TO MARK the end of pride month, a few popular personalities took the time on social media to hold open discussions regarding equality and respect for members who are not cis-heterosexual but are gender-conforming or non-binary.
This discussions has been spurred on by the battle for legalising same-sex relationships within the African continent where it is still banned and punishable with jail time in a number of countries.
Some of those personalities included Miss Universe’s Zozibini Tunzi, who has been using the pageant organisation’s Instagram profle to host conversations regarding the efforts for the LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,Trangender, Queer+) community and representation in South Africa and other parts of the world.
One of her notable conversations was with award-winning South-African choreographer and media personality Somizi Mhlongo – a long standing celebrity and member of the LGBTQ+ community who has been active in the fight for equality. Somizi’s popularity and support has increased in the recent year, making his relationship public with husband Mohale Motaung. The couple made history last year as the first South African gay couple to have their wedding aired on South African television in a three-part special.
“I don’t allow any form of rule or society to dictate what I should do, especially when it has to do with everything that is me, me being me. I’ve always known that I was born here to live my life and I’m not going to live according to somebody else’s acceptance of me”, he told the reigning Miss Universe from the comfort of his car.
“So we all know that we have a purpose on earth and it should be sad for anyone not to know what their purpose is on earth. If you know your purpose, if you know the right time to do certain things that you were sent to do, then do it”, Somizi explained. “For me, I know my platform, I know my voice. I know that I speak for the voiceless. I know that I represent, the ostracized and the discriminated against and so forth and so on”.
Included in a separate conversation – Miss Universe’s Instagram Live stream split screens to show fans the face of another South African personality, former Miss South Africa pageant queer contestant Sibabalwe Gcilitshana.
The daughter of South African actress Sibulele Gcilitshana, Sibabalwe spoke avidly on the queer representation in South Africa, the need for justice against femicide and LGBTQ+ related crimes, as well as her motivation behind coming out as queer when she entered Miss South Africa 2019.
“I think about my country, my context and that there are so many queer people around me so I’m not special in that way. However, [Miss South Africa] it’s a platform and it’s speaking about women empowerment – you know having a voice and story to tell” Gcilitshana explained.
“I thought that it was an interesting meeting point for what I am and represent, being black, being a queer person, being a woman, being someone who was rural-raised and comes from a working class family. I had a feeling that there were other people like me and would like to do what I’m doing”, she continued.
Upon being selected as a finalist, Gcilitshana learned that she was the first ever South African pageant contestant to participate as an openly queer contestant.
“The moment that you become ‘the first’ you realise that you’re already changing, you’re already going against the grain of society. You are trying to do something that other people are going to do so there’s immediately going to be push-back”.
Gcilitshana further explained that despite having the title of being the first openly queer entrant for Miss South Africa, she felt confident that was probably an increase in entries from queer women in the country for 2020’s edition of the Miss South Africa pageant. This comes after the presence of other LGBTQ+ pageant queens, like Miss Spain’s Angela Ponce – who was the first transgender finalist at the Miss Universe pageant back in 2018.
“When do we get there?”, she asks Miss Universe. “When do we start celebrating the people for they are in that matter? It’s time for them to get the respect and love that everyone else gets”.