South Africa’s queer youth: The future of the LGBT movement?

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On 26 September in Johannesburg, South Africans celebrated their diversity on Heritage Day and used it to strengthen LGBT youth activism.

In an interview conducted by Gender Links, youth activist Gabriel Hoosain Khan from Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA), outlined how the day “saw the culmination of strategies to strengthen the rights of LGBT youth in the South region of Africa”.

Khan coordinated GALA’s Queer Youth Exchange Project which brought together young people from across South Africa to participate in gay rights workshops and activism training.

National Braai Day, otherwise known as Heritage Day saw these young people flock to parks, beaches and waterfronts to participate in a variety of different workshops.

They were able to explore different methods of activism, from direct action to social media and creative approaches, but also the use of more formal advocacy organisations like African Union and the UN.

The variety of approaches is according to Khan, intended to train and strengthen young LGBT activism which is significant because: “young queer people are the future of the LGBT movement on the continent”.

The activities were also aimed to educate homophobic and transphobic youth through using drama as a way of engaging them about their own beliefs.

He added: “Even though Pride is quite politically contentious, it’s a symbolic time to think about and reflect on the struggles of LGBTI people. The first Pride had the theme unity in our community – I feel like the exchange of bringing people together from the different parts of Africa is a way of symbolising the struggle of coming together as queer and trans Africans so we can better advocate for our rights.”

Khan says the LGBT movement “rides on the progressive wave post-apartheid” sentiment. But even though South Africa has the laws, violence still exists – take for instance the recent hate crimes involving a lesbian found murdered and sexually mutilated east of Johannesburg last July, or the “gay serial killer”.

In 2011 South Africa proposed a resolution at the UN Human Rights Commission around protecting LGBT communities which was powerful at the time as it was the only African state to do something like that. But since then the nation has taken a more Conservative approach. Khan believes South Africa is not doing enough to lobby other states to think about gender identity and more resolutions are necessary.

Listen to the interview below: