MOSES MAILE AND JADE DAVE-MIDLANE
From 14 to 19 October the University of Pretoria celebrated pride week. The week saw the members of the LGBTQ+ community and its allies observing its significance, particularly celebrating sexuality and gender identity. Addressing the issues facing the LGBTQ+ community is at the core of pride week. During this time, many take the opportunity to publicly express their freedom to be who they are, their right to choose how they want to live and their freedom to love who they want to love, freely and without prejudice.
On 16 October, PDBY attended the Reflection Spectrum on the AULA Lawn. Reflection Spectrum is one of the events which is held during pride week. PDBY spoke to Ryan Naamdhew and Kevin Khosa, the organisers of the event and also transformational Officers of UP&Out, where they explained that the Reflection Spectrum was inspired by a trend on YouTube where people would pose thought-provoking questions or statements about a specific topic.
The crowd is then split into who agrees and who disagrees and people on both sides are given the opportunity to discuss why they feel the way they do. Naamdhew says that this arrangement “Is, in a way, forcing people to engage with a topic instead of just having a usual support group where, usually, a topic is posed and you let people work up the courage to decide if they want to talk about it. Here, we are engaging with the topics more thoroughly and more […] directly”.
“…many take the opportunity to publicly express their freedom to be who they are, their right to choose how they want to live and their freedom to love who they want to love”
When asked about how they link the Reflection Spectrum with Pride Week, Naamdhew said that the event is pretty unique and important in the sense that there is a mixture of relaxed events and more ‘serious events’. This recent Reflection Spectrum, according to Naamdhew, was more relaxed and more of a space to ponder on thought-provoking questions.
According to Naamdhew, “The Reflection Spectrum lets a lot of people engage in a more relaxed way as opposed to a more formal, prim and proper event, as this is happening on the Aula Lawn, a more relaxed environment. It is also an opportunity for people outside the society to attend the event and see what it’s like in the LGBTQ+ community”.
When PDBY asked if the University of Pretoria is doing enough to educate students about the LGBTQ+ community and dealing with stereotypes and prejudices, Kevin Khosa stated that the University is trying but also suggests that “it is something under progress and it is not something that is fully done but they are doing something. For instance, they have allowed us, as the LGBTQ+ community, to have a society within their institution so that means something, but more can still be done to give more awareness and giving us that visibility, because at the moment we are in a safe space and we can be ourselves regardless of the challenges”, he said.
According to Naamdhew, students are complacent in the manner in which they deal with LGBTQ+ issues in the sense that they know they will be punished if they bring about any sort of harassment or discrimination. Therefore, it can seem like it is acceptance of the LGBTQ+ Community out of complacency and fear rather than accepting your fellow human being. Naamdhew also said that the university should put more resources into educating people about the society and to promote things like pride week. According to Naamdhew, the university will benefit from the promoting of pride week.
“Therefore, it can seem like it is acceptance of the LGBTQ+ Community out of complacency and fear rather than accepting your fellow human being.”
One participant in the Reflection Spectrum said that “the university has become more tolerant, because people feel comfortable walking with their same-sex partner in public within the university as opposed to the mainstream community, and it has become easy for them to become themselves”. Another participant also mentioned that the Society has also given them a platform to ask thought-provoking questions and to also continue to feel strongly about themselves.
Naamdhew concluded by saying that “the good turnout at the event has shown us that a lot of people are interested in knowing more about the community and that is the big thing about pride week. Not only is it for the LGBTQ+ community to express themselves and feel safe within the rest of the community, but it is to bring awareness to the community that we are here”. Naamdhew stated that their vision is to create a healthier community at the university where “we just accept that everyone is very much different and that we are just living our lives, and that me liking the same gender is not going to stop you from being who you are”, he said.
Photo: Thabiso Busani