As a consequent to this party, this law was to be expanded to include lesbians sex, dildo’s and the party law – which criminalized a party of two or more people. This threat to the freedom of the gay and lesbian people, led to an interesting moment of mobilisation, called the Law Reform Fund.
This group did some work around mobilising people, by raising funds, inspiring people to write submissions and hiring a lawyer to support them at the parliamentary select committee dealing with this bill. This group was largely successful in their efforts, as lesbianism was not banned, and homosexuality was not further criminalised. Dildo’s where however banned, and the 2 or more men is a party law was passed. The definition of what exactly constituted a party became a matter for deliberation in the Supreme Court in 1986 in a landmark case. – that we will tell you about later. It is important to note that this was largely a white middle class effort, which largely worked within the confines of the apartheid regime. Yet in interestingly enough the group had a large lesbian support and expertise base.
The other side of forest town
While we’re still parked in front of the house I want to tell you about the other side to Forest Town in the 1950s and 60s. Until the mid-1970s there was a curfew for black people. If you had missed the last train back to the township and were caught in Jo'burg at night without your identity document, you could be arrested. So you had to find a refuge in the city. In an interview housed at GALA, a black gay man talks about seeking refuge in the so-called “Boys Room” in Forest Town of a gay worker called Peter. Peter’s room provided sanctuary for dozens of young black gay men who were caught in town without a pass after curfew, and wild parties took place. So you might actually want to miss your last train back to the township! The point I want to make is that there would be these two parallel kinds of parties taking place in the same suburb, both of them illegal, and both invisible to each other.]
The first pride march in 1990 that started in Braamfontein and the two that annually followed ended at the park on your left. Amongst the trees that in the park and during one of the pride events, some were planted to commemorate LGBT members who lost their lives to HIV/AIDS
The first march was held in 1990. The date of the first march is significant - it was a few months after Mandela had been released and the ANC unbanned. Pride was part of the opening up of SA society post-apartheid, which later paved the road for the new inclusive constitution. The theme of the march was UNITY IN THE COMMUNITY. The march was hosted by GLOW and attracted over 800 people from all walks of life and around South Africa. Many people were afraid and wore paper bags to protect identity. The first march was in the tradition of political protest march. 21 years later it is more of a Mardi Gras and has become a commercial venture.
Just North of where it is held now you will reach the green leafy suburb of Rosebank where Pride Marches and picnics have taken place most of the recent years. Example of de-politicisation of Pride – identity built around consumerism – protest to party – the class divisions very apparent?
The Constitution Hill has the Constitutional Court, the women’s jail and the Old Fort Prison known as the Number 4. The Old Fort was built by Paul Kruger as a defence for any potential British invasions. During the Apartheid regime, the prison was limited to whites only and was only extended to ‘native cells’ with section 4 and 5 in 1907, and the women’s jail. In 1920, the awaiting-trial block was built which was later demolished, with its bricks used to build the Constitutional Court. The site housed prisoners until 1983.
The constitution of South Africa 1996
“Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law... the state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone or one or more grounds, including...sexual orientation”.
The main cases are around Employment Equity, Employment Benefits, Equal Right to Marry, Asylum, Same-sex Conduct, Child Custody and Human Rights Abuses in Prisons.
The main case for the ‘Claiming our Citizenship’ campaign, is the Langemaat case for Medical Aid Benefits. Equal Right to Marry contains especially court document of the Marie Fourie case. The Asylum series deals mainly with the case of Azu Udogu. The case of Mark Gory for succession rights is the main case in the Succession Rights series. The Scrap Unjust Laws series contain documents of the NCGLE case against the Minister of Justice on Same-Sex conduct as well as Human Rights abuses of LGBTI people in South African Prisons.
Inclusion of gender identity into the constitution
2003: Alteration of sex description act
Hillbrow is the bohemian heart of Joburg. It has always been a place where could experiment with and push social boundaries. Particularly after World War II, apartment buildings start springing up in Hillbrow & it becomes a modern flatland- it was sometimes referred to as the "Manhattan in the veldt". The availability of small cheap flats allowed young gay and lesbian people to move out of their parents homes and live independently.
Hillbrow's bars and nightclubs catered to the large gay and lesbian community. From 1970s could walk through Hillbrow hand in hand with partner and point out all the lesbian and gay bars, hairdressers and greengrocers.
