Marchers had taped their mouths to symbolise the silencing effects that discrimination and harassment have on the LGBTQI+ community. The march was characterised by participants holding their posters high, and led by individuals waving the LGBTQI+ flag. Some of the posters read “Homophobia: the fear that gay men will treat you the way you treat women”, “I am silenced because you think all gay men are weak, I am silenced because you think I am not human enough” and “My sexuality does not determine my capability”.
According to the UP&Out memorandum, the march drew influence from Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) Day of Silence aimed for “bringing awareness to the silencing effects of anti-LGBTQI+ name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools”.
Hlatshwayo clarified that, currently, UP&Out’s main focus is anti-homophobia. She emphasised the need for transformation regarding LGBTQI+ awareness at UP, especially in male residences. “In male resses there is a culture of homophobia, people don’t want to be out, people are scared for their safety,” said Hlatshwayo.
The UP&Out memorandum stated, “The current code of conduct does not stipulate a definitive plan of action after a homophobic attack or sexual harassment. It does not specifically protect the victim, nor does it specifically punish the perpetrator of such acts. In a country with a widely acclaimed constitution and in an era of powerful equal-rights movements, we believe the code of conduct needs to be amended urgently.”
Philip Davids, a fifth-year MBChB student, said, “I for a long time had my voice silenced until I stood up and said no more. This is my second year doing the march and through this action it is my way of saying I am not silenced and you don’t have to be silenced either.” Sharni Ngakane, a BA Psychology student, said, “I feel that I am an ally to LGBTQI rights and it is important to get the word out against homophobia.”
The UP&Out memorandum acknowledged that “the university has changed from implementing an anti-homophobia policy to an anti-discrimination policy. We acknowledge this change, but cannot accept that a year has passed with no policy in place. UP&Out demands answers on the anti-discrimination policy, in particular with regards to homophobia”.
Surprise Silowe, EFFSC UP Chairperson, who also participated in the march, said, “We believe in intersectionality, we believe in the intersection of oppressive forces. If you look at the LGBTI and Q community it is not given the space. We exist in a space that is very much violent, so I’m speaking from an organisational point of view to say we support intersectionality.”
Photo: Fezekile Msimang