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FEW celebrates Soweto Pride Week in style PDF Print E-mail
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Forum for the Empowerment of Women [FEW] would like to thank the funders, programme participants and the attendants to the four day Soweto Pride Heritage Week programme that began on the 24th September, (Heritage day) and ended on 27th September 2009.

For years FEW has continued to work towards advancing and defending the rights of black lesbian women and highlighting the violations they continue to face in their townships due to their sexual orientation. With this as part of the core missions of Soweto Pride, the initiative then took to the township of Moroka for the very first time in 2004 when all the luscious lesbians, gorgeous gays, beautiful bisexuals, terrific transmen and transwomen and the interesting intersex filled the streets with pride.

Following this, we have since then strived towards using this event to mainstream not only black lesbian issues and challenges in the townships, but also highlight the struggles of the entire LGBTI community in the environments they inhabit. 

In 2008 we then reworked the purpose of Soweto Pride to celebrate our identities, activism and resilience as black lesbian women in partnership with the LGBTI community and this year the theme continued on the same path of celebrating ourselves as the LGBTI community; “Celebrating our identities, our sexualities and our heritage”.

With this resolution, we then decided on hosting for this year, a four day programme that would be both diverse and enlightening as our community.

Day 1 – Heritage Programme
The event was kicked off with great euphoria on the 24th of September, hosted at the Constitution Hill atrium. FEW’s Director, Busi Kheswa welcomed and opened the programme to the keynote speaker, Khosi Xaba, panellists/activists and the participants.

In her welcome, Kheswa also unpacked the links connected to Heritage, adding that it should not be taken at face value as it is a very complex matter. The programme then continued to tackle the issues relating to heritage and what it means to the LGBTI community.

Taking to the stage, Xaba posed a question to the participants asking, “What does heritage mean to us individually?” She further elaborated that during such celebrations of Heritage Day, we look at the past for meaning or reason for celebration. She encouraged the LGBTI community to be proactive in building an LGBTI heritage/legacy through artistic activism. Adding that if we are not proactive in documenting our daily lives, activism and hard work, how would the future LGBTI community know of our existence, challenges and triumphs.

Both panellists and authors Nkunzi Nkabinde and Jabu Ndlovu articulated that for them as artists, what they documented in their books, “Black Bull, Ancestors and Me: My Life as a Lesbian Sangoma” and “I ain’t Yo Bitch”, respectively is part of the heritage/legacy they are leaving behind.

Tebogo Nkoana, a transman from Gender DynamiX also screened two digital stories discussing issues faced by transgender people in their daily lives.

Following the screening, the poetic words for the soul were offered by poets and the dance performers taught the audience a thing a two.

To close the day’s event, a private session on ‘Sexual Pleasures’ was facilitated by Thokozane Ndaba, a theatre therapist. Ndaba, comfortably removed the inhibitions that we normally have regarding talking about sex, and left the ladies talking bravely about the different pleasures and the politics of intimacy in same sex relationships.

Day 2 –  FEW/OIA film screening in Soweto
On the 25th of September, FEW in conjunction with Out In Africa (OIA) film festival hosted the very first screening of an LGBTI movie in Makhaya Hall Zondi 1, Soweto. The XXY movie which only received permission to be aired recently following its ban in 2008 sought to highlight the daily challenges faced by the intersexed people.

Movie synopsis
XXY, director Lucía Puenzo and actor Inés Efrón (Alex)
Living in a coastal Uruguayan town, 15 year old Alex has been isolated and protected by her parents, Kraken and Suli. As puberty gets its grip on the teen, they think that now is the time for Alex to make a decision regarding her gender identity. Suli invites a top plastic surgeon and his family to stay and assist them with a decision. However, sexually aggressive Alex is far more interested in the surgeon’s closeted son, Alvaro. Whilst the parents agonise over the conundrum presented by Alex’s confusing gender, the teens get on with their complex exploration of sexuality and identity. Beautifully shot, sparsely scripted and with stellar performances, this calmly observed, quietly unassuming film is as much about the psychological fallout of family anxieties as the confusion surrounding gender and sexual orientation.

To close off the screening, OIA Board member, Shahindran Moonieya added that we as the LGBTI community need to practice inclusivity for the rest of the public to accept us as we are.

“We have learnt to be vocal about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and even transgender issues but we are still silent regarding issues faced by intersexed people.” He further elaborated that the fight can not be fought separately, “it is irrelevant that I am a homosexual man, what matters is the fact that under the LGBTI umbrella we all have challenges and they should all be tackled with the same might.

Moonieya also added that the movie served the purpose of raising awareness amongst the community regarding the ‘I’ in LGBTI that has been silent.

Though the audience enjoyed the film, they felt that more time should have been allocated towards discussing the subject of intersexuality at length.

Day 3 – Soweto Pride March
On the 26th September, we all met at Sputnik Garage, Cnr Vincent and Saunders Rd, Meadowlands from 10:00 am. Opening the march, Kheswa mentioned how for the first time being in Soweto, Meadowlands felt like home. In this spirit, with the guidance and support of the local SAPS, Community Policing Forum and Metro Police we marched down Saunders Rd towards Meadowlands Park.

Along the way we could not deny or ignore the support we received from the Meadowlands public when they stood by their gates, drove past us and joined us at the park. During this time many launched words of encouragement, support and love towards the more than two hundred marchers with placards, banners and song.

Upon reaching the park, the programme was then handled by the entertaining MC, Sade Langa who led us through the various addresses by the LGBTI activists and community leaders. Meadowlands councilor, Morgan Gomati also cautioned those who interfere with the freedom promised by our constitution.

After all formalities the stage was embraced by our very own Beyonce from the East Rand, Wrong Button and a couple of other memorable dancers and performers.

Activists and participants to the march also congratulated FEW’s team in organising a marvelous Pride. “I thought Soweto Pride was a marvellous success in increasing the LGBT voice and visibility, and I thoroughly enjoyed it”, added Zak Mbhele.

Day 4 – FEW/Best of Both Worlds ‘Chill and Braai’
The closing event hosted in conjunction with Best of Both Worlds on the 27th September at Moloi’s Sports grounds in Mapetla was well attended despite the exhaustion and sore bodies from the previous day’s march.

On the soccer field, Chosen FEW logged heads with the Legendaries under the roasting sun, only to bask under a glorious three-two win.

To rest and enjoy the remnants of the four day long celebrations, we occupied the grounds until six in the afternoon while listening to good music and reminiscing about the week’s success.