In 1980s black people began to defy group areas act and move into Hillbrow and Joubert Park due to housing crisis in townships, etc. Apartheid authorities turned a blind eye, partly because of difficulty of moving people and partly because Hillbrow had always been “beyond the pale” – a place of immigrants, queers, bohemians, junkies. This is where the “silent revolution” took place – people brought down apartheid by ignoring the laws.
Presently Hilbrow is a concrete example of urban decay, or the Ghettorised urban space, it’s overcrowded, lots of crime, prostitution, drugs, homeless streetchildren. But it is too demonized and that downplays the fact that it has been home to many working class families from within and across borders. Furthermore, it continues to offer affordable rents and still is the fallen mistress whose history of a vibrant lifestyle lingers on and is celebrated by few people.
The street corner[Twist and Pretoria] on your left was dedicated to Simon by the City Council at the 1999 Pride March, a year after he passed away from AIDS-related causes. Simon was part of the ANC youth league in the early 1980s.
He was charged with treason in 1984 together with twenty-one other political leaders in the famous Delmas Treason Trial. Nkoli came out as homosexual while a prisoner. This contributed to the ANC’s acceptance of gay and lesbian rights. Gay people from all over the world came the support Simon. But in South Africa the white-led Gay Association of South Africa – which also had offices in Hillbrow - disowned Simon and the struggle against apartheid.
After Simon was acquitted and released from prison in 1988 he founded the Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand (GLOW). Simon was the first African gay man to be public about his HIV status, and in 1990 he helped to start the Township AIDS Project in Soweto.
Simon's coming out achieved three things. It got rid of the myth that homosexuality unAfrican; it helped black gays and lesbians to come out publicly; and it connected the gay rights movement to the anti-apartheid struggle in a visible way.
Skyline was different to other gay bars that used to exist in Hillbrow, and those that are now dotted around Jo’burg. The first thing you notice about Skyline when its empty is the complete lack of interior design. But it’s always been the people who came to Skyline that made it different and provided the colour.
Skyline’s fate has echoed that of Hillbrow; its changed colour completely since the mid-1980s. It began as the Butterfly bar – a whites-only bar – in the early 1970s and was one floor below where we are now. In 1987 it changed its name to The Skyline and moved up here. The bar started to be integrated around 1985. The management realised that if they wanted to keep the bar running they had to adapt. In the beginning it was not a comfortable place for black people to come to: it was more about making a political statement than having fun. But in time black people were made welcome. It was different to Connections – the first bar that we passed in Pretoria Street - where the white bar tenders would refuse to serve black people. And in the Dungeon, which was based in town, black people in the 1980s were allowed on the dance floor but not in the dark rooms. By 1990 Skyline’s clientele was almost exclusively black, and the number of whites could be counted on one hand.
The Hope and Unity Metropolitan Community Church or HUMCC started as a prayer group, and then in 1994 it established itself as a formal church in this hotel. It was formed in the face of accusations that homosexuality was ‘unAfrican’ and ‘unChristian’. The church provides lesbian and gay people with a spiritual home- it brings together and affirms the congregations different identities as African and Christian as well as gay or lesbian. The HUMCC is led by Pastor Nokuthula Dladla and Pastor Paul Mokgheti. Membership varies as the congregation attend own family churches. They drop in for services as they feel the need to affirm their sexual identity as Christians and as Africans.
We are currently approaching Joubert Park. The botanical garden was established in 1887, and in 1911 the Johannesburg art gallery was established at this site.
This is where Joburg gay subculture began for many people. During WW2 there was an army base here within Union Grounds, and I’m sure all of you know the urban legend of men in uniform. The grounds were a flow with many soldiers, men away from home, with access to freedom they could practise personal autonomy- and hence the birth of Joubert park as a cruising spot. It was a spot for the men of Johannesburg to pick up a soldier. But also around this park, sprang up bars and a sex trade industry to service the soldiers. This wasn’t only for homosexual though, it included heterosexual as well. A important site close by was that of the Waldorf hotel (popular in the 40’s), which was a spot where many gay people congregated to meet other gays and find sexual partners.
