A 20-year-old queer youth activist is committed to transformation in queer education and politics.
Abongile Qutu hails from Kayamandi in Stellenbosch and is a third-year international relations student at Stellenbosch University.
Qutu is a founding member of the Triangle Project’s youth programme, the Phefumla Queer Collective. The programme has been in operation since 2019 and members are aged 14 to 21-years-old.
The group uses art as activism and to advocate for queer rights. The group gathers on weekends to do painting, singing, dancing expressing themselves.
Phefumla is the Xhosa word for breathe.
“It is a space where you get to breathe and do what feels comfortable in that moment, to express yourself,” Qutu said.
“The learners also get to learn about the different types of sexualities that exist and learn about the background of the LGBTQI+ community.”
Qutu, who also works as the head of the Phefumla social media task team, described being part of the group as liberating.
“Our voices equate to our freedom. The more I speak about the issues that prevail in our societies, the more I am freeing myself and others. This is liberation.”
Qutu is also the deputy secretary for the South African student congress in Stellenbosch, a convener for the LBTQI+ round table.
Qutu is also former head of sports arts and culture for the ANC Women’s League and LGBTQI+ division.
As a queer youth activist, Qutu wanted to help navigate and tell the stories of queer people.
“Every position I take on should align with my impact in this world. There are so many young people suffocating under societal ‘norms’,” they said.
“I’m in a pursuit of dismantling the systems that oppress the queer community,” they added.
Qutu said queer education means discussing topics like the importance of queer education at a schools.
“Learners need to get to know the gender spectrum and understand gender diversity. They must understand the difference between gender and sexuality, which is often confused.”
Qutu added: “Understanding these basic concepts can lessen discrimination against the queer community. Even if our country has not given us a seat at the table, we’ve created that seat for ourselves through our activism.
“There is minimal representation of queer leadership in our government and there is gross negligence of our community,” they added.
The queer activist said the implementation of policies and safety security for the LGBTQI+ community should be prioritised.
“Investment in policies that queer people can contribute to, will make us feel safe in this country. Queer people are being killed all over the country.”
Qutu added: “Our government needs to invest in the safety of queer people. They need to prioritise this.”
Qutu said that Pride Month was a chance for expression.
“I see Pride as much more than just being proud, I see it as a time where we can continually teach the community to know who we are, overcome ignorances, and celebrate humanity.”