Cape Town - What is it like to grow up gay in Nyanga, or lesbian in Khayelitsha?
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual and intersex or LGBTI youth packed out a venue in the Cape Town Library on Wednesday to talk about what it was like being young and queer in a township community.
“I am not my sexuality” began as an audiovisual presentation, but quickly evolved into a lively discussion on how to know if you are lesbian, how to come out to your family, how to tell the difference between a butch, stud and femme and what to do if your straight friends think you are flirting with them.
The event was centred around an exhibition of photographs and audio slide-shows at the American Corner in the library, created by youth reporters working for the Children’s Radio Foundation (CRF).
Two teams spent six months learning to photograph, to record and edit sound into audiovisual presentations that tell personal stories.
The first personal story was abut Mfundo Dafeti, a 24-year-old from Crossroads in Nyanga.
Dafeti said he had never “come out” to his family - he had simply lived his life, and they understood.
He had never experienced hate crime, but still never walked anywhere alone out of fear for his safety.
“As a gay man you are seen as a soft target,” he said.
Dafeti was moved by the recent Orlando shootings and wished people would be less ignorant about the LGBTI community. “I hope my story educates someone else,” he said.
“I wish people could just take the time to Google what it means to be gay, or ask politely, and educate themselves.”
The CRF uses radio as a life skill to get the youth to speak about things that matter to them, said Farhana Jacobs, who heads up the Future Positive programme which produced the exhibition.
Jacobs said this team of youth reporters had been working with the CRF for over a year, but it was only since partnering with American Corner that they had begun to produce work focused on sexual health, HIV and LGBTI issues.
“It has been really interesting watching the dynamic in the group. Some of the straight members had to confront their own stigma. Their opinions and perspectives shifted as they learned from each other,” Jacobs said.
While Jacobs helped the young reporters develop their radio and photography skills, she left them to shape the content of their stories.
“They told their story as they were. We let the youth lead,” she said.
Telling their own stories had given the participants confidence to express their opinions and raise their voices.
“They’re becoming activists in their own way. They’re accessing that voice inside of them.” Watch, listen and find out more about these young reporters” stories at www.childrensradiofoundation.org.