People of colour where allowed in the park but were not allowed to sit on benches. There are stories from black man interviewed about how would cruise up and down fences of Union Grounds and service white soldiers through fence.
The Hothouse at the park has always been an important cruising place, even before the war. It is also conveniently situated close to the public toilets.
Rumours about men in uniform
they're all true...
Why cruising/ public sex?
People living in crowded family homes – sharing a bedroom with three other siblings – so could not make love there. Instead would make love in parks and bushes and even in public toilets. These places offered more privacy than their homes.
Park station is an interesting place of movement, of travel, or crossing boundaries. It is currently it is a place of migrants and migrations. For many coming from neighbouring country by bus or train, this is their first stop. In the past the station was one of the few places where white and black men cruising could meet. Because of this double taboo, or gay sex and also sex across races- it was a place of heavy police presence. Both these forms of sex where seen as leading to the moral degeneration of the white race.
place to meet people
The Park Station also housed the non European Cafe, one of the only restaurants for black people in the city. It was seen as a place for black people to eat with dignity. It was famous because many of the waiters where gay and hence it was an important gathering place for black gay men.
Currently there is a venue called Buffalo Bulls at Park Station, which popular with many young gay people who live close the inner city. It’s seen as a laid back venue for interacting, a space of reclaiming inner city space of LGBTI youth.
Home affairs Johannesburg
A point of interest on our left is the Home Affairs office. This is one of the central points for migrants/refugee’s to get registered in South Africa. Johannesburg has recently become a hub for migrants from other African countries. Many of whom find the stable political state, growing economy and liberal constitution very favourable. Many of these migrants come from our neighbour Zimbabwe.
The flagship of gay night life in Johannesburg has to be, the Dungeon, or the Big “D”, There had been gay dance venues before, but the new one’s where unusual. For a very long time Dungeon outdated most of the clubs. It open in 1969, and they claimed never had not been closed a single weekend. The deco- chains and skeletons adorned walls. Ronnie Oelefson was the owner. It was an unlicensed bar and thus patrons brought their own bottles and deposited them at the bar. Atleast 50% patrons where lesbians. In the early 1970’s the club was open 4 days a week – Sunday was movie night, and about 300 people attended. The Dungeon was only raided once in it’s 24year life for showing a banned film. Being unliscenced meant it didn’t need to obey segregaton laws, even in the early 1970’s there was a smattering of black men, usually transplanted cape Malays. Simon Nkoli disputes this as he was turned away from the club in the mid 80’s. I’d like you to have a look at the following pictures to get a feel for Dungeon
Johannesburg City Hall
queer sex workers on the city hall steps
This spot is interesting because in the 1930’s there was a prostitution ring which functioned from the steps, and with sex-workers soliciting the steps. Linked to this was a watershed indecency trial which, lead to a fair amount of media coverage around gay men in Johannesburg. This is one of the first publicised stories around some form of queer activity happening around Johannesburg.
Louis Franklin Freed
Linked closely to this story is that of Louis Franklin Freed, a psychiatrist based in Johannesburg. In the building, just ahead to your right- the building, the Barbican Studio’s was built in the 1930’s had his offices in this building. Louis investigated homosexuality in the 1930’s and 40’s and in South Africa was crucial in the medicalization of homosexuality in South Africa. He also wrote an interesting article about lesbians in Johannesburg. It is interesting because it is one of the first which looks explicitly at lesbian identity in Johannesburg. Interestingly he talks about how the older lesbian mistress, lures young attractive woman into her web, and through a process of disempowerment- makes the woman lesbian. He also cited a newspaper article from the 1940’s which alleges lesbian women, lurking outside the bioscope in the city, injecting young women with a drug in order to seduce them.
the informal/ moving city
Lets travel up Jeppe Street, there are a few blocks of shops clusters around foreign nationals. In 2009, while working on article on LGBT foreign nationals in South Africa I met a Djibouti foreign national, who had a coffee shop in a block of Ethiopian shops. It made sense for him to locate his shop there, given that the two are neighbouring countries with an overlap of cultural practices, language, food etc. He was a fairly independent man in his mid-thirties. One of the many things attracted him to South Africa was the fact that he could be open about his sexualities. When the Ethiopians found out about a boyfriend who frequented at the coffee shop, through a mutual friend, a group of the Ethiopian men waited for him one night as he was closing shop, followed him to his apartment where they starting beating him, expressing disgust for who he was and felt ashamed of him. He relocated outside the city.
The Western Edge
It is interesting to reflect on these stories of people on the margins. Queer people being on the margins of a straight society, and racial minorities caught on the margins of a white/black binary. These stories are interesting, because they tell tales of multiple layers of oppression. Hence the difficulties of uncovering these stories and documenting their lives. It is essentially about unsilencing those who inhabit this space.
“In January one of my Colleagues passing near one of the Johannesburg Compounds, saw a big company of Natives singing and walking in the direction of another Compound where a great dance was taking place. Amongst them there were a number of women. My colleague asked his native evangelist how it was possible that so many women should be walking about in that part of the world, where the feminine element is very small. The man told him: ‘they are not women! They are tinkhontshana, boys who have placed on their chests the breast of woman carved in wood, and who are going to the dance in order to play the part of women. Tonight when they return to their dormitories, their “husbands” will give them 10/, and only on that condition will the tinkhontshana remove their breasts and comply with th desire of their husbands.” Henri Junod, French missionary to South Africa, 1912- 1913.
Mine Marriages and Migrant Workers
Johannesburg has always been a centre for migrant labour being a mining town. Some of these hostels will be seen as we drive through Soweto. I want o begin by talking to you about homosexuality in these hostels and on the mines.
In South Africa’s colonial and Apartheid past, the country was dependant on what was called “black gold”- cheap black labour. By destroying rural peasant economy, authorities forced black men to move to the cities to support their families. These men were housed in single sex hostels like the ones we’ll soon be seeing.
In these hostels there was a lot of homosexuality occurring. Authorities described it as “circumstantial homosexuality”, as does occur in prison. Historians with homophobic sentiments, saw it as a sign of how sick and perverse society was, taking men away from their “natural” families, and putting them in homoerotic/homosocial/homosexual spaces. And while these historians would agree that homosexuality was perverse/ sick- the purpose of these relationships were still commerce, affection, love and sexual passion.
These relationships often occurred between young boys and older men. The older men would protect them and show them the ropes.
Mine marriages, were based on complicated rituals called Mkehlo- mine marriages-Bukhotxana. The “wife” would call the husband “father”- the very patriarchal replication of gender stereotyping, but one which served both parties.
Many men discovered their homosexuality through these relationships, and chose to stay in town with their new partners, in the new sub-culture, rather than return home to their families.
One historian has commented on how Bukhontzxana was a form of resistance, a forceful rejection of employers demand that miners should value the virtues of sexual restraint and invest their libidinal energies in work.
Mteto – Rules governing relationships
Mkehlo – Ceremony
The woman left behind in country also developed same-sex relationships of affection. In Lesotho these were seem as: Mummy-Baby relations. With all the men away on mines, an older woman, a “Mummy”, would take younger woman, a “Baby" as wife. Once more, this was to protect her within patriarchal system, but there is evidence that love and sexual intimacy would form part of these relationships.
Another interesting tale is that Nongoloza. Nongoloza, as he finally called himself after several name changes, came to the Rand as a migrant from Natal in 1887. After various jobs, he joined a band of criminals and eventually became the leader of what he called the ninevites. Based in the hills South of Johannesburg, the Ninevites lived in disused mine shafts. Much of their income came from impersonating officials to rob home-going mineworkers, they also burgled stores and houses. The Ninevites established a presenc in Natal and naturally in prison. At the height of his power, nongoloza counted up to 1000 committed Ninevites.
On Nongoloza’s order the Ninevites were forbidden all physical contact with women, in response, it would seem to venereal disease. Instead, the Ninevites entered into homosexual relationships, which were much like those of the miners, being based on traditional husband-wife roles and rules. And involving not only sex but a range of other exchanges.
Welcome to Soweto!
If Soweto is the heart of revolution for South Africa, then Vilakazi street is definitely the core vein in this heart. Both the Mandela household and the Tutu household can be found on this street. I think everyone knows the story of Tata Madiba, so I thought something worth chatting about here is the ANC and the build up towards the inclusion of the sexual orientation in the new constitution.
