In the words of Nkoli-Fassie Society: “We’re talking about our own biggest crime. Erasing the identities of our fellow queers. Especially when they don’t directly fall within the L/G of LGBTQIAP++.” The panel heading this discussion was composed of Dr Lindsay Kelland and Natalie Donaldson, both UCKAR lecturers of the Philosophy and Psychology departments respectively, as well as Sikhona Nazo, a 3rd year undergraduate student at UCKAR.
In some ways, queer people are their own worst enemies, and this event opened a space for people to discuss the ways in which queer people can undermine the very freedoms they have had to fight for. As Dr Kelland put it, we have to be very wary of policing other people’s identities while we continue to try and assert our own.
A lot of the early discussion, once opened to the floor, revolved around the negotiation of identities for people coming to terms with their sexuality. Many expressed their frustration with feeling “used” as an experiment, only to be discarded later, but it was generally acknowledged that there does need to be space for people to define and explore their identities. This expanded into a discussion of “heteroflexibility,” or the identity of people whose sexual activity isn’t always strictly heterosexual, but who remain secure in their own “straightness. While this might be a strange or even uncomfortable idea for straight and queer people alike, such an attitude of discomfort was once the norm in dealing with queer people as well, and the normalisation of this identity should be a welcome step. Essentially, everyone’s journey of finding their preference, and acting within that preference, is their own to take, so long as it retains a level of respect for everyone else.
Sometimes, however, preference can simply be a smokescreen for prejudice. The event also saw an examination of the ways in which prejudice can occur within the queer community, often targeting those who don’t “perform” their queerness as expected. For femme queers, and gender non-conforming people, this can often lead to ostracisation within their own “safe” spaces. Some recounted experiences of being deemed unattractive solely because of their gender expression, or of having partners feel ashamed of them in public. It seems clear that there is work to be done to make the community as open as it claims to be.
But if events like this continue to be organised and kept as open and honest as this one was, then a certain level of optimism for the direction of the LGBTQIAP++ community seems legitimate – particularly where such events are hosted by our own queer society and made an integral part of the annual Pride Week.