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How Free Gender Khayelitsha Is Fighting For South Africa’s Black LGBTI Community

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For LGBTI South Africans, the struggle to be recognised and accepted goes on and not just within greater (cisgendered, heterosexual) society either.

Within the LGBTI community itself, there is a huge racial divide, with white organisers seemingly not willing to play ball with black LGBTI people.

This is something that came to a head last year when Alternative Inclusive Pride protested at Cape Town Pride, calling out the event for its racism and its exclusionary practices.

While the AIP’s protest was largely deemed successful in that it raised awareness about the issue, it is not the only thing that organisers are doing to help further their cause.

Funeka Soldaat, who was also involved in the AIP protest, is part of Free Gender Khayelitsha, a non-profit organisation that aims to both offer a voice for non-heterosexual black women (and black LGBTI people), as well as addressing their problems and needs.

A recent report on IOL (via the Cape Times) further explains Free Gender’s mission, saying that “Free Gender gave hope and freedom to young black women and black people to know and believe that they could and should exist in South Africa on their terms, according to their sexuality and lifestyles”.

Moreover, the organisation “encourages [its members] to speak out, to find their voice and protect them from the vicious assaults of ill-informed and negative community members”.

According to Cape Times reporter Cheryl Roberts, Free Gender doesn’t “wait for those outside the community to look after them” either; instead, it “acts when the need and demand arises”.

And perhaps most impressively, the organisation, which has been around for five years now, does so with very little funding. Roberts explains that the organisation doesn’t have international funding, big sponsorship or funding from the city of Cape Town itself.

While it seems that Free Gender is seeking to tackle all of the difficulties faced by black, non-heterosexual women and black LGBTI people, right now, the organisation seems to be specifically addressing attacks and Pride.

Black women are often attacked because of their sexualities, something which Free Gender has also taken to the street to protest, and the group continues to rally for a more inclusive Pride; most recently it voiced its concerned with a proposed “Colourblind” theme for this year’s Pride celebrations.

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If only the world was as “open-minded” as us… Alas, matters of sexual identity and equal love, often cause so much friction in the rest of the world. Here, find an open dialogue on the issues facing our LGBT community.

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