The Mandela House
The Mandela House at 8115 Orlando West, on the corner of Vilakazi and Ngakane Streets, Soweto, was built in 1945, part of a Johannesburg City tender for new houses in Orlando. Nelson Mandela moved here in 1946 with his first wife, Evelyn Ntoko Mase, They divorced in 1957, and from 1958 he was joined in the house by his second wife, Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela (Winnie).
Nelson Mandela returned here for a brief 11 days after his release from Robben Island in 1990, before finally moving to his present house in Houghton. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, herself imprisoned several times, lived in the house with her daughters while Nelson Mandela was in jail, until her own exile to Brandfort in 1977, where she remained under house arrest until 1986. The family continued to occupy the house until 1996, when the Mandelas divorced. The house was subsequently turned into a public heritage site, with Nelson Mandela as the Founder Trustee.
‘The house itself was identical to hundreds of others built on postage-stamp-size plots on dirt roads. It had the same standard tin roof, the same cement floor, a narrow kitchen, and a bucket toilet at the back. Although there were street lamps outside we used paraffin lamps as the homes were not yet electrified. The bedroom was so small that a double bed took up almost the entire floor space.’
The ANC and LGBTIAQ Rights
This story is narrated interestingly by Albie Sachs, who talks about the ANC conference in Harare in 19911989. At the conference the topic of discussion was the future vision of a free South Africa. While many rights and ideologies where discussed, the senior executive committee lead by Oliver Tambo decided that if this issue was opened to their rank and file members, it would lead to an uproar. Hence the senior executive decided that it was a right to be included, but decided not to bring that issue into a general forum for discussion. And hence this lead to a sort of bipolar interaction with the issue, with some ANC comrades being vocally for gay rights, while many voice an anti-gay sentiment.
This created an interesting dynamic within the ANC with many brushing the LGBTI issue off, as something lacking substance an importance. However many activist argued that in order for South Africa to be truly liberated, one needed to be liberated from all forms of oppression. It was a moment of expanding struggles for justice within South Africa as a struggle not only against racial oppression, to one which was open to woman’s issues, the of the disabled and also those interested in issues around sexual minorities. Simon Nkoli is interesting in this regard because he really brought together the anti-apartheid struggle, the struggle for LGBTI rights and the HIV/AIDS struggle.
Ruth Mompati, ANC NEC member, London 1987 said:
“I hope in a liberated South Africa people will live normal lives. I emphasise the word normal. Tell me, are lesbians and gays normal? No, it is not normal. If everyone was like that, the human race would come to an end”.
In 1987, the ANC in exile made a public statement about its lack of interest in gay rights, this raised eyebrows internationally, and was countered in a statement made by Thabo Mbeki, then information officer in London. This statement highlighted the importance of being inclusive and fighting all forms of discrimination.
Simon Nkoli, Anti-apartheid activist, LGBTI activist, HIV/AIDS activist, 1994
“[When I was 19], I came out the closet when I met a man, fell in love with a man, and told my parents. Ever since then, I seem to be soming out of closets all the time. In the Congress of South African Students (COSAS), where my homosexuality nearly lost me my position as Transvaal Regional Secretary. At the Delmas Treason Trial, where my co-accused at first didn’t want to be tried with me. And now, everytime I speak publicly about the need for lesbian and gay rights or AIDS education in South Africa”.
Desmond Tutu_Honorary Patron of GALA, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the South African who led both religious and secular fights against apartheid. Tutu has a leading voice on race relations, but all human rights: He’s long opposed laws criminalizing homosexuality and championed efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. And Tutu never drew a distinction between The Gays and the pious: “To penalize someone because of their sexual orientation is like what used to happen to us; to be penalized for something which we could do nothing (about) — our ethnicity, our race,” Tutu told the BBC in 2007. “I would find it quite unacceptable to condemn, persecute a minority that has already been persecuted. If God, as they say, is homophobic, I wouldn’t worship that God.”
In contrast to this picture is that of Winnie Mandela’s high profile kidnapping and assault case. This case invoked a homophobic defence and also bore witness to an anti-gay protest. While sexual-orientation was included in the equality clause, behind the scenes and in public, debates around homosexuality raged.
