Students based in the Soshanguve campus of the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) have decided to start a gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual organisation after a study conducted by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) revealed negative attitudes towards these groupings in Gauteng universities.
The study conducted by UJ’s Department of Psychology surveyed 880 heterosexual students, 356 men and 524 women, using the Attitudes Towards Lesbian and Gay Male Scale (ATLG) and found a huge majority have negative attitudes towards the gay community and cite religion for this. In order to create awareness some gay students at TUT’s township-based campus have formed Flamboyant, a group they hope will assist to change these attitudes. The organisation is officially registered with the university’s Directorate of Student Life and Governance.
“We feel that lesbians and gays are misunderstood by the society and we need a better way to address the stigmas on campus, where we have people who live as gays and lesbians,” says Flamboyant co-founder Shawn Malatjie.
Several gay Tshwane University of Technology students have been attacked outside the Soshanguve campus during the last two years. South Africa has also seen extreme violence and rape of lesbians in the country. Some have called this sexual abuse of lesbians as corrective rape. Malatjie says these are issues the organisation wants to address in the township-based campus.
He says they will not go out of its way to fight for acceptance. “Don’t accept us but tolerate us,” pleads Malatjie.
Gay black students who grow up in townships say they often have to hide their sexual orientation in fear of judgment from the community.
Matlogonolo Mooki says she was in Grade 10 when she realised she was lesbian.
“It actually started with a kiss with another girl and we could not actually show people that we were dating because of fear that we could be violated against as it was and still is not accepted by people in our society,” explains Mooki.
Despite her fear of opening to the community Mooki says her family realised she was lesbian and chatted to her about it.
“My parents sat down with me and told me that they realised I was dressing differently from other girls and that I would normally wear my brother’s clothes. After that talk that is when we started living openly about who I was and still is,” elaborates Mooki.
Flamboyant says it wants to highlight such stories and show the TUT student community in Soshanguve that one never has a choice in their sexual orientation and teach them how to live with gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual people.
Student Representative Coucil (SRC) Chairperson, Maila Ngwato, says the founding of Flamboyant is important for the campus. “They also have privilege and qualification to be in this institution and we need to have a social relationship with them,” he says.