Winnie Mandela’s case was interesting, as while she invoked a homophobic defence [give some detail of this[, linking homosexuality to paedophilia. Her defence framed homosexuality as essentially predatory, “white” behaviour that young black men were corrupted with. GLOW wrote an open letter to NEC of the ANC condemning Winnie’s homophobic defence- they said that the defence attamtped to capitalise on conventional and reactionary prejudices against homosexuals., Contrasting to thisthere are interesting stories of her having many gay male friends in Soweto, and also around her congratulating, a Lesbian and HIV/AIDS activist –Joyce Malope in Soweto after climbing Kilimanjaro for her cause.
Winnie interestingly showed great support to Caster Semenya, along with the ANYL and Julius Malema. Who argued that there’s no such thing an intersex in African cultures, as there is no vernacular term to capture this. This implicates Winnie as inconsistent with regards to sexual minorities.
'76 Soweto uprising
The Soweto Uprising, also known as "June 16", was a series of student-led protests in South Africa that began on the morning of June 16, 1976. Students from numerous Sowetan schools began to protest in the streets of Soweto, in response to the introduction of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in local school. An estimated 20 000 students took part in the protests, and roughly 176 people were killed. The 16th of June is now a public holiday, Youth Day, in South Africa, in remembrance of the events in 1976. This is quite an important statement in my opinion and reflects the freshness and [virilityEnergy- wrong word] of the youth, and their influence on the socio-political climate of South Africa. Importance of 1976 – generational uprising. Although had nothing to do with sexuality, gave the space to the first generation to articulate their sexuality and find politics for it – people like Simon…
Party and politics
Despite the wide-spread violence and continued marginalisation of the gay community, it is worth noting that Lee’s Place and Mhlanga rocks were known gay friendly shebeens in Soweto in the 1980s. While more recently Entabeni (lesbian oriented) and the Just After Nine Club in Dobsonville are known gay and lesbian hang-out spots.
PAUL: “We launched GLOW [Gays and Lesbians of the Witwatersrand] in Soweto, in 1988, at Mhlanga Rocks. It was just a regular shebeen, but lots of gay people used to hang around there. What was important was that the launch was happening in Soweto, where most people lived, and that it would be open. It was the beginning of our Movement!”. According to Paul Mokgethi(GALA/HMCC)gay men knew about each other but did not have a space to gather or even organize themselves until he had about the gatherings that Nkoli hosted
Mhlanga rocks not only housed the GLOW meetings but it was also a space for the first gay generation in Soweto to openly come out and identify as lesbian and gay.
Apart from the established a gay friendly nightlife, soccer became another form of lesbian organizing. The ‘Gloria Team’ is one of the earliest lesbian soccer teams from Soweto dating in the 1980s. While the Chosen Few which is one of the Forum for the Empowerment of Women’s (FEW) programmes is dominated by lesbian soccer players from Soweto.
Bev was born in Soweto in 1972, and grew up a tomboy. She was at the first meeting of the Gay and Lesbian Organization of the Witwatersrand at age 17. There she met Simon Nkoli, who’d recently been acquitted on charges of treason as we heard earlier, and became inspired by his leadership. Bev came-out publicly as the first Black lesbian from Soweto, on national TV at the first gay pride.
It was at this Pride that Simon made a speech that had a huge impact on Bev. He said that his oppression was two-fold, first as a homosexual and then as black. Bev identified with Simon when he said this, but for many black lesbian women the gender oppression makes it three-fold.
In 1995 Bev became the first lesbian to address the United Nations on lesbian issues, at the World Conference on Women in Beijing. Bev’s example as an activist was important in helping black lesbians to start coming out. [You don’t need the names Busi Kheswa, one of the early Queer Tour Guides, liked to share that when she asked her partner Pat about how she 'came out', Pat's first sentence started with] In the same year she left GLOW because she was frustrated that men dominated the leadership of GLOW, and she felt that lesbian issues were not being taken seriously. As a result Bev started an organisation called Nkateko in 1996. It was for black lesbians only, and it met here at Bev's home. It created an important space for black lesbians from Soweto, Kwa-Thema and Sebokeng.
what have you learnt?
what are your feelings about the process and about LBTIAQ rights?
are there any core issues that you would like to chat about?
What is the current climate for LGBTIAQ people in South Africa?
So where to from here?
Meadowlands as Metaphor